many dry months before touring and live events return at anything like prepandemic levels.

The grant program also offers help for Broadway theaters, performing arts centers and even zoos, which share many of the same economic struggles.

The Pablo Center at the Confluence, in Eau Claire, Wis., for example, was able to raise about $1 million from donations and grants during the pandemic, yet is still $1.2 million short on its annual fixed operating expenses, said Jason Jon Anderson, its executive director.

“By the time we open again, October 2021 at the earliest, we will have been shuttered longer than we had been open,” he added. (The center opened in 2018, at a cost of $60 million.)

The thousands of small clubs that dot the national concert map lack access to major donors and, in many cases, have been surviving on fumes for months.

Stephen Chilton, the owner of the 300-capacity Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, said he had taken out “a few hundred thousand” in loans to keep the club afloat. In October, it reopened with a pop-up coffee shop inside, and the club hosts some events, like trivia contests and open mic shows.

“We’re losing a lot less than we were losing when we were completely closed,” Mr. Chilton said, “but it’s not making up for the lost revenue from doing events.”

The Rebel Lounge hopes that a grant will help it survive until it can bring back a full complement of concerts. And if its application is not accepted?

“There is no Plan B,” Mr. Chilton said.

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Yellen Pushes for Global Minimum Tax Rate on Companies: Live Updates

The New York Times found. Some corporations are reopening offices in the spring, and many are saying they will remain flexible, staging returns over several months and planning to allow some workers to continue to work from home. As nerve-racking as it was last year to be abruptly torn from their desks, many people find the prospect of returning distressing.

Here is what some of the country’s biggest companies are telling their workers.

IBM, which employs about 346,000 people, hasn’t set a strict timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. It expects about 80 percent of its employees to work with some combination of remote and office schedules, depending largely on role.

The bank, which has more than 20,000 office employees in New York City, has told employees that the five-day office workweek is a relic. The bank is considering a rotational work model, meaning employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.

The consulting firm, which has about 284,000 employees, is set to open one office in each of its major cities in May, and all of its offices in September. Even when the offices are formally reopened, PwC will allow some workers, depending on their job, to work remotely at least part time.

Most of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees work at the retail giant’s stores, and a vast number have continued to go in to their workplace throughout the pandemic. It said on March 12 that it would start bringing workers back at its Bentonville, Ark., office campus no earlier than July. Its global technology employees will continue to work virtually “for the long term.”

At Wells Fargo, 60,000 employees have worked at bank branches and other facilities during the pandemic, but 200,000 more have worked remotely. The company told its staff in a memo last month that it had set a Sept. 6 return-to-office target and was “optimistic” that conditions surrounding Covid-19 vaccinations and case levels would allow it to keep it.

GameStop said it would sell additional stock, up to 3.5 million shares, to finance its move online retailing and to support its finances.
Credit…Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Shaundell Newsome of Small Business for America’s Future said changes were needed throughout the banking industry to improve outcomes for Black owners.
Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

The government’s central small business relief effort, the Paycheck Protection Program, has made $734 billion in forgivable loans to nearly seven million businesses. But minority-owned businesses were disproportionately underserved by the program, a New York Times analysis found.

“The focus at the outset was on speed, and it came at the expense of equity,” said Ashley Harrington, the federal advocacy director at the Center for Responsible Lending.

The aid program’s rules were mostly written on the fly, and reaching harder-to-serve businesses was an afterthought. Structural barriers and complicated, shifting requirements contributed to a skewed outcome, The New York Times’s Stacy Cowley reports.

In the program’s final weeks — it is scheduled to stop taking applications on May 31 — President Biden’s administration has tried to alter its trajectory with rule changes intended to funnel more money toward businesses led by women and minorities. But those revisions have run into their own obstacles, including the speed with which they were rushed through. Lenders, caught off guard, have struggled to carry them out.

“Historically, access to capital has been the leading concern of women- and minority-owned businesses to survive, and during this pandemic it has been no different,” Jenell Ross, who owns an auto dealership, told a House committee.

The United States is particularly important to the world economy because it has long spent more than it sells.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

The United States and its record-setting stimulus spending could help haul a weakened Europe and struggling developing countries out of their own economic morass.

American buyers are spurring demand for German cars, Australian wine, Mexican auto parts and French fashions. And many Americans have spent their stimulus checks on video game consoles, exercise bicycles or other products made in China.

The United States’ comparatively fast recovery involved a little bit of luck — new variants of the virus have just begun to push domestic infections higher — and a large policy response, including more than $5 trillion in debt-fueled pandemic relief, The New York Times’s Jeanna Smialek and Jack Ewing report.

“When the U.S. economy is strong, that strength tends to support global activity as well,” said Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve.

But some hazards lurk. The slow pace of the European Union’s vaccination campaign will probably hurt its economy. Poorer and smaller countries, facing severely limited vaccine supplies and fewer resources to support government spending, are likely to struggle to stage an economic turnaround even if the U.S. recovery increases demand for their exports.

Chocolate is Britain’s second-largest food and drink export, after whiskey.
Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Small British chocolate makers emphasizing ethically sourced ingredients and bespoke batches became big sellers in Europe in recent years but have been nearly impossible to find there since January, David Segal reports for The New York Times.

“We have customers complain to us all the time, ‘Why can’t I buy my favorite British chocolate?’” said Hishem Ferjani, the founder of Choco Dealer in Bonn, Germany, which supplies grocery stores and sells through its own website. “We have store owners with empty shelves.”

“We have to explain, it’s not our fault, it’s not the fault of the producer. It’s Brexit,” he said.

Chocolate is Britain’s No. 2 food and drink export, after whiskey, according to the Food and Drink Federation. Chocolate exports to all countries hit $1.1 billion last year, and Europe accounts for about 70 percent of those sales. In January, exports of British chocolate to Europe fell 68 percent compared with the same period the year before.

The trade deal struck late last year with the European Union has not saved British companies from a maddening, unpredictable array of time-consuming, morale-sapping procedures and from stacks of paperwork that have turned exporting to the E.U. into a sort of black-box mystery. Goods go in and there is no telling when they will come out.

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New York allows in-person services this Easter, but some congregations stay virtual.

The Rev. Henry Torres told his parishioners, who had gathered on Palm Sunday in socially distanced rows of half-empty pews, that God had not abandoned them.

The coronavirus had killed dozens of regulars at the church, St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church in Queens, N.Y., and the pandemic forced it to close its doors for months last year. But the parishioners were there now, he said, which was a sign of hope.

“Even through difficulties, God is at work,” Father Torres said. “Even when people are suffering, even if it may seem that God is silent, that does not mean that God is absent.”

That is a message that many Christians — and the cash-strapped churches that minister to them — are eager to believe this Easter, as the springtime celebration of hope and renewal on Sunday coincides with rising vaccination rates and the promise of a return to something resembling normal life.

Religious services during the Holy Week holidays, which began on Palm Sunday and end on Easter, are among the most well-attended of the year, and this year they offer churches a chance to begin rebuilding their flocks and regaining their financial health. But the question of whether people will return is a crucial one.

Across New York City, many churches have still not reopened despite state rules that would allow them to do so.

The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, a nationally prominent Black church, said concerns over the virus, and its disproportionate impact on the Black community, would keep his church from reopening until at least the fall.

Nicholas Richardson, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, said many of its churches had also not reopened. When the diocese introduced a program last fall to allow its 190 parishes to pay a reduced tithe to the diocese, roughly half of them applied.

“It varies church by church,” he said. “Pledges are not necessarily dramatically down, but donations given to the collection plate are hopelessly down.”

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Merkel’s Latest Pandemic Challenge: Leading as a Lame Duck

BERLIN — What a difference a year makes.

In late March 2020, Chancellor Angela Merkel was winning praise the world over for her ability to explain the science behind the coronavirus pandemic and galvanize Germany’s state leaders to line up behind a nationwide strategy founded in testing and contact-tracing that held the number of deaths at bay.

Today, Ms. Merkel finds herself apologizing to the public for a confusing, ever-changing set of regulations and pitted against state leaders eager to give a lockdown-weary public a break, even as a dangerous third wave of the virus sweeps the country. Making matters worse, the national vaccination campaign remains bogged down in bureaucracy and hampered by a lack of supply.

With only months left until Ms. Merkel’s fourth and final term ends — Germans vote on a new government on Sept. 26 — the woman who became known as the crisis chancellor for her ability to remain coolheaded and solution-oriented under pressure appears to have met her greatest challenge yet: governing as a lame duck.

The highly analytical style of politics that has served her well in the past — reading the polls and plotting a strategy centered on what will win support in the next round of voting — has been stymied as a result. That weakness has not only left a vacuum in the chancellery, but also set the country adrift at a time when it needs strong leadership and clear communication, analysts say.

Politbarometer survey.

“We are seeing a massive loss of trust in the government from people, and Merkel didn’t want to accept that,” said Uwe Jun, a professor of political science at the University of Trier. “With her apology she wanted to send the signal that she is still in charge, that she can be trusted and that she wants to keep working to get the country through this pandemic.”

European Union’s medical authority and the World Health Organization say that cases of cerebral venous thrombosis, blood clots in the brain that lead to hemorrhages, are so rare they do not consider them grounds to alter administration of the shot.

according to The New York Times database.

“As much as people don’t want to hear it, what we need is a lockdown to limit the number of new infections,” Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager, a molecular virologist at Heidelberg University, said at a panel discussion of the Association of German Virologists.

While the government’s communication in the first wave of the pandemic was consistent and clear, in recent weeks that clarity has given way to a patchwork of restrictions based on rising and falling numbers that people are struggling to follow.

“How we get there is always a discussion,” said Dr. Bartenschlager said. “Where we have problems is in communicating this to people.”

In her interview on Sunday, Ms. Merkel threatened to centralize power in the chancellery if state leaders ignored the need for more restrictions on movement.

Under Germany’s postwar system of decentralized government — set up by the Allies as a response to Hitler’s rule — the bar is set high for such a move, making it difficult for the chancellor to impose a nationwide lockdown without the governors’ support. But Parliament could support such a move by revising a law governing public health in a pandemic.

Even members of the opposition have said they would support strengthening the chancellor ‘s hand in this circumstance.

“The tug of war over competencies between state and federal leaders is blocking consequent action,” said Janosch Dahmen, an emergency doctor who now sits in Parliament as a lawmaker for the opposition Greens. “The problem will be that it could take weeks or months to debate, but we need to do it right now.”

The chancellor is scheduled to meet with state leaders again on April 12, although medical experts are warning that if the country does not act more quickly, intensive care wards could fill beyond capacity.

Using her weekly podcast to send Easter greetings, the chancellor urged Germans to stay home, take advantage of free testing offered by many states and hold out hope for more vaccines.

“It should be a quiet Easter, one in a small circle, with very reduced contacts. I urge you to refrain from all non-mandatory travel and that we all consistently follow all the rules,” Ms. Merkel said. “Together we will defeat this virus.”

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Skiing in Himalayas Is ‘Like a Beautiful Dream,’ Despite Conflict and Coronavirus

GULMARG, Kashmir — As a soft snowfall blanketed everything around her, Nihad Ashraf Khan, a college student who had been cooped up for months because of the pandemic, ran up to her attic and almost frantically grabbed for her skis, poles, boots and goggles — and headed immediately for the Himalayas.

After driving 30 miles from her house in Srinagar, Kashmir’s biggest city, Ms. Khan reached a scrappy ski town tucked deep into the folds of the world’s highest mountain chain. And she was hardly alone: A steady stream of skiers, music blasting from their cars, were racing to make it to the slopes while the snow was still fresh.

It felt like arriving at a carnival in the middle of a forest, she said.

“I wanted to throw away my mask and wear my skis,” said Ms. Khan, an avid downhill skier. “There was only one place on my mind: Gulmarg.”

Every year, Gulmarg, one of Asia’s largest and highest ski resorts, attracts thousands of skiers, drawn by perfect powder, cheap hotels, breathtaking views and the feeling of an island of peace inside an often restive territory.

snow leopard or a brown bear on the way down.

ski slopes around the world have suffered because of the coronavirus, Gulmarg is having one of its busiest seasons ever. By mid-March, the resort had already drawn 160,000 people, nearly 10 times more than last year and far more than any other season for at least three decades.

fought to break the territory away from India and either join Pakistan or become an independent state. But India isn’t letting go. It has deployed hundreds of thousands of troops, and in 2019, the Indian government stripped the Kashmir region of its autonomy, a move that left even those siding with India feeling betrayed, disillusioned and disenfranchised.

waiting to be frisked by soldiers, part of a security routine that residents say is humiliating.

Growing up here, the turmoil was often so bad that we couldn’t leave our homes, and in fact, until recently, I hadn’t been back to Gulmarg.

The resort, a few miles from the Line of Control that divides India and Pakistan in Kashmir, is surrounded on all sides by Indian forces, who maintain a tight control over the region. Visitors encounter policemen before entering Gulmarg, who search cars and scan passengers.

Still, this was the ski town of my youth, with a few changes. The government rental shop, once offered just a dozen low-grade skis. Now it has a wide choice of world-class equipment. And today you can ride a gondola running along the Apharwat Mountains, one of the highest cable cars in the world at 13,800 feet.

The resort supports 20,000 local residents and 40 hotels. This year, because of the spike in demand, hotel prices have skyrocketed. A double that used to go for $50 costs $200, and many skiers are packing into them, five to a room.

There are still some angrez around — foreigners who make the town their home during the ski season, which can last into April.

Brian Newman, a lanky skier from Colorado, is the head of Gulmarg’s ski patrol. His job includes instructing crews on where to place dynamite to trigger man-made avalanches to prevent natural ones.

“It’s not a world class resort,” Mr. Newman admitted. But, he said, “it is special” because of the wide open terrain and amazing vistas.

Each day, skiers of all abilities pile out of buses and battered Indian jeeps. They take their place at the cable car station where the parka-clad crowds inch forward on their skis, ready to be transported through the clouds to a ridgeline that looks out over the Kashmir Valley.

There are four bunny ski runs for beginners and one slope running for miles, reached only by a gondola. There is also sledding, and each morning legions of young Kashmiri men trudge up the slopes tugging their long wooden sleds. Chai-wallahs stand in clumps, pouring out steaming cups of tea for skiers taking a break in the iridescent sunshine.

On a bright morning a few weeks ago, Fanny Godara, a French businesswomen who runs a restaurant in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry with her Indian husband, watched her children learn parallel turns on a beginner’s slope.

Like every parent, she said, she had been worried about the well-being of her two children during lockdown. Amid canceled holidays and before an impending move back to France, her children jumped at the chance to learn to ski.

“There is something magical about this place,” Ms. Godara said. “You want to come back, again and again.”

Ms. Khan, the skier who rushed to get here at the first sign of snow, had been restless for months, hunkered down indoors, infections surging around her, friends and relatives falling sick.

Staying inside was becoming impossible, she said, and the snowflakes falling outside her window were an irresistible invitation.

Lockdown restrictions have gradually eased in India, and much of the economy has been operating normally the past few months. In Gulmarg, crowded with skiers and snow lovers, social distancing was aspirational at best.

But Ms. Khan, 23, who is studying biosciences, said she still felt safe. As she slid off the chair lift on the 11,500 foot Merry Shoulder peak, she said she had never seen so many other people on the slopes.

Before she plunged down, she looked over her shoulder at her friend Ishani Jamwal, another college student, and yelled out: “How does it look from here?”

“Like a beautiful dream,” Ms. Jamwal yelled back. “I don’t want to blink.”

Jeffrey Gettleman contributed reporting from New Delhi.

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U.K. Government, Sensing an Opportunity, Wraps Itself in the Flag

LONDON — It started last week when the host of the BBC’s morning show mocked a cabinet minister, Robert Jenrick, for the Union Jack hanging conspicuously behind him, next to a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The flag, the host cracked, was not “up to standard-size government interview measurements.”

The host, Charlie Stayt, and his co-host, Naga Munchetty, who chuckled along, were quickly in hot water. After the BBC came under fire for disrespecting the British flag, both were reprimanded. Ms. Munchetty apologized for liking “offensive” Twitter posts that joined in the mockery of the minister’s flag.

Never one to duck a culture-war skirmish, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has seized on the flag flap to try to keep opponents on the defensive and the dissolution of the United Kingdom at bay.

On Wednesday, it decreed that, henceforth, the Union Jack should fly on all government buildings every day of the year, rather than simply on designated days. The only exception will be regional holidays when, say, the Scottish flag, the Saltire, would fly in Scotland on St. Andrew’s Day.

revised guidance on flags, noted that in the United States, the Stars and Stripes flies year-round, not just on federal buildings but also at schools and in front of polling places. Likewise in Australia, the national flag can be flown every day of the year from federal and state parliaments.

Britons tend to be less demonstrative about their flag than the citizens of their former colonies. Unlike Americans, they rarely hang it in front of their homes. The Union Jack arouses ambivalent emotions among some on the left, who associate it with Britain’s imperial past, and in parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, where pro-independence feelings run strong.

That, of course, is precisely the point for a government that is desperate to avert another referendum on independence for Scotland after elections there in May in which the Scottish National Party is expected to win a strong mandate.

was taken to task by a Conservative lawmaker, James Wild, for not publishing an image of the Union Jack in the broadcaster’s 268-page annual report.

“Do you find that surprising?” Mr. Wild asked, to which Mr. Davie replied, “No, I think that’s a strange metric.”

A former marketing executive who was chosen because of his ability to get along with the government, Mr. Davie pointed out that the BBC promotes Britain worldwide. The Union Jack, he said, flew proudly from its London headquarters.

Critics on Twitter lost no time lampooning the new reverence for the flag. They coined an off-color hashtag and attributed it to unhealthy nationalism, post-Brexit insecurity or cynical politics.

“This may be very ‘20th Century’ of me,” posted Simon Fraser, formerly the senior civil servant at the Foreign Office, “but I do worry when politicians start getting obsessive about flags.”

he posted.

Clare Hepworth, a trade unionist, quoted Bill Moyers, a broadcaster and former aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who once said of politicians who brandish flags, “They’re counting on your patriotism to distract you from their plunder.”

And, of course, it was another Johnson, Samuel, who in the 18th century famously said, “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

At a time when the government is winning broad public support for its coronavirus vaccine rollout — the country’s largest mass mobilization since World War II — a manufactured row over flags might seem unnecessary.

proposing to air two beloved patriotic songs without their lyrics because they evoked a colonial past that is at odds with the values of the Black Lives Matter movement.

outfitted at a reported cost of 2.6 million pounds, or about $3.5 million. He will be flanked by no fewer than four Union Jacks.

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Denmark Extends Its Suspension of the AstraZeneca Vaccine

Denmark will extend its suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine until April 15, the Danish Health Authority announced on Thursday, as other European countries are restarting use of the vaccine.

Officials in Denmark want to further investigate whether AstraZeneca vaccine is the cause of an unusual disease picture involving low blood platelets, bleeding and blood clots in unexpected places in the body, the head of the Danish Health Authority, Soren Brostrom, said.

The European Medical Agency, the continent’s top drug regulator, said last week that it had found no sign of the vaccine causing such rare but dangerous problems, and strong evidence that its lifesaving benefits “outweigh the risk of the side effects.”

The agency announced on Thursday that it was convening a group of external medical experts to help assess the safety of the vaccine.

Denmark was the first country to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, on March 11. It has reported two deaths from brain hemorrhages among people who had received the shot.

Officials acknowledged that continuing the suspension would lead to delays in the vaccination process.

“We are very conscious that a continued hold on vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca delays the Danish vaccination program,” Mr. Brostrom said. “However, the vaccines are already in the refrigerator. If we decide to recommence vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, we can quickly distribute and use the vaccines.”

The health authorities in Sweden, which last week suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said on Thursday that the country would resume its use for people over 65.

In other developments around the world:

  • Schools in Romania will close for four weeks starting next month as the Eastern European country fights to curb its latest wave of Covid-19 cases. Most schools will close from April 2 to May 4, Sorin Cimpeanu, Romania’s education minister, said on Thursday, extending the usual break for Orthodox and Catholic Easter.

  • Travelers flying to Germany will need to show proof they tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding flights starting on Sunday, the country’s health ministry said on Thursday. Germans rushed to book flights and hotels in Portugal and Spain for Easter and Holy Week holidays after the government took those nations off its “at risk” list that require people to quarantine upon return to Germany.

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Merkel Drops Easter Shutdown as Germany Flails Against Virus Surge

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel scrapped an unpopular plan on Wednesday to shut down the German economy for two extra days over the Easter holidays, reversing her own policy as her government faces widespread anger over its chaotic moves to combat a resurgence of the coronavirus.

Her about-face came less than 36 hours after she had proposed declaring April 1 and 3 “off days,” to effectively extend the country’s Easter vacation to five consecutive days in hopes of halting a recent spike in infections.

The suggestion — made after nearly 12 hours of deliberations between Ms. Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states that dragged into the early hours of Tuesday — was met with an almost immediate backlash, including sharp criticism from opposition politicians and a flood of complaints from a public worn out by a seemingly endless roller coaster of lockdowns and reopenings.

“It was a mistake,” the chancellor said, adding that the suggestion had been made with the best of intentions, aimed at slowing the B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in Britain, which has been spreading through Germany. That spread has been aided by a sluggish vaccine rollout: Barely 10 percent of German adults have received their first shot, nearly three months after a vaccine developed by a German start-up, BioNTech, became the first in the world to receive approval.

cleared it for use.

Yet despite the confusion created by the suggestion of extending the holidays, some acknowledged that simply going back on the plan would do little to help the country slow the spread of the coronavirus. Germany saw 15,813 new infections on Wednesday, continuing a sharp rise over recent weeks.

“Instead of more protection against the third wave, we now have less!” said Janosch Dahmen, a medical doctor who serves as a lawmaker for the Greens, said on Twitter. “The extended break over Easter is now off the table. Even if it was half-baked, today’s decision made fight against the virus worse, even though it tried to make it better.”

In other news around the world:

  • Belgium will tighten restrictions on Friday as it faces rising numbers of hospitalizations and new cases. Hairdressers and beauty salons will be closed until April 25, and other nonessential businesses will be allowed to open to the public only by appointment. Alexander de Croo, the country’s prime minister, called the new measures “an Easter break.” Schools’ spring break will be extended by one week, so students will not return to in-person instruction until April 19.

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Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. Health Officials Question AstraZeneca Vaccine Trial Results

may have been based on outdated and incomplete information about the vaccine’s effectiveness, an extraordinary blow to the credibility of an already embattled vaccine.

In a statement released shortly after midnight, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that an independent panel of medical experts that has been helping to oversee AstraZeneca’s U.S. trial had “expressed concern that AstraZeneca may have included outdated information from that trial, which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data.”

The public airing of a conflict between a pharmaceutical company and a board overseeing a clinical trial is highly unusual. It is almost certain to trigger extra scrutiny of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration and other regulators if AstraZeneca seeks emergency authorization of its vaccine in the United States

“This is really what you call an unforced error,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, said on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday morning. “Because the fact is: This is very likely a very good vaccine, and this kind of thing does, as you say, do nothing but really cast some doubt about the vaccines and maybe contributes to the hesitancy.”

The friction with the independent monitoring board revolved around how AstraZeneca was determining whether participants in the clinical trial had possible or actual cases of Covid-19, according to a person familiar with the situation. The independent monitoring board twice pushed AstraZeneca to take a more rigorous approach, telling the company it had sufficient information to determine how many trial participants had the disease. That had the potential to reduce the vaccine’s apparent effectiveness.

But AstraZeneca unveiled its interim results on Monday without conducting the full analysis the board requested, possibly casting its vaccine in an overly favorable light.

AstraZeneca defended the data it released on Monday, which it said showed the vaccine was 79 percent effective at preventing Covid-19. The company said on Tuesday that the interim results appeared to be “consistent” with more recent data collected during the trial. AstraZeneca said it would immediately share its latest efficacy data with the monitoring board. The company said it would reissue fuller results within 48 hours.

The results that AstraZeneca announced on Monday were a badly needed dose of good news, especially because they came at a moment when concerns about the vaccine’s safety had led more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, to temporarily suspend the shot’s use over concerns about possible rare side effects. The results not only affirmed the vaccine’s safety, but also made the vaccine look more effective than it appeared in earlier trials.

But members of the independent monitoring board were surprised by the company’s announcement. “They got concerned and wrote a rather harsh note to them and with a copy to me, saying that in fact they felt that the data that was in the press release were somewhat outdated and might in fact be misleading a bit and wanted them to straighten it out,” said Dr. Fauci, who runs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That prompted the overnight statement from the infectious-disease institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Companies sponsoring drug or vaccine trials typically wait for the monitoring board to review analyses and conclude that the study has yielded an answer before they announce trial results.

Company executives do not see the results of the study until the monitoring board reports their study data back to the company. The monitoring board ultimately conveyed the results of the study to AstraZeneca in a meeting over the weekend, leading to the company’s announcement Monday morning.

The monitoring board’s slow progress fueled concerns among federal officials that AstraZeneca may have been sitting on the data or that the monitoring board had concerns about the way the data it was reviewing had been presented.

An AstraZeneca spokeswoman, whom the company declined to name, said on Friday that it was “completely incorrect” that the trial data had formatting problems or had not been submitted to the monitoring board in a clean fashion.

“As is often the case,” the spokeswoman said, monitoring boards “can request new or clarifying analyses of data from the trial. This would enable them to ensure the robustness of their determinations.”

The national institute’s statement, issued shortly after midnight, stunned experts. Dr. Eric Topol, a clinical trials expert at Scripps Research in San Diego, said it was “highly irregular” to see such a public display of friction between a monitoring board and a study sponsor, which are typically in close concordance.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It’s so, so troubling.”

AstraZeneca’s relationship with the U.S. authorities has been fraught since last year, when senior health officials believed the company was not being forthright about the design of its clinical trials, its results and safety issues. That skepticism carried over to last week, when senior officials at a number of federal health agencies grew suspicious about why AstraZeneca had not announced data from its U.S. study..

Munich last week. The number of coronavirus cases in Germany is rising, prompting the government to extend lockdown measures.
Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, warning on Tuesday that her country is facing a significantly more deadly wave of the coronavirus, announced a five-day lockdown over Easter and the extension of existing restrictions until mid-April in an effort to break a spike in coronavirus cases.

Starting April 1, and until the following Monday, Germany will effectively shut down for an extended Easter break, with private meetings limited to no more than two groups of up to five adults and almost all stores ordered shuttered (supermarkets can open on the Saturday). Churches are asked to hold services online, and people are being asked to stay home and not travel.

“We are in a very, very serious situation,” Ms. Merkel told a news conference, after hours of deliberations with the leaders of the country’s 16 states over the Easter lockdown and extension of existing restrictions through April 18.

“After we were able to sharply bring down the number of new infections in January, we are now experiencing, through the spread of the more contagious British variant, a more dangerous variation — the numbers are going up and the intensive care beds are filling up,” she said.

Germany is the latest country in Europe to tighten restrictions as more contagious virus variants spread and the continent struggles to vaccinate its citizens. Poland, Italy and parts of France have ordered that residents stay home, and many businesses have shut before the holiday.

A resurgent virus and lagging vaccinations have forced governments to renege on promises that they would slowly reopen businesses and society as spring approached. That has spurred protests across Europe.

Europe’s vaccine campaign slowed after a small number of cases of blood clots and abnormal bleeding were reported in patients who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, dampening confidence in its safety. While the European drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, cleared the vaccine for use last week and said it was “safe and effective,” the scare further complicated vaccination efforts.

Just three weeks ago, Ms. Merkel and state officials hammered out a road map to reopening that relied on a decline in case rates. But the number of new daily cases in Germany has increased by 69 percent in the past two weeks, to levels last seen in January.

Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment sharply cuts the risk of hospitalization and death among high-risk Covid-19 patients, a study found.
Credit…Regeneron, via Associated Press

A monoclonal antibody treatment developed by the drug maker Regeneron sharply cut the risk of hospitalization and death when given to high-risk Covid-19 patients in a large clinical trial, the company announced on Tuesday.

The results are the latest in a growing flurry of evidence that the infused drugs, meant to mimic the antibodies that the immune system generates naturally in fighting the coronavirus, can help infected patients avoid the worst outcomes if given early.

Regeneron’s treatment, a cocktail of two antibody drugs, was given last fall to President Donald J. Trump shortly after he got sick with Covid-19 and is now one of three such therapies available in the United States.

The new results come from a Phase 3 trial that enrolled more than 4,500 patients beginning in late September, around the time virus cases began to climb dangerously in the United States. The study found that patients who got the infused treatment within 10 days of developing symptoms or testing positive had a roughly 70 percent reduced risk of being hospitalized or dying compared with patients who were infused with a placebo.

“I think these are exciting data,” said Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who was not involved in the study.

Even as vaccinations speed up, antibody treatments are expected to be helpful for high-risk people who still get sick for many months at least, and longer still if the virus can’t be wiped out. While there are signs that emerging virus variants may in some cases make antibodies less potent, Regeneron’s cocktail has not shown such vulnerability in laboratory tests.

In the new findings, Regeneron’s treatment worked equally well when given at half the dosing at which it was authorized. Regeneron said that it planned to request that the Food and Drug Administration allow the treatment to be given at that reduced strength.

Such a change would bring several advantages: While the cocktail is safe, getting it at a lower dose reduces the odds of side effects, such as an infusion reaction.

It would also allow Regeneron to increase the supply it can provide the United States. The company said that it had expected to supply the country with about 750,000 doses at the originally authorized higher strength by the end of June. If the lower strength is authorized, the company expects to provide about 1.25 million doses by then.

The antibody treatments from Regeneron and the drug maker Eli Lilly, which makes the other two such drugs authorized in the United States, were expected to be in high demand and to serve as a bridge in fighting the pandemic before vaccinations ramped up. Instead, they ended up sitting on refrigerator shelves in many places even during recent surges.

Many patients and their doctors did not know to ask for them or where to find them. Overwhelmed hospitals lacked the bandwidth to prioritize giving out the treatments. And some doctors were unconvinced by the relatively weak evidence available last fall supporting their use.

That picture is gradually shifting, thanks to improved logistics and more awareness. And more solid evidence, like the new data from Regeneron, also appears to be helping the drugs get used more widely. “As the data get stronger and stronger, I would expect that use will increase,” Dr. Gandhi said.

People enjoying a Friday evening as businesses and restaurants begin to reopen at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco this month.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Positive trends in pandemic statistics in the United States are easy to distrust. After all, the country went through two false dawns last year, in the late spring and then again in the late summer, when declines in case reports prefaced even darker days. Each time, the apparent good news prompted relaxations and reopenings that helped bring on the next wave.

So it is no surprise that public health experts are wary about the latest flattening in the curve of the pandemic, from the steep decline in cases seen in late January and February to something like a plateau or slight decline more recently. With more contagious virus variants becoming prevalent, they fear the good news could be ending and a fourth wave might be building.

On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, again warned Americans about the spread of the coronavirus, saying that with increased travel, looser pandemic restrictions and worrisome variants bearing down on the United States, another surge could erupt if Americans did not take protection efforts seriously “for just a little bit longer.”

“We are at a critical point in this pandemic, a fork in the road, where we as a country must decide which path we are going to take. We must act now,” said Dr. Walensky, who has been one of many federal officials in recent weeks to warn governors against lifting mask mandates too soon. “And I am worried that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge, just as we are seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccination.”

That said, there are positive signs:

The question now is which will prevail: the positive effects of trends like these or the negative effects of looser behavior and the evolution of the virus into more dangerous forms?

It’s still “a race between vaccinations and variants,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on Twitter. Like other experts, he cautioned: “Opening up too fast helps the variants.”

Noah Weiland contributed reporting.

Samar Khan expected to recover fully from a mild case of Covid-19, but before long her symptoms multiplied, including a “really intense brain fog.”
Credit…Taylor Glascock for The New York Times

In the fall, after Samar Khan came down with a mild case of Covid-19, she expected to recover and return to her previous energetic life in Chicago. She was 25 and healthy.

But weeks later, she said, “this weird constellation of symptoms began to set in.”

She had blurred vision encircled with halos. She had ringing in her ears, and everything began to smell like cigarettes or Lysol. One leg started to tingle, and her hands would tremble while she was putting on eyeliner.

She also developed “really intense brain fog,” she said. Trying to concentrate on a call for her job in financial services, she felt as if she had come out of anesthesia.

By the end of the year, Ms. Khan was referred to a special clinic for Covid-related neurological symptoms at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which has been evaluating and counseling hundreds of people with similar problems.

Now, the clinic has published the first study focused on long-term neurological symptoms in people who were never physically sick enough from Covid-19 to need hospitalization, including Ms. Khan.

The study of 100 patients from 21 states, published on Tuesday in The Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, found that 85 percent of them experienced four or more neurological issues like brain fog, headaches, tingling, muscle pain and dizziness.

“We are seeing people who are really highly, highly functional individuals, used to multitasking all the time and being on top of their game, but, all of a sudden, it’s really a struggle for them,” said Dr. Igor J. Koralnik, the chief of neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine, who oversees the clinic and is the senior author of the study.

City Hall Park and Tweed Courthouse in Downtown Manhattan.
Credit…Jose A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

With virus cases seeming to stabilize in New York City and vaccinations becoming more widespread, city officials intend to send a message that New York is close to returning to normal: On May 3, the city will compelits municipal office employees to begin to report to work in person, according to planning documents shared with The New York Times. Workers will return in phases over several weeks.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to bring the nation’s largest municipal work force back to the office signals a remarkable turnabout in the fortunes of a city that was the national epicenter of the pandemic, coming to symbolize the perils of living in densely packed global capitals.

The move is meant to broadcast that New York City will soon be open for business, and to encourage private companies to follow suit.

The new policy is expected to affect about 80,000 employees who have been working remotely, including caseworkers, computer specialists and clerical associates. The rest of the city’s roughly 300,000-person work force, many of them uniformed personnel including police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers, have already been reporting to work sites.

“Above all else, this is a major momentum builder,” said Reggie Thomas, a senior vice president with the Real Estate Board of New York.

Yet the move has spurred concern among some workers and union leaders who fear it is premature. New York City still has among the highest coronavirus case rates in the nation. Many workers will have to commute an hour or more on mass transit.

Facial masks will be strongly encouraged but not required: A March 18 presentation from the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services said agency leaders should “encourage face coverings to be worn at all times even if six-feet distancing can be maintained.” The provision allows workers to remove face coverings if they are more than six feet apart.

Vaccination will not be mandatory for those returning to the office because of legal concerns, though city officials are strongly encouraging their workers to get vaccinated and are trying to facilitate that process.

At Heathrow Airport, near London, last month. England’s new rules would exclude those traveling for some work, elite sporting competitions or education.
Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Residents of England who travel abroad without a valid reason will be fined 5,000 pounds, or $6,900, under coronavirus regulations that are scheduled to come into force on Monday if lawmakers approve.

Daily coronavirus deaths in Britain have dropped to their lowest level since fall, thanks in part to a vaccination program that has already reached more than half the adult population, and the country is preparing to slowly reopen its economy after months of national lockdown. A stay-at-home order is to be lifted on Monday, though many shops and other businesses will be closed until mid-April or later.

Travel abroad for leisure is banned until May 17 at the earliest, and the new regulations signal a potentially longer wait for vacationers.

If the new regulations are approved, travelers would have to provide a valid excuse for leaving the country, which would include some essential work, elite sports competitions and education. But opposition lawmakers have criticized an exemption that would allow travel “in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property,” arguing that it would privilege those wealthy enough to own a second residence. Travel without an essential reason is also banned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The legislation, which is set to be reviewed on April 12 and expire at the end of June, would also renew a ban on indoor gatherings and limit outdoor gatherings to six people. Lawmakers on Thursday will also vote on extending a coronavirus act that gave the government emergency powers during the pandemic, which has caused friction among some members of the governing Conservative Party who have called the laws extreme.

It comes as the country marks the one year since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown. Britain has reported at least 4.3 million cases and over 126,000 deaths according to a New York Times database.

The Regal Cinemas theater in Times Square. The theater chain’s parent company, Cineworld.
Credit…Nathan Bajar for The New York Times

Cineworld, the parent company of the U.S. movie theater chain Regal Cinemas, announced on Tuesday that it would reopen its cinemas in the United States in April and in Britain in May as those countries ease lockdown restrictions.

“We have long-awaited this moment,” said Mooky Greidinger, the chief executive of Cineworld, which is based in London. “With capacity restrictions expanding to 50 percent or more across most U.S. states, we will be able to operate profitably in our biggest markets.”

Regal Cinemas is the second largest theater chain in the United States, after AMC Theaters. The announcement by Cineworld comes six months after the movie theater chains were forced to shut down across the United States and Britain last October in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The decision affected a total of 45,000 employees in both countries and forced studios to postpone film releases.

Cineworld also announced a multiyear agreement with Warner Bros. starting in 2022 that will allow the theater chain to show the studios’ films for 45 days in the United States and 31 days in Britain. The deal shortens the typical window that theaters have to show movies before they are released to on-demand streaming services.

The reopening plans in the United States will coincide with the release of two movies from Warner Bros. Pictures, “Godzilla vs. Kong” on April 2 and “Mortal Kombat” on April 16.

“We are very happy for the agreement with Warner Bros.,” Mr. Greidinger said. “This agreement shows the studio’s commitment to the theatrical business.”

Last week, AMC Theaters announced the reopening of nearly all of its U.S. theaters.

The moves come at a time of concern that looser restrictions will lead to rise in coronavirus cases. On Monday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that relaxed pandemic restrictions could lead to another spike. “If we don’t take the right actions now,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, “we will have another avoidable surge.”

In September, Cineworld reported a pretax loss of $1.6 billion for the first half of 2020. In 2019, 90 percent of the company’s revenue was generated in the United States and Britain.

A rally of parents and schoolchildren to re-open the public schools in Scotch Plains-Fanwood at the Board of Education office in Scotch Plains.
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Most school districts in New Jersey have partly reopened, but one in four children still live in a district where public schools are closed. No state in the Northeast had more districts relying on all-virtual teaching in early March than New Jersey, according to Return to Learn, a database created by a conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and Davidson College. Nationwide, only seven states had a greater proportion of all-remote instruction.

As the distribution of vaccines has accelerated and President Biden has signaled a push for broader reopenings, frustration among parents has grown, particularly in New Jersey’s affluent suburbs, where schools with stellar reputations are a key reason families are willing to pay some of the nation’s highest taxes.

These parents have filed federal lawsuits, held protests, created online petitions and shown up at virtual board of education meetings to demand expanded in-person instruction.

The pressure to open schools more fully comes as the infection rate in New Jersey, which is small and densely populated, remains stubbornly high: With a weekly average of 45 cases for every 100,000 residents, the state leads the nation in new infections per capita, according to a New York Times database.

The drumbeat intensified after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a major policy shift on Friday, reducing its distancing recommendations to three feet from six feet for all elementary schools and for middle and high schools in areas where the virus infection rate is not high.

Anger at the pace of reopening has led some families who can afford it to enroll their children in private schools, start home-schooling them or move. If enough children leave a district in New Jersey, it could lead to cuts in state aid, scaled-back programming or potentially layoffs.

Several New Jersey cities and counties have held educator-only vaccine distribution events. But the virus’s hold on the state has left teachers and their powerful unions wary of expanded reopening.

Testing for Covid-19 at a local market in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday. 
Credit…Divyakant Solanki/EPA, via Shutterstock

Mumbai, India’s financial hub, has begun random testing for the coronavirus in malls, railway stations and other crowded places as officials attempt to tamp down on a worrying surge in cases.

Rapid antigen tests will be taken without individuals’ consent, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said in a statement on Monday. Anyone who resists will be in violation of India’s colonial-era epidemic act, which gives the government the power to fine or imprison people who violate rules to contain an outbreak.

“We are trying to implement the existing protocol to the strictest possible level: use of face mask, regulating the number of people in one event, use of hand sanitizer, and now tests,” Suresh Kakani, a senior municipal official in Mumbai, told The New York Times.

Active Covid-19 cases in Mumbai have risen by more than 140 percent since March 1. With variants circulating and commercial activity almost back to prepandemic levels, the number of infections has also shot up in the surrounding state of Maharashtra. An entire district was forced back into lockdown last week.

Mr. Kakani said officials are determined to avert another lockdown in Mumbai, the city of 20 million that is home to Bollywood, India’s film industry, as well as the country’s largest stock exchange.

Another lockdown would be economically disastrous for India, which is just starting to recover from a lockdown last year that triggered a humanitarian crisis, as millions of migrant workers fled cities for their home villages, and a recession.

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Many metrics in the U.S. are improving, though the threat of a new surge still looms.

Positive trends in pandemic statistics in the United States are easy to distrust. After all, the country went through two false dawns last year, in the late spring and then again in the late summer, when declines in case reports prefaced even darker days. Each time, the apparent good news prompted relaxations and reopenings that helped bring on the next wave.

So it is no surprise that public health experts are wary about the latest flattening in the curve of the pandemic, from the steep decline in cases seen in late January and February to something like a plateau or slight decline more recently. With more contagious virus variants becoming prevalent, they fear the good news could be ending and a fourth wave might be building.

That said, there are positive signs:

  • Daily death reports, which stayed stubbornly high long after the post-holidays surge, have finally come down sharply, to levels not seen since mid-November. As of Monday, the nation had averaged 1,051 newly reported Covid deaths a day over the past week; the average had hovered around 3,000 for weeks over the winter.

  • Some recent hot spots have made major progress — notably Los Angeles, whose mayor, Eric Garcetti, said on CBS on Sunday that he had “not felt this optimism in 12 months.” The city and surrounding county, where cases in some areas leapt 450 percent over the holidays and hospitals became so swamped that some turned away ambulances, now has a test positivity rate of about 1.9 percent, and in an important shift, new case reports have fallen among people experiencing homelessness.

  • Vaccinations are becoming more accessible by the week, as states receive more doses and open up eligibility, in some cases to include all adult residents. The number of doses administered nationwide each day is rising, and the country surpassed President Biden’s initial goal to have administered 100 million shots on March 19, almost six weeks ahead of schedule.

The question now is which will prevail: the positive effects of trends like these or the negative effects of looser behavior and the evolution of the virus into more dangerous forms?

It’s still “a race between vaccinations and variants,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on Twitter. Like other experts, he cautioned: “Opening up too fast helps the variants.”

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