poses universal risks by allowing variants to take hold, forcing the world into an endless cycle of pharmaceutical catch-up.

“It needs to be global leaders functioning as a unit, to say that vaccine is a form of global security,” said Dr. Rebecca Weintraub, a global health expert at Harvard Medical School. She suggested that the G7, the group of leading economies, could lead such a campaign and finance it when the members convene in England next month.

Pfizer expects to sell $26 billion worth of Covid vaccines this year; Moderna forecasts that its sales of Covid vaccines will exceed $19 billion for 2021.

History also challenges industry claims that blanket global patent rights are a requirement for the creation of new medicines. Until the mid-1990s, drug makers could patent their products only in the wealthiest markets, while negotiating licenses that allowed companies in other parts of the world to make generic versions.

Even in that era, drug companies continued to innovate. And they continued to prosper even with the later waivers on H.I.V. drugs.

“At the time, it rattled a lot of people, like ‘How could you do that? It’s going to destroy the pharmaceutical industry,’” recalled Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic. “It didn’t destroy them at all. They continue to make billions of dollars.”

Leaders in the wealthiest Western nations have endorsed more equitable distribution of vaccines for this latest scourge. But the imperative to ensure ample supplies for their own nations has won out as the virus killed hundreds of thousands of their own people, devastated economies, and sowed despair.

The drug companies have also promised more support for poorer nations. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been the primary supply for Covax, and the company says it has sold its doses at a nonprofit price.

stumbled, falling short of production targets. And producing the new class of mRNA vaccines, like those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, is complicated.

Where pharmaceutical companies have struck deals with partners, the pace of production has frequently disappointed.

“Even with voluntary licensing and technology transfer, it’s not easy to make complex vaccines,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

Much of the global capacity for vaccine manufacturing is already being used to produce other lifesaving inoculations, he added.

But other health experts accuse major pharmaceutical companies of exaggerating the manufacturing challenges to protect their monopoly power, and implying that developing countries lack the acumen to master sophisticated techniques is “an offensive and a racist notion,” said Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy and Politics Initiative at Georgetown University.

With no clear path forward, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, the W.T.O. director-general, expressed hope that the Indian and South African patent-waiver proposal can be a starting point for dialogue.

“I believe we can come to a pragmatic outcome,” she said. “The disparity is just too much.”

Peter S. Goodman reported from London, Apoorva Mandavilli from New York, Rebecca Robbins from Bellingham, Wash., and Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels. Noah Weiland contributed reporting from New York.

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What Would It Take to Vaccinate the World Against Covid?

In delivering vaccines, pharmaceutical companies aided by monumental government investments have given humanity a miraculous shot at liberation from the worst pandemic in a century.

But wealthy countries have captured an overwhelming share of the benefit. Only 0.3 percent of the vaccine doses administered globally have been given in the 29 poorest countries, home to about 9 percent of the world’s population.

Vaccine manufacturers assert that a fix is already at hand as they aggressively expand production lines and contract with counterparts around the world to yield billions of additional doses. Each month, 400 million to 500 million doses of the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are now being produced, according to an American official with knowledge of global supply.

But the world is nowhere close to having enough. About 11 billion shots are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population, the rough threshold needed for herd immunity, researchers at Duke University estimate. Yet, so far, only a small fraction of that has been produced. While global production is difficult to measure, the analytics firm Airfinity estimates the total so far at 1.7 billion doses.

more than 100 countries in asking the W.T.O. to partially set aside vaccine patents.

But the European Union has signaled its intent to oppose waivers and support only voluntary tech transfers, essentially taking the same position as the pharmaceutical industry, whose aggressive lobbying has heavily shaped the rules in its favor.

Some experts warn that revoking intellectual property rules could disrupt the industry, slowing its efforts to deliver vaccines — like reorganizing the fire department amid an inferno.

“We need them to scale up and deliver,” said Simon J. Evenett, an expert on trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. “We have this huge production ramp up. Nothing should get in the way to threaten it.”

Others counter that trusting the pharmaceutical industry to provide the world with vaccines helped create the current chasm between vaccine haves and have-nots.

The world should not put poorer countries “in this position of essentially having to go begging, or waiting for donations of small amounts of vaccine,” said Dr. Chris Beyrer, senior scientific liaison to the Covid-19 Prevention Network. “The model of charity is, I think, an unacceptable model.”

Pfizer expects to sell $26 billion worth of Covid vaccines this year; Moderna forecasts that its sales of Covid vaccines will exceed $19 billion for 2021.

History also challenges industry claims that blanket global patent rights are a requirement for the creation of new medicines. Until the mid-1990s, drug makers could patent their products only in the wealthiest markets, while negotiating licenses that allowed companies in other parts of the world to make generic versions.

Even in that era, drug companies continued to innovate. And they continued to prosper even with the later waivers on H.I.V. drugs.

“At the time, it rattled a lot of people, like ‘How could you do that? It’s going to destroy the pharmaceutical industry,’” recalled Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic. “It didn’t destroy them at all. They continue to make billions of dollars.”

Leaders in the wealthiest Western nations have endorsed more equitable distribution of vaccines for this latest scourge. But the imperative to ensure ample supplies for their own nations has won out as the virus killed hundreds of thousands of their own people, devastated economies, and sowed despair.

The drug companies have also promised more support for poorer nations. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been the primary supply for Covax, and the company says it has sold its doses at a nonprofit price.

stumbled, falling short of production targets. And producing the new class of mRNA vaccines, like those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, is complicated.

Where pharmaceutical companies have struck deals with partners, the pace of production has frequently disappointed.

“Even with voluntary licensing and technology transfer, it’s not easy to make complex vaccines,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

Much of the global capacity for vaccine manufacturing is already being used to produce other lifesaving inoculations, he added.

But other health experts accuse major pharmaceutical companies of exaggerating the manufacturing challenges to protect their monopoly power, and implying that developing countries lack the acumen to master sophisticated techniques is “an offensive and a racist notion,” said Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy and Politics Initiative at Georgetown University.

With no clear path forward, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, the W.T.O. director-general, expressed hope that the Indian and South African patent-waiver proposal can be a starting point for dialogue.

“I believe we can come to a pragmatic outcome,” she said. “The disparity is just too much.”

Peter S. Goodman reported from London, Apoorva Mandavilli from New York, Rebecca Robbins from Bellingham, Wash., and Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels. Noah Weiland contributed reporting from New York.

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Guantánamo Detainee Agrees to Drop Call for C.I.A. Testimony

WASHINGTON — A detainee at Guantánamo Bay has agreed to a deal intended to lead to his release in the next few years in return for giving up the right to question the C.I.A. in court about its torture program, United States government officials said.

The deal, negotiated by the Pentagon official who oversees the military commissions that serve as a court for some detainees, was reached in recent weeks, and comes as a number of those who have been charged at Guantánamo are seeking to cite their abuse at the hands of the C.I.A. as part of their defense.

Under the deal, the prisoner, Majid Khan, 41, who has pleaded guilty to serving as a courier for Al Qaeda, would complete his prison sentence as early as next year and no later than 2025 and then could be released to another country, assuming one will take him, according to people who have seen the terms or are familiar with its details.

In exchange, Mr. Khan will not use his sentencing proceedings to invoke a landmark war court decision that allowed him to call witnesses from the C.I.A.’s secret prison network to testify about his torture.

2014 Senate investigation. He was also sleep deprived, kept naked and hung by his wrists, and hooded, to the point of hallucinations.

Mr. Khan was transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006 and saw a lawyer for the first time in his fourth year of detention. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges stemming from his work for Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks, and agreed to postpone his sentencing while he cooperated with government prosecutors.

On April 16, he and his lawyers reached agreement with the overseer of military commissions for a sentence that would end sometime between early next year and March 1, 2025.

The agreement itself is under seal, at least until a judge questions Mr. Khan on whether he voluntarily entered into it. But several people, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe details of the deal, said that it has a sentencing range of 11 to 14 years, applied starting with his guilty plea in 2012.

prosecutors failed to disclose certain evidence. Colonel Watkins retires from the Army on Aug. 1 and was replaced on the case Wednesday by an Air Force judge, Col. Mark W. Milam.

The agreement is the first involving a Guantánamo detainee that the Biden administration has reached since taking office. It was made by Jeffrey D. Wood, a National Guard colonel who was appointed by the Trump administration to the civilian role of convening authority for military commissions.

had actually seen Mr. Khan in C.I.A. detention.

The issue had been simmering but had not come to a head because travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic brought most military commission hearings to a standstill for the last year.

The question of whether Mr. Khan could receive a reduction in his sentence because of his torture was also a potential model for the defense in the capital conspiracy case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. Defense lawyers for all five defendants say there is evidence that each was systematically tortured in the black sites, and they want a judge or jury to hear graphic details about it to avert a death sentence when the long-delayed case eventually proceeds.

Two contract psychologists who devised the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, have been publicly identified. But the identities of the people who interrogated Mr. Khan, and in which countries where they did it, are still classified at the court, which operates under rules that the government says are intended to balance state secrets and fair trial rights.

Prosecutors argued that anonymous, in-person testimony about Mr. Khan’s treatment, whether in a classified session or in public, risked exposing covert U.S. government employees, and said it was not possible to take them to Guantánamo Bay. That left the possibility of the judge ordering their appearances, prosecutors refusing to bring them and as a remedy, the judge reducing Mr. Khan’s sentence.

filing on April 22, Mr. Khan’s lawyers will also ask the judge after sentencing to void the June 2020 ruling that found credit for pretrial punishment is an available remedy at a military commission — undercutting its potential use in the Sept. 11 case.

Mr. Khan has been kept apart from the other former C.I.A. prisoners at Guantánamo since he pleaded guilty. At that time, he became a government informant, and has been debriefed on demand although prosecutors have yet to hold a trial where his testimony would be needed.

In pleading guilty he admitted to delivering $50,000 from Mr. Mohammed to militants in Indonesia that was used to finance the bombing of a Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2003, killing 11 people. Three men at Guantánamo have been charged in that plot, but have yet to be arraigned and have no trial date.

During the Trump administration, Mr. Khan was also listed as a government witness in a planned federal prosecution of another Pakistani man, Uzair Paracha. Mr. Paracha was convicted in 2005 in New York of federal terrorism-related offenses, but the conviction was overturned. Rather than retry him last year, federal prosecutors dropped the case in exchange for Mr. Paracha voluntarily giving up his U.S. residency and returning to Pakistan, after 17 years of incarceration.

For Mr. Khan, the path out of Guantánamo may be more complex. Successive U.S. administrations have argued that a convicted war criminal who completes his sentence may still be held at Guantánamo in the quasi-prisoner of war status of a detainee, as long as the United States considers itself to be at war with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Also, it is unclear where Mr. Khan would go. He was born in Saudi Arabia, lived as a child in Pakistan but went to high school in suburban Baltimore and had asylum in the United States before he returned to Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. By law, he cannot be sent to the United States.

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Covid Live Updates: U.S. Vaccine Rollout for Children 12-15 Starts

mental health emergencies among children during the pandemic.

“This is your ticket out of that problem,” he said.

Still, many parents remain hesitant to put their children on the frontline of a vaccine that they view as experimental. And unlike in previous phases of the vaccine rollout, there were few reports of crowds and long lines during the first hours of eligibility on Thursday, when many children were in school.

In New York City, Julian Boyce, 14, was among a scattering of teenagers who showed up to be vaccinated first thing Thursday morning at Harlem Hospital Center. His family has known as many as 20 people who have died of Covid-19, his father said, and Julian has spent much of the last year indoors, keeping up with school work and playing video games.

Julian, an eighth grader at The Cathedral School, asked a nurse to administer his shot in his left arm, so any soreness wouldn’t affect his writing. Then he turned his attention to his cell phone.

“I just got my vaccine,” he texted his friends.

Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated to protect their families. “Parents, let’s get our zoomers off of Zoom and back to life as normal,” he said Thursday morning.

Amanda Rosa contributed reporting.

A vaccination center in New Delhi on Thursday. A government panel has again recommended widening the gap between the first and second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots.
Credit…Prakash Singh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With new infections now engulfing rural regions across India even as the daily death toll in crowded cities remains staggeringly high, regional leaders across the country are engaged in a desperate struggle to secure vaccines and stretch the doses they have on hand.

The states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, where case numbers are surging, have suspended vaccination altogether for people under 45 so that older people can receive second doses.

And a government panel on Thursday recommended widening the gap — for the third time since March — between the first and second doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as Covishield in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India is facing increasing pressure to quickly expand the scope of the country’s fledging Covid-19 vaccination campaign as major cities run out of doses.

Some states and cities have started floating their own global tenders to import vaccines.

In a rare show of unity, a dozen opposition parties called for free, universal vaccination in a letter that said the pandemic had “assumed unprecedented dimensions of a human catastrophe.”

The parties also said that Mr. Modi’s government should invoke an order temporarily suspending patent protections for vaccines — a proposal India and South Africa jointly made for all virus vaccines globally that is under consideration by the World Trade Organization. In India, the order would allow more factories to make Covaxin, the indigenous vaccine codeveloped by the Indian government’s top scientific research body and the Hyderabad-based company Bharat Biotech.

Covaxin is in such short supply that the capital, New Delhi, has had to shutter about 100 vaccination centers. All of the doses produced by the Serum Institute of India, which is producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots and is the world’s largest vaccine maker, are staying in India, but still falling far short of the requirements for a population of nearly 1.4 billion people.

The ad hoc approach could also further fuel the skepticism and hesitancy that greeted the rollout of shots this winter. Leaders of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that the virus had been all but defeated in India, possibly tempering interest in a vaccine.

Jairam Ramesh, leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party, questioned the validity of widening the intervals between doses.

“Is this because there are not enough stocks of the vaccines for all who are eligible or because professional scientific advice says so?” Mr. Ramesh wrote on Twitter.

India reported about 362,000 cases on Wednesday, with infection numbers appearing to level off in Delhi and in the financial capital, Mumbai, but picking up in the southern city of Bengaluru and across rural India.

Less than 3 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Lockdown restrictions are in place in many parts of India, but on Thursday, when Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, people were seen crowding markets.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective during pregnancy, according to preliminary results from two continuing studies.

Both vaccines produce robust immune responses in pregnant and lactating women, and are likely to provide at least some protection against two dangerous coronavirus variants, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, according to a study published in JAMA on Thursday. Vaccinated women can also pass protective antibodies to their fetuses through the bloodstream and to their infants through breast milk, the research suggests.

In a second study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology on Tuesday, researchers found no evidence that either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines damaged the placenta during pregnancy.

Covid presents serious risks during pregnancy. Research has shown that pregnant women with coronavirus symptoms are more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit, to require mechanical ventilation and to die from the virus than are symptomatic women of a similar age who are not pregnant.

Because of these risks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that the vaccines at least be made available to pregnant people, many of whom have opted to receive the shots.

“We can shift our framework from, ‘Let’s protect pregnant people from the vaccine,’ to ‘Let’s protect pregnant people and their infants through the vaccine,’” said Dr. Emily S. Miller, an expert in maternal-fetal medicine at Northwestern University and co-author of the placenta study. “I think that’s really powerful.”

A teacher receiving a vaccine in January in Redmond, Ore. On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon joined a handful of other states in setting a vaccination benchmark for lifting restrictions.
Credit…Ryan Brennecke/The Bulletin, via Associated Press

While some states are offering residents incentives like savings bonds or sports tickets to encourage them to be vaccinated, a few are making a very different pitch: The sooner you get a shot, the sooner the state will fully reopen.

The latest is Oregon, where the governor said on Tuesday that the state’s remaining restrictions would stay in place until at least 70 percent of eligible residents 16 and older had had at least one shot.

“We still have some work to do to reach our 70 percent goal, but I am confident we can get there in June and return Oregon to a sense of normalcy,” said Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat.

Oregon, where 49 percent of residents have had at least one dose, is one of the few states that is explicitly tying lifting its indoor mask requirement to the adult vaccination rate. Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania also are awaiting the 70 percent threshold before moving forward with reopening plans.

In Michigan, capacity limits for businesses will lift two weeks after 65 percent of eligible residents have been vaccinated, and the gatherings and face mask orders will end two weeks after 70 percent of eligible residents have been fully vaccinated, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. Thirty-seven percent of residents there have been immunized in the state, which has shown one of the country’s steepest drops in cases over the past two weeks. The average number of new infections reported daily during that time sank 45 percent and hospitalizations were down 32 percent.

Pennsylvania is waiting for 70 percents of adults to be fully vaccinated before lifting its mask mandate. Only 37 percent have been immunized in Pennsylvania.

The mask requirement in Minnesota will be lifted once 70 percent of residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but no later than July 1, Gov. Tim Walz said. Half of Minnesotans have had at least one dose.

On Wednesday, Maryland said that every business would be allowed to open, starting on Saturday, at 100 percent capacity, but that the indoor mask requirement would be in place until 70 percent of adults had received one dose. So far, only 52 percent have met that guideline.

“Those who are not vaccinated continue to slow our health and economic recovery efforts, and they also continue to be at risk for infection, hospitalization and death,” Gov. Larry Hogan said on Wednesday.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday that he would be signing an executive order that would put into effect what he called “our most aggressive reopening play” to date. As was announced last week, on Wednesday, May 19, many restrictions on public gatherings will be dropped although social distancing measures will be in effect. In New Jersey, 42 percent of adults are fully vaccinated and 55 percent have received one shot.

And in New Mexico, the state will remove most restrictions once 60 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated. Forty-two percent of people have been inoculated there.

But these statewide vaccination targets are well below what experts now calculate the herd immunity threshold to be: at least 80 percent.

President Biden has called for 70 percent of adults to have at least one dose by July 4. Jeffrey Zients, Mr. Biden’s Covid response coordinator, said that the goal should be to achieve some sense of normality by hitting that target. Reaching 70 percent will create “a pattern of decreasing cases, hospitalizations and deaths and take us down to a sustainable low level,” he said this week.

Inmates last week at a field hospital for Covid patients set up at a prison in Bangkok.
Credit…Department of Corrections, via Associated Press

A variant of the coronavirus is sweeping through Thailand’s prisons, the country’s chief prison doctor said on Thursday, as the government acknowledged that nearly 3,000 inmates had been found to be infected.

The chief prison doctor, Weerakit Harnpariphan, deputy director general of Thailand’s Department of Corrections, did not identify the variant that had been detected. But protective measures that were effective in the prisons last year, he said, are not working well now.

“The spread this time is something very worrying,” he said. “The transmissibility of this variant, as it is known, is very quick. It spread in a short period of time.”

There are two variants of concern spreading in the region: the first, detected last fall in Britain, is now the main driver of the pandemic in countries around the world.

Health officials in Thailand said it was now widespread in the country and was partly responsible for the recent surge in cases.

But there is growing concern about the spread of a variant first reported in India, which the World Health Organization said may be even more contagious.

Scientists still don’t know much about that variant, but they are worried that it might be helping to fuel the rise in India’s coronavirus infections and could now be driving up cases in neighboring countries.

Called B.1.617, the variant has been detected in Thailand only in one family that had been quarantined after arriving from Pakistan, health officials said.

On Thursday, Thailand reported a daily record of 4,887 cases, which reflects the inclusion of 2,835 prison cases that had not been counted previously in the national total. Thailand has averaged about 2,000 new cases a day for the past three weeks.

The prison outbreak came to light on Wednesday after a leader of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 22, was released on bail and reported in a Facebook post that she had contracted the coronavirus. She said that more than 50 women had also come down with the virus at the prison where she had been held for nearly two months.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said that the coronavirus was under control in the prisons but acknowledged that too few prisoners were being tested until this week.

In response to the virus, he said, the prison population has been reduced from 390,000 prisoners to less than 310,000 by granting amnesty to some and releasing others to be monitored with ankle bracelets.

Human Rights Watch called on Thailand to ensure that prisoners had adequate protective measures and health care. Nearly 20 percent of the country’s inmates are being held while they await trial, the group said, including other members of the pro-democracy movement who are accused of insulting the monarchy.

Thailand is facing its biggest surge in cases since the start of the pandemic and has imposed a partial lockdown on the hardest-hit parts of the country, including Bangkok.

The country reported only 6,884 cases and 61 deaths for all of last year. But the numbers have soared this year to a total of 93,794 cases and 518 deaths as of Thursday, with most of them coming in the past three weeks.

Enjoying the sun in Athens on Saturday. Tourism accounts for a fifth of Greece’s work force and around 20 percent of gross domestic product.
Credit…Costas Baltas/Reuters

As the vaccination campaign in Greece rapidly expands to reach hundreds of thousands of residents across dozens of islands dotting the Aegean Sea, the country planned to throw open its doors on Friday to more foreign visitors, including those have been vaccinated, have proof of previous infection or can provide a negative coronavirus test result.

With tourism accounting for a fifth of the country’s work force and around 20 percent of gross domestic product, the loosening of restrictions is an economic priority.

The move comes as the country gradually eases domestic restrictions.

Cafes and bars opened last week after a six-month shuttering, and primary and junior high schools reopened this week.

On Friday, residents will no longer have to complete a form or notify the authorities via text message to leave the house for work, shopping, visits to doctors or physical exercise, among other reasons.

Museums are scheduled to reopen, and the 11 p.m. curfew will be pushed back to 12.30 a.m.

Although the rate of daily coronavirus infections in Greece has stabilized in recent weeks, deaths and hospitalizations remain relatively high.

The U.S. State Department is currently warning against travel to Greece, and similar advice is in place in many other countries.

Greece’s vaccination drive has been slow compared with other European Union countries, but it has stepped up in recent weeks.

About 1.3 million people in the nation of 10 million have been fully vaccinated, and 2.6 million have received one of their two shots, according to the authorities.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday heralded a plan to vaccinate the permanent residents of the country’s islands by the end of June.

In a teleconference call with the mayors of several Greek islands, Mr. Mitsotakis called the campaign Operation Blue Freedom — a variation of the name of the national inoculation drive, Operation Freedom.

The residents of 32 small islands have been fully vaccinated, and a drive to inoculate those on another 36 islands with up to 10,000 residents is on course to be complete by the end of May.

The next stage aims to vaccinate more than 700,000 residents of 19 larger islands, including the popular vacation destinations of Corfu, Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini and Zakynthos, by the end of June.

That drive is to begin later this month, using the first large delivery of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Mr. Mitsotakis appealed to the mayors to encourage islanders to get the shots as part of broader efforts to build Greece’s first “mass wall of immunity.”

The Bran Castle in Romania.
Credit…Octav Ganea/Inquam Photo, via Reuters

The needles at Bran Castle in the Transylvania region of Romania won’t be drawing blood — instead, they’ll be administering a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Vaccines will be available every weekend in May without an appointment at the castle, which says it is “the only castle in all of Transylvania” that fits the description of Dracula’s castle in the novel about the vampire.

People who get vaccines there will get “free access to the exhibition with medieval torture tools,” the castle said on its Facebook page. But venturing to the castle for the shots and scares wouldn’t be wise for international travelers, as the vaccines are available at the castle only to residents of Romania, Bran Castle’s marketing manager, Alexandru Priscu, told The Associated Press.

Amid concerns in Romania that demand for vaccines is slowing, Mr. Priscu said, “we wanted to show people a different way to get the needle.”

More than 19 percent of people in Romania have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. New daily coronavirus cases there have dropped significantly — around 1,200 each day on average — since spikes in November and March.

The castle joins the many weird and occasionally beautiful places around the world that are doubling as vaccine spots, some for convenience and some hoping to entice people by the location. They include Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, the American Museum of Natural History, on the sand in Miami Beach and a ski resort in Colorado.

A coworking space in London last month run by WeWork. Sandeep Mathrani, the company’s chief executive drew Twitter fire when he said on Wednesday that employees who work from home are the “least engaged.” 
Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

If you’ve enjoyed working from home during the pandemic — no commute, cooking lunch in your own kitchen or being around family more often — the chief executive of WeWork has some thoughts about you.

“Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home,” Sandeep Mathrani, the C.E.O. of WeWork said at a Wall Street Journal event on Wednesday. “Those who are überly engaged with the company want to go to the office two-thirds of the time, at least.”

“People are happier when they come to work,” he added. The company is betting on people wanting to — or being required to — work outside of their homes once it is safe to do so widely.

His comments were not received well by many online as many companies and employees consider the post-Covid-19 workplace after more than a year of doing their jobs from home.

“I wonder why the C.E.O. of a company that rents office space would say this,” wrote one Twitter user.

Others noted that working from home has benefited parents and has improved some workers’ mental health.

Ann Johnson, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, wrote: “If the only way you can keep your employees engaged is by being in the office with them, you have a leadership issue — not an employee engagement issue.”

Google said this month that it would relax its remote work protocols and that it expected 20 percent of its employees to work remotely after its offices reopen. The tech giant had previously been one of the industry’s holdouts on flexible remote work, and Insider reported that some employees had threatened to quit if they couldn’t keep working from home.

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A variant is suspected of fueling an alarming outbreak in Thai prisons.

A variant of the coronavirus is sweeping through Thailand’s prisons, the country’s chief prison doctor said on Thursday, as the government acknowledged that nearly 3,000 inmates had been found to be infected.

The chief prison doctor, Weerakit Harnpariphan, deputy director general of Thailand’s Department of Corrections, did not identify the variant that had been detected. But protective measures that were effective in the prisons last year, he said, are not working well now.

“The spread this time is something very worrying,” he said. “The transmissibility of this variant, as it is known, is very quick. It spread in a short period of time.”

There are two variants of concern spreading in the region: the first, detected last fall in Britain, is now the main driver of the pandemic in countries around the world.

growing concern about the spread of a variant first reported in India, which the World Health Organization said may be even more contagious.

Scientists still don’t know much about that variant, but they are worried that it might be helping to fuel the rise in India’s coronavirus infections and could now be driving up cases in neighboring countries.

Called B.1.617, the variant has been detected in Thailand only in one family that had been quarantined after arriving from Pakistan, health officials said.

On Thursday, Thailand reported a daily record of 4,887 cases, which reflects the inclusion of 2,835 prison cases that had not been counted previously in the national total. Thailand has averaged about 2,000 new cases a day for the past three weeks.

a leader of Thailand’s pro-democracy movement, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, 22, was released on bail and reported in a Facebook post that she had contracted the coronavirus. She said that more than 50 women had also come down with the virus at the prison where she had been held for nearly two months.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said that the coronavirus was under control in the prisons but acknowledged that too few prisoners were being tested until this week.

In response to the virus, he said, the prison population has been reduced from 390,000 prisoners to less than 310,000 by granting amnesty to some and releasing others to be monitored with ankle bracelets.

Human Rights Watch called on Thailand to ensure that prisoners had adequate protective measures and health care. Nearly 20 percent of the country’s inmates are being held while they await trial, the group said, including other members of the pro-democracy movement who are accused of insulting the monarchy.

Thailand is facing its biggest surge in cases since the start of the pandemic and has imposed a partial lockdown on the hardest-hit parts of the country, including Bangkok.

The country reported only 6,884 cases and 61 deaths for all of last year. But the numbers have soared this year to a total of 93,794 cases and 518 deaths as of Thursday, with most of them coming in the past three weeks.

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India’s Neighbors Struggle Amid Regional Covid-19 Outbreak

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Most of Nepal is under lockdown, its hospitals overwhelmed. Bangladesh suspended vaccination sign-ups after promised supplies were cut off. Sri Lanka’s hopes of a tourism-led economic revival have collapsed.

As India battles a horrific surge of the coronavirus, the effects have spilled over to its neighbors. Most nearby countries have sealed their borders. Several that had been counting on Indian-made vaccines are pleading with China and Russia instead.

The question is whether that will be enough, in a region that shares many of the risk factors that made India so vulnerable: densely populated cities, heavy air pollution, fragile health care systems and large populations of poor workers who must weigh the threat of the virus against the possibility of starvation.

Though the countries’ outbreaks can’t all be linked to India, officials across the region have expressed growing dread over how easily their fates could follow that of their neighbor.

huge, maskless rallies in India hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi even as infections rose. Likewise, both the ruling and opposition parties in Nepal held large political gatherings after the prime minister dissolved Parliament in December.

told CNN on Saturday that Nepal’s situation was “under control” but acknowledged that “political instability” had led to “some mistakes.” On Monday night, Mr. Oli lost a vote of no confidence in Parliament, throwing Nepal into further turmoil.

Aid workers have warned that the parallels between Nepal and India may continue, as hospitals turn all but the most critically ill patients away. With medical oxygen supplies running short, as they did in India, Nepal’s government has imposed quotas for each hospital, which doctors say are far from adequate. Reports of patients dying from insufficient oxygen have spread.

said in a statement last week.

Vaccines are unlikely to help immediately. Nepal paid for two million doses from India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest producer of vaccines. But as India’s crisis has escalated, its government has essentially halted exports, leaving Nepal a million doses short.

India’s pause has also scrambled vaccination plans in Bangladesh. Late last month, the authorities there announced that they would temporarily stop accepting new registrations for shots after supplies from the Serum Institute were cut off.

95 percent of its eligible population. Bhutan last month suspended entry for foreign workers, after experts cited concerns about laborers coming from India.

The border between Pakistan and India was closed even before the pandemic because of political tensions. But in Pakistan, too, cases are rising. Asad Umar, the official leading its coronavirus response, cited the fact that “the entire region is exploding with cases and deaths” to explain new lockdowns.

coronavirus response plan last May, it estimated that local facilities would be insufficient if there were more than 5,000 active cases at once. Now there are more than 100,000.

For many Nepalis, anger and sorrow have mixed with utter helplessness.

Pramod Pathak, a businessman in the border district of Kailali, has watched in anxiety and sorrow as migrant workers returned from India. They have crowded every day into overwhelmed testing centers, or — for the many for whom there are no tests — simply crammed into shared cars and returned to their villages.

“The virus is transmitting as they travel in jam-packed vehicles,” Mr. Pathak said. “There’s no safety for them no matter where they go — be it India or Nepal.”

Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu, Nepal; Aanya Wipulasena from Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Vivian Wang from Hong Kong. Julfikar Ali Manik contributed reporting from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Chencho Dema from Thimphu, Bhutan.

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US Defends Detention of Afghan at Guantánamo Despite Pullout

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department lawyer said in federal court on Monday that, even as the Pentagon is withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan, the United States has the authority to continue to detain a former Afghan militia member at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, because of his past association with members of Al Qaeda.

“We remain at war with Al Qaeda,” the lawyer, Stephen M. Elliott, said at the start of hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington in a case brought by Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan citizen who has been held by the U.S. military since 2007.

The hearing was the first in a Guantánamo habeas corpus case since the Biden administration took office, and its defense of his detention appeared identical to the positions taken by previous administrations, despite President Biden’s order to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan and his stated ambition to close the Guantánamo detention operation.

Mr. Elliott said Al Qaeda is “morphing and evolving” and that the U.S. “war on terrorism” continues.

when the militia made peace with the U.S.-allied Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani. The foreign ministry of Afghanistan has filed a brief in the case seeking his return.

Most of the hearing, expected to last five to eight days, is closed to both the public and the detainee because the substance is considered classified. Mr. Haroon was permitted to listen in on the opening arguments via a phone line from Guantánamo that broke at least once, requiring a lengthy recess.

Before holding a session in open court on Monday, Judge Amit P. Mehta left his bench in Washington, D.C., to preside in a closed portion of the hearing at a secure facility in Virginia, with Mr. Haroon addressing the judge by video.

“I am not a terrorist,” he said in a statement released by his lawyers. “I am an Afghan.”

In the closed portion of the hearings, government lawyers intend to use U.S. intelligence accounts of Mr. Haroon’s interrogations to defend his continuing detention. Mr. Elliott said U.S. intelligence reports linked him to three Qaeda leaders now held at Guantánamo, starting with his attendance at a young age, apparently in the early 1990s, at seminars sponsored by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Judge Mehta, an appointee of President Barack Obama. Under the current timetable, the court could reopen the hearing for unclassified closing arguments on May 28.

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Afghans Fleeing Home Are Filling the Lowliest Jobs in Istanbul

Work dried up in 2014 as the United States began winding down its involvement in Afghanistan and transferring responsibility for security to the Afghan government. The group of friends made their way to Turkey, some legally through the Turkish companies that had hired them in Afghanistan, and some making the two-month trek mostly on foot with smugglers from southern Afghanistan through Pakistan and Iran to Turkey.

Juma Muradi, 44, a painter and plasterer, said he had made the dangerous journey three times after being deported by the Turkish authorities twice. The last trip was the hardest, he said, as stricter border patrols forced the smugglers to take them higher into the mountains. He passed the bodies of two Afghans from an earlier group — they had died on the trail. Of the 200 in his group, most were detained by border guards, he said, and only 40 made it through to Turkey.

“If there was peace in my country, I would never take this risk,” he said.

Yet after six years helping build American military bases around the country, he had ended up jobless, watching the Taliban taking over his rural district of Andkhoi in northwestern Afghanistan, and sought work abroad. He now shares a three-room house with seven others in a rundown neighborhood that is scheduled for demolition.

Mr. Muradi said he worried for his wife and four children on their own at home, since he had no immediate family there to protect them. The Taliban are a mile from his home and have traded mortar fire with government forces sometimes hitting the village, he said.

Their village no longer has cellphone service, so he can talk to his family only when they climb a nearby mountain to catch a signal, he said.

Turkey provides a safe refuge at least, but for many it is just a staging post where they can earn money for the next leap to Europe. Most said they were barely surviving. The group of Turkmens have an advantage in that they can speak Turkish, which is close to their own language. But all of them said the fear of deportation made working in Turkey untenable in the long term.

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Day 1 of the End of the U.S. War in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — On the morning of May 1, an Afghan transport aircraft landed at this sprawling military base in the country’s south. It was loaded with mortar shells, small-arms cartridges and 250-pound bombs to supply Afghan troops under frequent attack by the Taliban in the countryside.

Later, at midnight, a gray American C-130 transport aircraft taxied down the same runway, marking the end of the first official day of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The cargo plane was filled with munitions, a giant flat screen television from a C.I.A. base (known as Camp Gecko), pallets of equipment, and — in the real signal of the impending end of a long occupation — departing American troops. It was one of several aircraft that night removing what remained of the American war here.

Afghans continue fighting and dying with fleeting hopes of peace even while the Americans leave, adhering to a timeline laid out by President Biden to fully withdraw by Sept 11. The decision was opposed by his generals but begrudgingly stenciled on whiteboards in U.S. bases across Afghanistan, such as Kandahar Airfield, a former Soviet base that has been one of the Americans’ largest.

NATO troops were based here, and many more passed through as it became the main installation for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan’s south. It stood beside rural villages from which the Taliban emerged; throughout it all, the province has remained an insurgent stronghold.

Now, half-demolished outdoor gyms and empty hangars were filled with nearly 20 years’ worth of matériel. The passenger terminal, where troops once transited between different parts of the war, was pitch black and filled with empty, dust-covered chairs. A fire alarm detector — its batteries weak — chirped incessantly. The mess halls were shuttered.

The boardwalk was nothing more than a few remaining boards.

The American withdrawal, almost quiet, and with a veneer of orderliness, belies the desperate circumstances just beyond the base’s wall. On one end of Kandahar Airfield that day, Maj. Mohammed Bashir Zahid, an officer in charge of a small Afghan air command center, sat in his office, a phone to each ear and a third in his hands as he typed messages on WhatsApp, trying to get air support for Afghan security forces on the ground and in nearby outposts threatened by Taliban fighters.

flight of F/A-18 fighter jets, stationed aboard the U.S.S. Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, were in the air, making their way toward Afghanistan from the Arabian Sea — a roughly two-hour flight up what is called “the boulevard,” a corridor of airspace in western Pakistan that serves as an air transit route.

Having received approval to strike, the jets swooped in, dropping a GPS-guided munition — a bomb that costs well over $10,000 — on the additional rockets that were somewhere in Kandahar, mounted on rudimentary rails and aimed at the airfield.

Inside the American headquarters building at the airfield, two Green Berets — part of the shrinking contingent who work there now — pulled up the video of the afternoon airstrike on one of their phones.

“Make sure that goes in the nightly brief,” one of them said. The Special Forces soldiers, bearded and clad in T-shirts, ball caps and tattoos, looked out of place among what was left of the cubicles and office furniture around them, much of which was being torn apart.

Televisions had been removed from walls, office printers sat on the curb, the insignia once plastered on the stone wall that heralded who was in charge of the headquarters, long gone. Even though there would soon be fewer and fewer service members around each day, one soldier noted that the flow of care packages from random Americans had not slowed down. He now possessed what seemed like an infinite supply of Pop-Tarts.

A group of American soldiers, tasked with loading an incoming cargo flight didn’t know when they were going home. Tomorrow? Sept. 11? Their job was to close Kandahar before moving on to the next U.S. base, but there were only so many installations left to dismantle. A trio of them played Nintendo while they waited. One talked about the dirt bike he was going to buy when he got home. Another traded cryptocurrency on his iPhone.

When asked about Maiwand, a district only about 50 miles away where Afghan forces were trying to fend off a Taliban offensive and Major Zahid was desperately trying to send air support, a U.S. soldier responded, “Who’s Maiwand?”

In the evening, the base loudspeaker chimed as one of the transport planes departed. “Attention,” someone out of view said. “There will be outgoing for the next 15 minutes.” The dull thud of mortar fire began. At what was unclear.

The end of the war looked nothing like the beginning of it. What started as an operation to topple the Taliban and kill the terrorists responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had swelled over 20 years into a multitrillion-dollar military-industrial undertaking, infused with so much money that for years it seemed impossible to ever conclude or dismantle.

Until now.

The Taliban’s often-repeated adage loomed over the day: “You have the watches, we have the time.”

In one of the many trash bags littering the base, there was a discarded wall clock, its second hand still ticking.

Najim Rahim and Jim Huylebroek contributed reporting.

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Over 40 Dead in Tajik-Kyrgyz Border Clash as Death Toll Rises

MOSCOW — A border clash this week between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan killed more than 40 people, government officials said Friday, significantly raising the death toll for an episode that began as a dispute over irrigation water.

The outbreak of violence comes at a delicate time for the United States after the Biden administration announced a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which borders Tajikistan to the south, by September. The nations of Central Asia provide an alternative to Pakistan as an overland route to withdraw American military equipment.

The fighting around a Tajik enclave in southwestern Kyrgyzstan briefly resumed on Friday before the countries’ presidents spoke on the phone and agreed to meet next month. The sides had agreed to a cease-fire Thursday.

The office of Kyrgyzstan’s president, Sadyr Zhaparov, issued a statement saying it was “confident that mutually beneficial cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will continually and fruitfully develop on the basis of traditional and centuries-old friendship and honesty between the peoples.”

reports suggested the situation on the ground, entangled in local grievances and raw ethnic tension, remained unfriendly. Videos posted online showed Tajik-speakers rejoicing as Kyrgyz homes burned in one village.

What began with rock throwing between Tajiks and Kyrgyz in villages along the border escalated into an exchange of small-arms fire between border guards and other security forces.

Kyrgyz authorities said that the Tajik government had deployed military forces in the region before the escalation and that a helicopter attacked a border post. Still, when the fighting stopped with a cease-fire Thursday both sides reported a total of six dead.

But on Friday the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan said 31 people died and 154 people were wounded on its side. The national authorities in Tajikistan have not released a death toll for their side, but local media citing regional officials said 10 people had died and 90 were wounded.

The fighting centered around Vorukh, a Tajik enclave in Kyrgyzstan that has for years been a hot spot in a long-simmering conflict over ethnic enclaves in and around the Ferghana Valley in Central Asia, a legacy of the Soviet breakup.

Another long-running security headache in Central Asia has been water politics. Tajikistan controls the headwaters of many of the region’s rivers that the four other former Soviet states, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, depend on for irrigation. The fighting this week began over control of an irrigation canal.

In the early stages of the Afghan war, the United States opened two bases in Central Asia to move troops into Afghanistan, and also transported everything from fuel to food on an overland route through the region and into the war zone.

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