Iran’s Top Leader Signals Nuclear Talks to Resume Despite Natanz Sabotage

Iran’s top leader said Wednesday that his country would keep negotiating with world powers over how to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, quashing speculation that Iran’s delegation would boycott or quit participating in protest of the apparent Israeli sabotage of a major uranium enrichment site this past weekend.

The declaration by the top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last word on security matters in the country of 80 million, came three days after an explosive blast at the Natanz enrichment site plunged the heavily guarded facility into a blackout and disabled or destroyed hundreds of underground centrifuges used to process uranium into fuel.

Suspicion for the destruction immediately fell on Israel, which has sabotaged the Natanz site before. Israel neither confirmed nor denied the accusation but intelligence officials said it was a clandestine Israeli operation.

Outraged and embarrassed over such a security lapse, Iran vowed on Tuesday to triple its uranium enrichment purity — the most brazen departure yet from its commitments under the nuclear deal.

also said they would resume, at 12:30 p.m. local time on Thursday.

The discussions, which began early this month and recessed last Friday, are intended to map out a plan for the return of both Iran and the United States to compliance with the deal, which has teetered on collapse since President Donald J. Trump abruptly withdrew the United States from it three years ago.

Twitter that process could begin soon.

Iran has said that all of its departures from compliance with the nuclear agreement could be easily and quickly reversed when the United States rescinds its sanctions.

carried out a series of raids and attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear scientists and its uranium enrichment facilities.

Although American and Israeli governments have collaborated before to counter what they see as Iran’s militaristic nuclear ambitions, Washington denied any role in Sunday’s blackout. The Biden administration has said it remains committed to reviving the nuclear agreement.

Iran and the United States have not been negotiating directly in the talks in Vienna, which are led by the European Union. Instead the other participants in the 2015 accord — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — are acting as intermediaries.

Before the blackout at Natanz, European officials maintained that both Iran and the United States were invested in the success of the talks.

The foreign ministries of Germany, France and Britain issued a joint a statement on Wednesday condemning Iran’s uranium enrichment intentions and said that they “reject all escalatory measures by any actor.”

“This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the statement read. “Iran has no credible civilian need for enrichment at this level.”

The talks adjourned on a positive note last week. They were scheduled to continue this week after all parties agreed to move forward.

according to senior diplomats who were involved. Two working groups were formed to discuss sanctions and uranium enrichment, both tasked with mapping out a plan to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Steven Erlanger and Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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A Ramadan Closer to Normal for 2021

CAIRO — Compared with Ramadan 2020, when mosques around the world were closed for prayer during the holiest month of the year for Muslims, and curfews prevented friends and family from gathering to break the fast, the religious holiday this year offered the promise of something much closer to normal.

“Last year, I felt depressed and I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last,” said Riyad Deis, a co-owner of a spice and dried-fruit shop in Jerusalem’s Old City. On Tuesday, the first day of the Muslim fasting month, its narrow alleys were alive with shoppers browsing Ramadan sweets and worshipers heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Mr. Deis, 51, who was selling whole pieces of turmeric and Medjool dates to a customer, recalled how empty and subdued the Old City had felt last year as virus cases surged and the authorities closed Al-Aqsa to the public. “Now, I’m relaxed, I have enough money to provide for my family and people are purchasing goods from my shop,” he said. “It’s a totally different reality.”

rising coronavirus infections across many countries.

In Kenya, the authorities have introduced longer curfews, closed bars and schools, restricted gatherings at spaces of worship, and limited travel in and out of five counties including Nairobi, the capital.

For Nairobi residents like Ahmed Asmali, this means a prolonged inability to break the fast with loved ones or attend prayers with larger congregations.

“It’s the second year now that we are in a lockdown,” said Mr. Asmali, a 41-year-old public relations worker. The experience, he said “feels weird. Feels out of place.”

Lebanon Crisis Observatory, a project by the American University in Beirut.

The pandemic still shadows much of the festivities. Shop owners in Jerusalem’s Old City said they were worried that Israel would not allow large numbers of Palestinians from the West Bank, where few have been vaccinated, to visit the Old City this Ramadan, depriving the area of their holiday spending.

Prepandemic, Israel usually allowed tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to visit Jerusalem on Fridays during the fasting month. The arm of the Israeli government that liaises with the Palestinian Authority said on Tuesday that Israel would allow 10,000 vaccinated Palestinians from the West Bank to pray at the Aqsa on Friday. It also said authorities would permit 5,000 vaccinated Palestinians from the West Bank to make family visits in Israel between Sunday and Thursday next week.

Omar Kiswani, the director of the Aqsa Mosque, said he was overjoyed that the compound was open to worshipers — an estimated 11,000 attended the taraweeh prayers at the compound Monday evening — but he emphasized that people would still need to be careful. He said masks and two meters’ distance between worshipers are required at the mosque, and the indoor and outdoor spaces will be sterilized daily.

“These are times of great happiness,” Mr. Kiswani said. “We hope the blessed Aqsa Mosque will return to its prepandemic glory. But these are also times of caution, because the virus is still out there.”

Vivian Yee reported from Cairo, and Adam Rasgon from Jerusalem. Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting form Istanbul and Abdi Latif Dahir from Nairobi.

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Covid-19 Live Updates: U.S. Calls for Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, Complicating Rollout

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare.”

On a media call later on Tuesday morning, Dr. Marks said that “on an individual basis, a provider and patient can make a determination whether or not to receive the vaccine” manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

While the move was framed as a recommendation to health practitioners in the states, the federal government is expected to pause administration of the vaccine at all federally run vaccination sites. Federal officials expect that state health officials will take that as a strong signal to do the same. Within two hours of the announcement, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, advised all health providers in his state to temporarily stop giving Johnson & Johnson shots. In New York, the health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said the state would halt the use of the vaccine statewide while federal officials evaluate the safety risks. Appointments for Johnson & Johnson’s shot on Tuesday at state mass sites would be honored with Pfizer doses, Dr. Zucker said.

The authorities in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, Georgia, Indiana, Texas and Virginia also said that they would follow the call from federal health agencies.

Scientists with the F.D.A. and C.D.C. will jointly examine possible links between the vaccine and the disorder and determine whether the F.D.A. should continue to authorize use of the vaccine for all adults or limit the authorization.

In the media call, federal health officials tried to reassure recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine while at the same time describing symptoms that they should watch out if they received a shot within the past month.

Dr. Schuchat said that the risk of dangerous blood clots is “very low” for people who received the vaccine more than a month ago.

“For people who recently got the vaccine within the last couple of weeks, they should be aware, to look for any symptoms. If you receive the vaccine and develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath, you should contact your health care provider and seek medical treatment,” she said. She emphasized that an emergency meeting of the C.D.C.’s outside advisory committee, which has been scheduled for Wednesday, to discuss how to handle the vaccine in the future is made up of independent experts.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said she expects the pause in distributing and administrating the vaccine will last for “a matter of days” while officials investigate the cases. Officials also stressed that no serious safety problems have emerged with either of the other two federally authorized vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The move could substantially complicate the nation’s vaccination efforts at a time when many states are confronting a surge in new cases and seeking to address vaccine hesitancy. Regulators in Europe and elsewhere are concerned about a similar issue with another coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University researchers. That concern has driven up some resistance to all vaccines, even though the AstraZeneca version has not been authorized for emergency use in the United States.

The vast majority of the nation’s vaccine supply comes from two other manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which together deliver more than 23 million doses a week of their two-shot vaccines. There have been no significant safety concerns about either of those vaccines.

But while shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been much more limited, the Biden administration had still been counting on using hundreds of thousands of doses every week. In addition to requiring only a single dose, the vaccine is easier to ship and store than the other two, which must be stored at extremely low temperatures.

Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said Tuesday the pause “will not have a significant impact” the Biden administration’s plans to deliver enough vaccine to be able to inoculate all 260 million adults in the United States by the end of May. With the Johnson & Johnson setback, federal officials expect there will only be enough to cover fewer than 230 million adults. But a certain percentage of the population is expected to refuse shots, so the supply may cover all the demand.

Mr. Zients said the administration will still “reach every adult who wants to be vaccinated” by the May 31 target.

Federal officials are concerned that doctors may not be trained to look for the rare disorder if recipients of the vaccine develop symptoms of it. The federal health agencies said Tuesday morning that “treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered” for blood clots.

“Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given,” the statement said.

In a news release, Johnson & Johnson said: “We are aware that thromboembolic events including those with thrombocytopenia have been reported with Covid-19 vaccines. At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine.” Janssen is the name of Johnson & Johnson’s division that developed the vaccine.

In the United States alone, 300,000 to 600,000 people a year develop blood clots, according to C.D.C. data. But the particular blood clotting disorder that the vaccine recipients developed, known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, is extremely rare.

All of the women developed the condition within about two weeks of vaccination, and government experts are concerned that an immune system response triggered by the vaccine was the cause. Federal officials said there was broad agreement about the need to pause use of the vaccine while the cases are investigated.

The decision is a fresh blow to Johnson & Johnson. Late last month, the company discovered that workers at a Baltimore plant run by its subcontractor had accidentally contaminated a batch of vaccine, forcing the firm to throw out the equivalent of 13 million to 15 million doses. That plant was supposed to take over supply of the vaccine to the United States from Johnson & Johnson’s Dutch plants, which were certified by federal regulators earlier this year.

The Baltimore plant’s certification by the F.D.A. has now been delayed while inspectors investigate quality control issues, sharply reducing the supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The sudden drop in available doses led to widespread complaints from governors and state health officials who had been expecting much bigger shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine this week than they got.

A Kent State University student getting his Johnson & Johnson vaccination in Kent, Ohio, last week.
Credit…Phil Long/Associated Press

The authorities in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, Georgia, Indiana, Texas and Virginia said on Tuesday that they would follow the call from federal health agencies to pause the administration of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after six women in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

CVS, the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain, also said that it would immediately stop its use of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations and was emailing customers whose appointments would be canceled. A spokesman said that CVS would reschedule appointments “as soon as possible.”

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio and the state’s chief health official said they were advising all state vaccine providers to temporarily halt use of the single-dose vaccine. New York’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said the state would stop using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluate the safety risks.

Connecticut health officials said they told vaccine providers to delay planned appointments and give an alternative option if they had the supply.

The C.D.C.’s outside advisory committee has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday.

Jeff Zients, the White House Covid coordinator, said on Tuesday that the pause will not have a significant impact on the country’s vaccination campaign, which has accelerated in recent weeks as a rise in new virus cases threatens a fourth possible surge. Many states have already opened vaccination eligibility to all adults and others plan to by next week.

“Over the last few weeks, we have made available more than 25 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna each week, and in fact this week we will make available 28 million doses of these vaccines. This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day,” Mr. Zients said in a statement.

Even though the reaction to the Johnson & Johnson shot is rare, any questions about the safety of the shots could bolster vaccine hesitancy.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The six women who developed blood clots were between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.”

Like many states, New York had already prepared for a significant drop in its supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after federal officials said that supplies would be limited because of a production issue at a Baltimore manufacturing plant. On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that New York expected to receive 34,900 Johnson & Johnson shots, a decrease of 88 percent from the previous week.

Dr. Zucker, New York’s health commissioner, said that the state would honor appointments made at state-run mass vaccination sites for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by giving people the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine instead. That vaccine requires two doses, and it was not immediately clear how the state would handle the additional strain on its supply.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that the city would work to reschedule appointments at city-run vaccine sites, giving those people the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead.

“Every site has been told this morning to stop giving the J&J shots,” he said at a news conference.

Mr. Cuomo received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a public appearance last month in Harlem, which he framed as an effort to boost confidence in that vaccine’s efficacy rate and to address vaccine hesitancy.

Regulators in Europe and elsewhere are concerned about a similar issue with another coronavirus vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University researchers. That vaccine has not been authorized for emergency use in the United States.

Students line up for vaccines at Oakland University on Friday in Rochester, Mich. Coronavirus cases in the state have continued to rise in recent weeks.
Credit…Emily Elconin for The New York Times

The virus is again surging in parts of the United States, but it’s a picture with dividing lines: ominous figures in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, but largely not in the South.

Experts are unsure what explains the split, which doesn’t correspond to vaccination levels. Some point to warmer weather in the Sun Belt, while others suspect that decreased testing is muddying the virus’s true footprint.

The contours of where the virus is resurgent can be drawn around one figure: states that are averaging about 15 new cases a day for every 100,000 people. The 23 states — including Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas — that have averaged that or fewer over the past week seem to be keeping cases relatively low, according to a New York Times database. Nationally, the country is averaging 21 new cases per 100,000 people.

In the 27 states above that line, though, things have been trending for the worse. Michigan has the highest surge of all, reporting the most drastic increase in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. Illinois, Minnesota and others have also reported worrisome increases.

Nationally, reported cases in the United States are growing again after a steep fall from the post-holiday peak in January. In the past two weeks, new confirmed cases have jumped about 11 percent, even though vaccinations picked up considerably, with an average of 3.2 million doses given daily.

Some Southern states, like Alabama and Mississippi, are lagging in vaccinations. Only about 28 percent of people in each state have received at least one shot, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker. Still, case counts continue to drop in both states.

Health experts say cases are rising in the Northeast and Upper Midwest for several reasons, including pandemic fatigue, the reopening of schools and the resumption of youth sports.

Hospitalizations tend to follow the trend line in cases by a few weeks, and have been rising in some states, most notably in Michigan.

Officials are also concerned about the spread of more contagious virus variants, especially B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain. The variant is now the leading source of new coronavirus infections in the United States, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week.

Just why those factors might affect some states more than others is hard to pinpoint, experts say.

Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said warmer weather in Southern states and California was probably playing a role, because it allows people to gather outdoors, with less risk of transmission.

New case reports have fallen by about 11 percent in Georgia over the past two weeks. And in Alabama, new cases are down roughly 29 percent, with a 17 percent decline in hospitalizations.

Some experts say, though, that reduced testing in some states could be obscuring the true picture. Testing in Alabama, for instance, has started to dip, but the share of tests that come back positive has remained high, at 11.1 percent, compared with a nationwide average of 5.1 percent, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“People who are symptomatic and go to their provider are going to get a test,” said Dr. Michael Saag, the associate dean for global health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but “the desire for people to go get tested just because they want to know what their status is has dropped off dramatically.”

Still, Dr. Saag said, there is probably not a hidden spike in cases in Alabama right now, since hospitalizations in the state remain low.

The first dawn prayers of Ramadan around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Credit…Amr Nabil/Associated Press

Millions of Muslims on Tuesday began celebrating a second Ramadan in the middle of the pandemic, although in many countries the first day of the holy month offered the promise of a Ramadan with fewer restrictions than last year.

Mosques across the Middle East and other parts of the world were closed for prayer last year, and lockdowns prevented festive gatherings with friends and family. In Jerusalem, for instance, the Old City was largely empty and the Aqsa Mosque compound was closed to the public, as coronavirus cases were surging.

But a large degree of normalcy was back on Tuesday: The Old City’s narrow alleys were crowded, sweet shops were preparing Ramadan desserts, clothing stores were open and the Aqsa compound was welcoming worshipers.

“Last year, I felt depressed and I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last,” said Riyad Deis, a co-owner of a spice and dried fruit shop in the Old City, while selling whole pieces of turmeric and Medjool dates to a customer. “Now, I’m relaxed, I have enough money to provide for my family and people are purchasing goods from my shop — it’s a totally different reality.”

The enthusiasm of some didn’t mean the Ramadan would go as normal. Across several countries in the Middle East, the authorities imposed limitations on customs and festivities, requiring that mosques enforce social distancing and telling worshipers to bring their own prayer rugs and to wear face masks.

In Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, taraweeh, the optional extra prayers that worshipers can observe at night, were capped at half an hour. No one will also be allowed to spend the night in a mosque, as is common during the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Mosques around the region were also prohibited from serving the fast-breaking meal of iftar or the predawn meal of suhoor. Though Muslims could still gather for those meals with friends and family, the authorities asked them to limit those gatherings this year.

In Jerusalem, Omar Kiswani, the director of Al Aqsa Mosque, said he was overjoyed that the compound was open to worshipers, but still urged caution.

“These are times of great happiness — we hope the blessed Aqsa Mosque will return to its pre-pandemic glory — but these are also times of caution because the virus is still out there,” Mr. Kiswani said.

In Egypt, government officials and prominent television hosts linked to the authorities warned Egyptians of a third wave of infections as Ramadan approached, hinting that another curfew or other lockdown restrictions could be imposed if cases rose.

“If you want the houses of God to remain open,” Nouh Elesawy, an official who oversees mosques at the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments, said earlier this month, “adhere to the precautionary procedures and regulations.”

The Ramadan restrictions may hit the hardest in poor neighborhoods, where residents depend on iftar banquets usually sponsored by wealthy individuals or organizations. For those people, feasting and Ramadan gifts are likely to be rarer, with tourism still at a trickle and many small businesses still suffering from the economic effects of the pandemic.

In Lebanon and Syria, the pandemic has worsened economic crisis that will likely squeeze people’s ability to enjoy the holy month, more than the governments’ limited restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

In Syria, where experts say the official infection and death numbers for Covid-19 are far below the reality, the government has few restrictions in place. Worshipers will even be allowed to stand in line inside of mosques to pray together after breaking their fast, the Syrian Ministry of Religious Affairs said.

In Lebanon, which emerged recently from a strict lockdown, shops and restaurants can operate regularly during the day but must offer only delivery service during a nighttime curfew from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Global Roundup

Administering a coronavirus vaccine to a frontline worker in New Delhi, last week.
Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

India said on Tuesday that it would fast-track the approval of vaccines in use in other countries, a move aimed at rapidly increasing the country’s vaccine supply as it battles what is currently the world’s biggest coronavirus outbreak.

The Indian government said that it would grant emergency authorization to any foreign-made vaccine that had been approved for use by regulators in the United States, the European Union, Britain or Japan, or by the World Health Organization. The move had been recommended by a panel of Indian scientists and eliminates a requirement for drug companies to conduct local clinical trials.

“The decision will facilitate quicker access to such foreign vaccines” and encourage imports of materials that would boost India’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, the government said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, India’s top drug regulator granted emergency approval to Sputnik V, the Russian-made vaccine, adding a third vaccine to the country’s arsenal on the same day that health officials recorded 161,736 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours.

It was the seventh straight day that India has added more than 100,000 cases, according to a New York Times database. Only the United States has seen a faster rise in infections during the pandemic.

India has administered about 105 million domestically produced vaccine doses for a population of 1.3 billion, but it is widely believed that the country needs to scale up inoculations rapidly because other measures have failed to control the virus. Many states have reimposed partial lockdowns and weekend curfews. In the country’s financial hub, Mumbai, health officials are racing to erect field hospitals as facilities report shortages of oxygen, ventilators and coronavirus testing kits.

And there is the risk of a superspreading event with the gathering of millions of Hindu pilgrims for the annual Kumbh Mela festival on the banks of the Ganges River, where the authorities say they are powerless to enforce social distancing.

India’s outbreak is reverberating worldwide as its pharmaceutical industry — which was supposed to manufacture and export hundreds of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — is keeping most supplies at home. The approval of the Sputnik vaccine, whose first doses are expected to be available for use in weeks, offers hope that India could speed up its inoculation drive.

But it is unclear at this stage whether India will be able to procure significant quantities of other vaccines, including the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots in use in the United States. Major Western nations have accumulated much of the global supply of those vaccines and manufacturers are struggling to meet the surging demand.

India will import millions of Sputnik doses from Russia and then begin manufacturing the vaccine domestically, officials said. More than 850 million doses will be made, with some intended for export, Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund that has financed the vaccine’s development, said in an interview with India’s NDTV channel.

“India is a vaccine-manufacturing hub and our strategic partner for production of Sputnik V,” Mr. Dmitriev said.

India has more than 13.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases, the second most after the United States, and 171,058 deaths, the fourth highest toll.

In other news around the world:

Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, at a cabinet meeting in Berlin on Tuesday. Her government’s proposal on coronavirus restrictions would place half the country over the threshold for lockdown.
Credit…Pool photo by Andreas Gora

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government moved a step closer on Tuesday to securing the right to force restrictions on areas where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, overriding state leaders reluctant to take action.

Ms. Merkel and her ministers approved a legislative proposal that would make it easier for the national government to enforce lockdowns and other limits on movement in regions where infection levels pass a set threshold. At current levels, it could lock down more than half of the country.

Under Germany’s decentralized leadership structures, the 16 state leaders have been meeting regularly with the chancellor to agree on nationwide coronavirus response policies. But with different regions experiencing different rates of infection, some state leaders have been reluctant to enforce the agreed limitations, leading to confusion and frustration among many Germans.

“I believe this amendment is as important as it is an urgent decision about how to proceed in the coronavirus pandemic,” the chancellor told reporters after meeting with her ministers.

Parliament still has to debate and approve the proposal, which would take the form of an amendment to the Protection Against Infection Act, and that process is expected to begin this week.

“We are in a situation where an emergency mechanism is necessary,” Ralph Brinkhaus, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union in Parliament, told reporters, before a meeting of his party lawmakers to discuss the amendment.

Under the proposed amendment, the federal government could force stores and cultural institutions to close and enforce limits on the number of people allowed to meet up in any region where infections surpass 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days.

More controversially, the law would also allow Ms. Merkel’s government to order that schools and day care centers close if the number of new infections reaches more than 200 per 100,000 inhabitants. Schools fall under the jurisdiction of the states, and local leaders are reluctant to relinquish that control.

Germany has registered more than three million infections and more than 78,700 deaths from Covid-19 since the virus began moving through the country last spring. It recorded 10,810 new cases of infection on Tuesday, bringing the national rate of infection to more than 140 per 100,000.

The number of patients in intensive care is expected to hit a record this month, as the country struggles to vaccinate enough people to get ahead of the spread of the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant.

Vaccinations at a mosque in London earlier this month. Britain’s program has reached over 32 million people, more than half the adult population.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Britain has now offered vaccinations to everyone in the country age 50 and older, the government announced late on Monday, and is extending its program to another age group, the latest sign that the national rollout is continuing at pace.

On Tuesday, the authorities opened vaccinations to anyone 45 or older, yet the announcement came with a small hiccup: The website for the country’s National Health Service crashed for a short time after the younger cohort was invited to book appointments online.

The new step in the country’s vaccine rollout comes as the authorities eased several restrictions in England on Monday after months of stringent lockdowns, with pubs and restaurants opened for drinks and dining outside, and nonessential shops once again opening their doors.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the moment a “hugely significant milestone” and in a statement thanked those involved with the vaccine rollout. Mr. Johnson said the country was on track to offer all adults a vaccination by the end of July. More than 32 million people across Britain have received their first dose of one of the vaccines, according to government data.

The government said it had also already offered vaccinations to every health or care worker, and to everyone with a high-risk medical condition.

England has also began rolling out the Moderna vaccine, which will be offered as an alternative alongside the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for those under 30, instead of AstraZeneca’s, which has been the mainstay of Britain’s program so far.

There have been concerns about a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and very rare blood clots, and last week British regulators said an alternative should be provided for younger people. Potential infection still poses much greater risks than any vaccine side effect for all those over 30, they said, and could do so for younger people if cases surged again.

“The Moderna rollout marks another milestone in the vaccination program,” Stephen Powis, the medical director of the National Health Service, said in a statement. “We now have a third jab in our armory.”

The vaccination program, he added, “is our hope at the end of a year like no other” as he encouraged people to book their appointments.

But despite the hopeful vaccine news and the return to public life, the country is still battling new cases of the virus, and a cluster in two London neighborhoods of a worrisome variant first discovered in South Africa has prompted mass testing. Health workers have gone door to door to urge residents to get tested, even if they are not showing symptoms, as dozens of cases have emerged. Similar measures were carried out elsewhere in the city earlier this month.

Studies have shown that the variant contains a mutation that diminishes the vaccines’ effectiveness against it. Dr. Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for the country’s test and trace campaign, said the cluster of cases in parts of South London was “significant.”

“It’s really important people in the local area play their part in stopping any further spread within the local community,” she said in a statement.

Pacific Palace, a dim sum restaurant on a commercial strip in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, has seen revenue plunge.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

More than a year after the coronavirus first swept through New York, the streets of Sunset Park in southern Brooklyn reflect the pandemic’s deep and unhealed wounds intertwined with signs of a neighborhood trying to edge back to life.

The sidewalks are filling with shoppers and vendors. More businesses are welcoming customers. But owners still struggle to pay rent and keep their enterprises afloat, while many workers laid off after the city locked down last year remain without jobs.

And while the rate of vaccination in New York has increased significantly, the coronavirus still percolates through this densely packed neighborhood. The ZIP code that includes Sunset Park had the highest rate of positive cases in Brooklyn in early April, nearly double the citywide rate. Some residents have expressed skepticism about the vaccines, spooked by false information circulated over TikTok and other social media.

Adding to the stress is a spate of hate crimes and violence against people of Asian descent in New York and around the country, fed in some cases by racist claims that Asian-Americans are responsible for spreading the virus.

About a third of the residents in Sunset Park have received at least one dose of the vaccine, roughly the same level as the city overall, according to the city health data. But local leaders say they want to push that number much higher.

Kuan Neng, 49, the Buddhist monk who founded Xi Fang Temple on Eighth Avenue, said that people had come to him in recent weeks to express concerns over vaccines.

“Why do I need to do that?” is a common refrain, according to Mr. Kuan, followed by: “I’m healthy now. The hard times are over, more or less.”

“Many people want to delay and see,” Mr. Kuan said, himself included.

The owner of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood and 15 other movie theaters said it would not reopen after the pandemic.
Credit…Kate Warren for The New York Times

ArcLight Cinemas, a beloved chain of movie theaters based in Los Angeles, including the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, will permanently close all its locations, Pacific Theaters announced on Monday, after the pandemic decimated the cinema business.

ArcLight’s locations in and around Hollywood have played host to many a movie premiere, in addition to being favorite spots for moviegoers seeking out blockbusters and prestige titles. They are operated by Pacific Theaters, which also manages a handful of theaters under the Pacific name, and are owned by Decurion.

“After shutting our doors more than a year ago, today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theaters locations,” the company said in a statement.

“This was not the outcome anyone wanted,” it added, “but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward.”

Between the Pacific and ArcLight brands, the company owned 16 theaters and more than 300 screens.

The movie theater business has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. But in recent weeks, the majority of the country’s largest theater chains, including AMC and Regal Cinemas, have reopened in anticipation of the slate of Hollywood films that have been put back on the calendar, many after repeated delays because of pandemic restrictions. A touch of optimism is even in the air as a result of the Warner Bros. movie “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which has generated some $70 million in box office receipts since opening over Easter weekend.

Still, the industry’s trade organization, the National Association of Theater Owners, has long warned that the punishing closures were most likely to affect smaller regional players like ArcLight and Pacific. In March, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, which operates about 40 locations across the country, announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection but would keep most of its locations operational while it restructured.

That does not seem to be the case for Pacific Theaters, which, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, fired its entire staff on Monday.

The reaction to ArcLight’s closing around Hollywood has been emotional, including an outpouring on Twitter.

Firefighters at the site of COVID-19 hospital Matei Bals, after a fire broke out in one of its buildings in Bucharest, Romania, in January.
Credit…Robert Ghement/EPA, via Shutterstock

Three people infected with the coronavirus died at a hospital in Bucharest on Monday evening after the oxygen supply stopped functioning, according to the authorities, the latest incident involving oxygen failure, which in many countries has driven up the virus death toll.

It was also another fatal setback for Romania’s ageing and overwhelmed health care system, which has suffered two fires in Covid-19 wards in recent months, killing at least 15 people.

Ventilators shut down at a mobile intensive care unit set up at the Victor Babes hospital in Bucharest after oxygen pressure reached too high a level, the country’s health authorities said in a statement, depriving patients of a vital supply. In addition to the three patients who died, five others were evacuated and moved to other facilities in the city.

Romania has recorded its highest rate of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units since the pandemic began, and on Sunday Prime Minister Florin Citu said that there were just six intensive care beds available across Romania, out of nearly 1,600.

Intensive care units in Hungary and Poland have also been at risk of being overwhelmed, as much of Eastern Europe has struggled to cope with a third wave of infections across the continent. Some Hungarian hospitals have sought medical students and volunteers to assist in Covid-19 wards, giving training to those without previous medical experience.

The mobile unit struck by the oxygen problem on Monday had only been in operation since Saturday, and it has epitomized long-running concerns over the country’s fragile health care system. In January, five patients died and a further 102 were evacuated from a different hospital in Bucharest after a fire broke out. In November, 10 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus died after a fire broke out in a hospital in the northeastern city of Piatra Neamt.

Romania’s spending on health care is among the lowest in the European Union, with just over five percent of gross domestic product allocated toward it, compared with 10 percent on average among other countries of the bloc.

More than 25,000 people who tested positive for the virus have died in Romania, and the authorities have closed schools and kindergartens throughout April as part of an extended Easter holiday.

The authorities have so far administered more than 3.5 million vaccine doses, in a population of about 19 million.

Alisa Stephens, a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, had to manage work and taking care of her children after the city went into lockdown last year.
Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Studies have found that women in academia have published fewer papers, led fewer clinical trials and received less recognition for their expertise during the pandemic.

Add to that the emotional upheaval of the pandemic, the protests over structural racism, worry about children’s mental health and education, and the lack of time to think or work, and an already unsustainable situation becomes unbearable.

Michelle Cardel, an obesity researcher at the University of Florida, worries that this confluence of factors could push some women to leave the sciences.

“My big fear is that we are going to have a secondary epidemic of loss, particularly of early career women in STEM,” she said.

Female scientists were struggling even before the pandemic. It was not unusual for them to hear that women were not as smart as men, or that a woman who was successful must have received a handout along the way, said Daniela Witten, a biostatistician at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Women in academia often have little recourse when confronted with discrimination. Their institutions sometimes lack the human resources structures common in the business world.

Compounding the frustration are outdated notions about how to help women in science. But social media has allowed women to share some of those concerns and find allies to organize and call out injustice when they see it, said Jessica Hamerman, an immunologist at the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle.

In November, for example, a study on female scientists was published in the influential journal Nature Communications suggesting that having female mentors would hinder the career of young scientists and recommending that young women seek out male help.

The response was intense and unforgiving: Nearly 7,600 scientists signed a petition calling on the journal to retract the paper — which it did on Dec. 21.

The study arrived at a time when many female scientists were already worried about the pandemic’s effect on their careers, and already on edge and angry with a system that offered them little support.

Alisa Stephens found working from home to be a series of wearying challenges. Dr. Stephens is a biostatistician at the University of Pennsylvania, and carving out the time and mental space for that work with two young children at home was impossible.

Things eased once the family could safely bring in a nanny, but there was still little time for the deep thought Dr. Stephens had relied on each morning for her work.

Over time, she has adjusted her expectations of herself. “Maybe I’m at 80 percent as opposed to 100 percent,” she said, “but I can get things done at 80 percent to some extent.”

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Severe Covid Cases Surge in Gaza as Ramadan Nears

Severe and critical cases of Covid-19 have hit record highs this week in the blockaded Gaza Strip, a development that health experts attributed to the proliferation of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in Britain.

Medical officials in the Hamas-run Health Ministry estimated that the variant now accounts for four out of five new cases in Gaza. They detected it in the densely populated territory for the first time in late March.

“We are in a dangerous place,” said Dr. Majdi Dhair, the director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department. “We expect more people to become infected and more people to enter hospitals. We ask God to pull us out of this situation.”

Over the past three weeks, severe cases — typically when a patient’s oxygen level falls to 94 percent or less — have risen to 219 from 58, according to ministry data. Critical cases, which can involve respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ dysfunction, jumped to 58 from 17.

On top of that, the ministry said on Monday that about 38 percent of the 4,700 virus test results it had received over the preceding 24 hours were positive — one of the highest rates in the past month.

Dr. Dhair said he believed that hospitals in Gaza were prepared to handle more severe and critical cases, but that they would probably have to postpone some surgical procedures to free up intensive care beds.

Devastated by years of conflict, Gaza’s hospitals were already dealing with challenging circumstances before the first cases of community transmission of the virus were discovered in the territory in August.

Gaza’s population is overwhelmingly young, and less than 1 percent of residents have been vaccinated so far.

The sharp rise in severe and critical cases has come just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Tuesday. Traditionally during Ramadan, many Palestinians in Gaza would gather for large meals after sunset, pack streets in popular commercial districts and crowd into mosques for special evening prayers. But a number of those traditions will be prohibited this year because of the pandemic, the authorities said.

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Royal Rivalry Bares Social Tensions Behind Jordan’s Stable Veneer

In recent years, Prince Hamzah has spoken out against high-level corruption, an issue the public associates with privatization. And he has visited tribal leaders and attended tribal events, perceived as a provocative attempt to foment tribal frustration and social discontent.

“He didn’t create these grievances,” said Mr. Ramadan, the former lawmaker. “He tapped into them.”

But before Prince Hamzah reinvented himself as a government critic, he was the epitome of a palace insider. After King Abdullah inherited the crown in 1999 from their father, King Hussein, he appointed Prince Hamzah as his own crown prince and successor.

King Abdullah, 59, is the eldest son of Hussein’s British-born second wife, Princess Muna. Prince Hamzah, 41, is the eldest son of Hussein’s American-born fourth wife, Queen Noor.

Both men were educated at Harrow, an elite British school, and Sandhurst, the British officer-training academy.

But their paths diverged in 2004, when King Abdullah removed his half brother as crown prince — later replacing him with his own son, Prince Hussein, now 26.

The decision devastated Prince Hamzah, according to Jordanian officials. He had been considered a favorite of King Hussein’s, a more polished orator with a more academic mind than King Abdullah, and had been groomed as a teenager for the throne. Suddenly he was ejected from the circle of influence, and cast around for a new role.

At one point he asked his half brother to be commander in chief of the armed forces, a request that King Abdullah declined, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

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Vaccine Passports Could Unlock World Travel and Cries of Discrimination

LONDON — For Aruba, a Caribbean idyll that has languished since the pandemic drove away its tourists, the concept of a “vaccine passport” is not just intriguing. It is a “lifeline,” said the prime minister, Evelyn Wever-Croes.

Aruba is already experimenting with a digital certificate that allows visitors from the United States who tested negative for the coronavirus to breeze through the airport and hit the beach without delay. Soon, it may be able to fast-track those who arrive with digital confirmation that they have been vaccinated.

“People don’t want to stand in line, especially with social distancing,” Ms. Wever-Croes said in an interview this week. “We need to be ready in order to make it hassle-free and seamless for the travelers.”

Vaccine passports are increasingly viewed as the key to unlocking the world after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns — a few bytes of personal health data, encoded on a chip, that could put an end to suffocating restrictions and restore the freewheeling travel that is a hallmark of the age of globalization. From Britain to Israel, these passports are taking shape or already in use.

But they are also stirring complicated political and ethical debates about discrimination, inequality, privacy and fraud. And at a practical level, making them work seamlessly around the globe will be a formidable technical challenge.

The debate may play out differently in tourism- or trade-dependent outposts like Aruba and Singapore, which view passports primarily as a tool to reopen borders, than it will in vast economies like the United States or China, which have starkly divergent views on civil liberties and privacy.

The Biden administration said this week that it would not push for a mandatory vaccination credential or a federal vaccine database, attesting to the sensitive political and legal issues involved. In the European Union and Britain, which have taken tentative steps toward vaccine passports, leaders are running into thorny questions over their legality and technical feasibility.

And in Japan, which has lagged the United States and Britain in vaccinating its population, the debate has scarcely begun. There are grave misgivings there about whether passports would discriminate against people who cannot get a shot for medical reasons or choose not to be vaccinated.

Japan, like other Asian countries, has curbed the virus mainly through strict border controls.

“Whether or not to get vaccinated is up to the individual,” said Japan’s health minister, Norihisa Tamura. “The government should respond so that people won’t be disadvantaged by their decision.”

Still, almost everywhere, the pressure to restart international travel is forcing the debate. With tens of millions of people vaccinated, and governments desperate to reopen their economies, businesses and individuals are pushing to regain more freedom of movement. Verifying whether someone is inoculated is the simplest way to do that.

“There’s a very important distinction between international travel and domestic uses,” said Paul Meyer, the founder of the Commons Project, a nonprofit trust that is developing CommonPass, a scannable code that contains Covid testing and vaccination data for travelers. Aruba was the first government to sign up for it.

“There doesn’t seem to be any pushback on showing certification if I want to travel to Greece or Cyprus,” he said, pointing out that schools require students to be vaccinated against measles and many countries demand proof of yellow fever vaccinations. “From a public health perspective, it’s not fair to say, ‘You have no right to check whether I’m going to infect you.’”

CommonPass is one of multiple efforts by technology companies and others to develop reliable, efficient systems to verify the medical status of passengers — a challenge that will deepen as more people resume traveling.

At Heathrow Airport in London, which is operating at a fraction of its normal capacity, arriving passengers have had to line up for hours while immigration officials check whether they have proof of a negative test result and have purchased a mandatory kit to test themselves twice more after they enter the country.

Saudi Arabia announced this week that pilgrims visiting the mosques in Mecca and Medina during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would have to show proof on a mobile app of being “immunized,” which officials defined as having been fully vaccinated, having gotten a single dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before arrival, or having recovered from Covid.

In neighboring United Arab Emirates, residents can show their vaccination status on a certificate through a government-developed app. So far, the certificate is not yet widely required for anything beyond entering the capital, Abu Dhabi, from abroad.

Few countries have gone farther in experimenting with vaccine passports than Israel. It is issuing a “Green Pass” that allows people who are fully vaccinated to go to bars, restaurants, concerts and sporting events. Israel has vaccinated more than half its population and the vast majority of its older people, which makes such a system useful but raises a different set of questions.

With people under 16 not yet eligible for the vaccine, the system could create a generational divide, depriving young people of access to many of the pleasures of their elders. So far, enforcement of the Green Pass has been patchy, and in any event, Israel has kept its borders closed.

So has China, which remains one of the most sealed-off countries in the world. In early March, the Chinese government announced it would begin issuing an “international travel health certificate,” which would record a user’s vaccination status, as well as the results of antibody tests. But it did not say whether the certificate would spare the user from China’s draconian quarantines.

Nor is it clear how eager other countries would be to recognize China’s certificate, given that Chinese companies have been slow in disclosing data from clinical trials of their homegrown vaccines.

Singapore has also maintained strict quarantines, even as it searches for way to restart foreign travel. Last week, it said it would begin rolling out a digital health passport, allowing passengers to use a mobile app to share their coronavirus test results before flying into the island nation.

Free movement across borders is the goal of the European Union’s “Digital Green Certificate.” The European Commission last month set out a plan for verifying vaccination status, which would allow a person to travel freely within the bloc. It left it up to its 27 member states to decide how to collect the health data.

That could avoid the pitfalls of the European Union’s vaccine rollout, which was heavily managed by Brussels and has been far slower than that in the United States or Britain. Yet analysts noted that in data collection, there is a trade-off between decentralized and centralized systems: the former tends to be better at protecting privacy but less efficient; the latter, more intrusive but potentially more effective.

“Given the very unequal access to vaccines we are witnessing in continental Europe, there is also an issue of equal opportunity and potential discrimination,” said Andrea Renda, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

For some countries, the legal and ethical implications have been a major stumbling block to domestic use of a passport. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada put it last month, “There are questions of fairness and justice.”

And yet in Britain, which has a deeply rooted aversion to national ID cards, the government is moving gingerly in that direction. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week outlined broad guidelines for a Covid certificate, which would record vaccination status, test results, and whether the holder had recovered from Covid, which confers a degree of natural immunity for an unknown duration.

Mr. Johnson insisted that shops, pubs and restaurants would not be required to demand the certificate, though they could opt to do so on their own. That did not stop dozens of lawmakers, from his Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party, from opposing the plan on grounds that were legal, ethical and plainly commercial — that it could keep people out of the country’s beloved pubs.

Government officials now suggest that the plan is targeted less at pubs and restaurants and more at higher-risk settings, like nightclubs and sporting events.

“Would we rather have a system where no one can go to a sports ground or theater?” said Jonathan Sumption, a former justice on Britain’s Supreme Court, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s strict lockdowns. “It’s better to have a vaccine passport than a blanket rule which excludes these pleasures from everybody.”

Reporting was contributed by Stephen Castle in London, Motoko Rich in Tokyo, Shashank Bengali in Singapore, Vivian Wang in Hong Kong, Vivian Yee in Cairo, Asmaa al-Omar in Beirut, and Ian Austen in Ottawa.

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U.K. Community Leaders Aid In Vaccine Outreach in Ethnically Diverse Areas

LONDON — Minority communities in Britain have long felt estranged from the government and medical establishment, but their sense of alienation is suddenly proving more costly than ever amid a coronavirus vaccination campaign that depends heavily on trust.

With Britons enjoying one of the fastest vaccination rollouts in the world, skepticism about jabs remains high in many of the very communities where Covid-19 has taken the heaviest toll.

“The government’s response to the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been rather limited,” said Dr. Raja Amjid Riaz, 52, a surgeon who is also a leader at the Central Mosque of Brent, an ethnically diverse borough of North London. “Those people have not been catered for.”

As a result, communities like Brent offer fertile ground for the most outlandish of vaccine rumors, from unfounded claims that they affect fertility to the outright fabrication that the shots are being used to inject microchips.

hit disproportionately hard both by the pandemic itself and by the lockdowns that followed, many local leaders like Dr. Riaz have taken it upon themselves to act.

Some are well-known and trusted figures like religious leaders. Others are local health care workers. And still others are ordinary community members like Umit Jani, a 46-year-old Brent resident.

Mr. Jani’s face is one of many featured on 150 lamppost posters across the borough encouraging residents to get tested for the virus and vaccinated, part of a local government initiative.

The goal is to reframe the community’s relationship with the power structure, and perhaps establish some trust.

second-highest rate of Covid-19 deaths in Britain.

One recent Saturday morning, Mr. Jani set out with another man to survey local residents, setting up a table by a convenience store as nearly a thousand people lined up outside a food bank nearby. The survey was about mental health services, but Mr. Jani took the opportunity to ask about the pandemic.

“Are you afraid to take the vaccine?” he asked one local man.

The man, speaking in Gujarati, a language native to India, said he wanted to take the vaccine, but first wanted to consult with his doctor because he feared an adverse reaction.

Despite this man’s concerns, Mr. Jani said he believed their efforts were making headway.

“It’s become less of a challenge to persuade people,” said Mr. Jani, who himself recently had his first shot.

The numbers appear to back that up: A survey led by Imperial College London and YouGov found that in February, almost 77 percent of people in Britain said they would take a vaccine if offered, up from 55 percent in November.

But other numbers make clear how far the country still has to go.

A government report found that vaccination rates in people 70 and older from early December to mid-March were lowest among the country’s Black African, Black Caribbean and Bangladeshi communities. It also noted that those living in deprived areas like Brent, where the poverty rate of 33 percent is slightly above London’s, were less likely to receive a shot.

colorblind approach” toward distributing vaccines during a pandemic that has not hit all communities equally.

“I think often they’ve overlooked the benefits of local leadership,” said Dr. Azeem Majeed, a professor and department head in primary care and public health at Imperial College London.

In January, the British government said it would give local governments and other groups 23 million pounds, about $31 million, toward encouraging vaccinations among people most at risk from the coronavirus, including minority groups.

Long before the government took that initiative, some local community leaders were already on the job, trying to dispel conspiracy theories and increase vaccinations. They have waged their campaign both online and door-to-door, and have run workshops aimed at countering misinformation.

At Dr. Riaz’s mosque, leaders have been working for months to tackle vaccine hesitancy through a help line, WhatsApp chats, weekly sermons and webinars. And as Ramadan approaches, they are hoping they will be able to vaccinate people who attend mosque after daily fasting.

While the government’s pandemic guidance has been issued in English, community leaders have offered multilingual messages on videos and local radio stations. That approach has particular resonance in a place like Brent, where 149 languages are spoken.

open letter this past week from well-known names, among them the comedian and actor Lenny Henry, urged Black Britons to get vaccinated.

The reasons for vaccine hesitancy vary.

It is not just baseless claims, like those in social media videos and messages circulated on outlets like WhatsApp that maintain — incorrectly — that the vaccines contain animal products forbidden under some religious practices.

Some are simply worried the drugs were developed too quickly. And, research suggests, that much of the hesitation grows out of Britain’s long history of racism and discrimination, as well as a general mistrust of the government and the medical establishment.

Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury, a Hindu temple that has inoculated nearly 20,000 people.

“There are fewer doctors who are coming out to tell us exactly what is going on and how this is affecting us,” said Ms. Muyisa, 54.

She considers herself lucky: “I educated myself. I managed to go and find information that helped me understand things.”

Zarvesha Rasool, a 19-year-old student at King’s College London, was inspired to get vaccinated by her faith, and went for her jab at the East London Newham Minhaj-ul-Quran mosque and community center, where she helps teach Quranic studies. Ms. Rasool pointed out that a central tenet of Islam is the importance of looking out not just for oneself but also for the greater good.

“If the government isn’t doing that, you kind of have to tell them, ‘Oh, we exist,’” she said. “Because that’s the only way out.”

In the northern English city of Leeds, Qari Asim, a senior imam, was spurred to action after seeing misinformation spread on WhatsApp in January.

Mr. Asim, the chairman of Britain’s Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, delivered a sermon that was shared across more than 100 mosques in which he reassured listeners that the vaccines are allowed under Islamic law.

Since then, over 300 mosques have addressed vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. Mr. Asim has also urged mosques to open their doors to the vaccine campaign.

“In this pandemic,” Mr. Asim said, “the messenger is as important as the message.”

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Bangladesh and Parts of India Look to Lockdowns Amid Surges

NEW DELHI — As a new wave of coronavirus infections grips the densely populated region of South Asia, home to a quarter of the world’s population, Bangladesh on Saturday announced a second lockdown and officials in Mumbai, India’s largest city, said they were on the verge of declaring one.

The authorities in Bangladesh said the nation of 165 million people would go into a weeklong lockdown beginning on Monday to curb the spread of the virus. The country shut down for two months starting in March last year.

Bangladesh on Friday registered nearly 7,000 cases in 24 hours, the highest since the spread of the virus in the country last year. The daily death toll has been around 50 for the past week, but what has particularly alarmed officials is the high test positivity rate, with 24 percent of virus tests conducted coming back positive.

Farhad Hossain, Bangladesh’s state minister for public administration, told the local news media that “industries and factories will remain open,” but would operate in shifts and follow strict health protocols. The exceptions appeared to be aimed at reducing the economic impact and avoiding the kind of exodus of laborers that led to a humanitarian crisis in India last year.

sharply in Pakistan, which has struggled to source vaccines for its population, and in India, where a vaccination drive is only now picking up pace — despite the country being home to one of the world’s largest suppliers of vaccines.

Just a few weeks ago, India was a major exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it was using that to exert influence in South Asia and around the world. But as infections soared, the country decided to cut back on exports and is now holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses that the Serum Institute of India, the private company that is one of the world’s largest producers of the AstraZeneca vaccine, makes each day.

India on Saturday recorded its biggest single-day spike in cases since September, with government officials reporting nearly 90,000 cases and 714 deaths over the past 24 hours. Single-day figures sometimes contain anomalies, but the country’s seven-day average of new cases, a more reliable gauge, has been rising sharply since early March.

Nearly half of deaths and new infections in recent weeks have been traced to the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub.

large rallies in several states where local elections are underway.

The government has also allowed a huge monthlong Hindu festival to go ahead on the banks of Ganges River. One million to five million people are expected to participate in the festivities in the city of Haridwar each day, officials say.

In other virus news from around the world:

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Suez Canal Traffic Resumes Slowly as Some Ships Weigh Anchor

Ships were again moving slowly through the Suez Canal on Tuesday, hours after engineers freed the Ever Given and cleared the waterway for global traffic.

Shipowners, exporters and importers are now racing to secure berths and containers at ports, while warning of delays and higher costs for cargoes that are slowly starting to move toward their destinations again. Shipping lines sent many ships on alternative routes, including around the southern tip of Africa, delaying arrivals and adding costs. Port authorities are girding for a flood of arrivals as diverted ships and delayed Suez vessels arrive on top of regularly scheduled traffic.

The Ever Given, a 1,300-foot container ship, was wedged in the canal for most of a week until dredgers, powerful tugs and a favorable tide all helped to lift it free. The vessel was towed to an anchorage out of the way of canal traffic. Once the canal was clear, the first of several ships stuck in the waterway made its way to the Red Sea.

Gulf Agency Co., a shipping-services company operating at Suez, said a total of 437 vessels had been blocked by the Ever Given’s grounding. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, which runs the 120-mile shipping route, said Tuesday that 113 ships had crossed in both directions since the route reopened and another 95 are expected to pass by the evening. That is up from the typical 50 or so making the voyage, which can take up to 16 hours. The logjam will be cleared within three to four days, he told a press conference.

Dozens are also anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, an inland body of water along the route of the canal, where salvagers have towed the Ever Given. Authorities are inspecting it to anchor for damage.

Livestock carriers, whose cargo was deemed most at risk, have been given priority. For Valid Diab, who runs supplies for three animal-carrying ships, the reopening was a relief. His ships were moved to the front of the line.

“I was getting worried about supplies,” he said. “Thank God, no mortality.” Two of his vessels are now scheduled to arrive in three days at the Saudi port of Jeddah, laden with Spanish calves and lambs and Romanian cows, in time for the Ramadan festivities that start next month.

With some 13% of global maritime trade and 10% of seaborne oil shipments traveling through the canal, the blockade disrupted the transportation of a range of goods, from grains and electronic chips to energy. Commodities-data company Kpler said it disrupted exports of liquefied natural gas from the world’s biggest exporter, Qatar. “There will be considerable delays in the loading schedule at Ras Laffan [in Qatar] for the start of April,” it warned.

A ship sails through Suez Canal as traffic resumes.

Photo: ahmed fahmy/Reuters

Canal traffic is conducted by sending alternative slugs of ships, steaming one behind the other in convoys, in either direction, since the canal can’t handle two-way traffic everywhere along its route. The first ships from outside the canal entered late Monday from the Mediterranean. They diverted and dropped anchor in the Great Bitter Lake, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Around the same time, a convoy of vessels that had been stranded in the lake by the Ever Given weighed anchor and proceeded south. Once they exited, a second, northbound convoy of ships entered from the Red Sea en route to the Mediterranean. Once they pass the Great Bitter Lake, ships that anchored there overnight will proceed southbound to the Red Sea.

Big Ships

The ship that held up Suez Canal traffic, the Ever Given, is one of the world’s biggest ships.

How the ship stacks up

Ever Given built 2018

Deadweight*: 220,123 tons

Width: 194 feet

length

1,312 feet

HMM Algeciras 2020 (world’s largest ship)

Deadweight*: 220,462 tons

Width: 200 feet

1,312 feet

18 tractor trailers (72 feet)

1,296 feet

NYK TRITON 2008

The largest ship through the Panama Canal

Deadweight*: 88,456 tons

Width: 131 feet

While traffic started moving again, shipping industry executives girded for continued delays. Many big lines, including A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest container line, diverted more than a dozen ships around Africa. South Korean container operator HMM Co., which has 14 vessels transporting goods between Asia and Europe, decided to reroute three of its vessels heading to Europe via the Cape of Good Hope, around the south of Africa.

“It’s difficult to grasp the added costs of the rerouted journeys at the moment,” said Roh Jee-hwan, general manager at HMM’s public-relations office. Going around Africa adds nearly 2,500 miles to a vessel’s travel distance, Mr. Roh said. The amount of fuel needed for the extra travel can vary—even for the same type of ships—depending on the weather and currents along the journey, and the speed at which they travel.

Logistics experts were forecasting port congestion in Asia and Europe as some of these diverted vessels arrive at ports around the same time as the delayed vessels now making their way slowly through the canal. That is on top of regularly scheduled traffic.

“This backup risks leading to a concentration of volume,” said Luigi Bruzzone, an analyst for the port of Genoa, one of Italy’s busiest. “What we were expecting to come throughout April will now be concentrated in the last two weeks of the month.”

The Suez Canal Blockage

Write to Benoit Faucon at benoit.faucon@wsj.com and Stephen Kalin at stephen.kalin@wsj.com

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