a prepandemic evaluation found.

So while program administrators relish a rare opportunity to expand their reach, they worry that if Congress doesn’t sustain this higher level of appropriations, the relief money will be spent and waiting lists will reappear.

“There’s going to be a cliff,” Ms. Beals-Luedtka said. “What’s going to happen next time? I don’t want to have to call people and say, ‘We’re done with you now.’ These are our grandparents.”

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Alibaba Faces $2.8 Billion Fine From Chinese Regulators

China on Saturday said it was imposing a record $2.8 billion fine on the e-commerce titan Alibaba for monopolistic business practices, the government’s toughest action to date in its campaign to regulate the country’s internet giants more closely.

Beijing’s market watchdog began investigating Alibaba in December for potential antitrust violations including preventing merchants from selling their goods on other shopping platforms. On Saturday, the regulator said its investigation had concluded that Alibaba had hindered competition in online retail in China, affected innovation in the internet economy and harmed consumers’ interests.

The fine on Alibaba, one of China’s most valuable private companies, exceeds the $975 million antitrust penalty that the Chinese government imposed on Qualcomm, the American chip giant, in 2015. Even so, it is unlikely to leave a substantial dent on Alibaba’s fortunes. The regulator said the fine represented 4 percent of Alibaba’s domestic sales in 2019. The group reported profits of more than $12 billion in the last three months of 2020 alone.

Alibaba said in a statement that it would accept the penalty “sincerely” and would strengthen its internal systems “to better carry out its social responsibilities.”

proposed updating the country’s antimonopoly law with a new provision for large internet platforms such as Alibaba’s. In November, officials halted the plans of Alibaba’s sister company, the finance-focused Ant Group, to go public and tightened oversight of internet finance.

In December, it opened the antimonopoly investigation into Alibaba — a startling turn in the fortunes of Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder, whom people in China had long held up as an icon of entrepreneurial pluck.

Skepticism about the clout of large internet companies has been on the rise in the United States and Europe, too. Western regulators have repeatedly fined Goliaths such as Google in recent years for various antitrust violations. But such penalties generally have not changed the nature of the companies’ businesses enough to mitigate concerns about their power.

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For Prince Philip, Royal Family Plans Pandemic-Muted Honors

As they mourned the death of Prince Philip, who through 73 years of marriage to Queen Elizabeth II helped preserve a monarchy that many people saw as out of place in the modern world, the royal family and the nation grappled with how to pay him final honors amid a pandemic when mass gatherings are prohibited.

Tributes and condolences poured in from around Britain and the world, and small crowds collected outside Windsor Castle, where the 99-year-old prince died, and outside Buckingham Palace in London, despite rules barring outdoor gatherings of more than six people. Many of those gathered laid bouquets at the perimeter gates.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will not lie in state for public viewing. His funeral will be held at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, rather than a much larger and more public venue like Westminster Abbey in London, and because of the pandemic it will not be open to the public. More details are expected to be released on Saturday.

His death follows a traumatic 13 months in which Covid-19 has killed more than 150,000 Britons — by far the highest official toll in Europe — and social distancing requirements have deprived millions of survivors of the usual commemorations. Now it is the nation’s most prominent family dealing with the same issue. Britain currently allows no more than 30 people to attend a funeral.

insulting and bigoted comments, and the image of him as a cold father, made Philip a somewhat problematic public figure for the queen, now 94, and the royal family. But by the 1990s his controversies were overshadowed by those of his children, and his advancing age made his sharp tongue charming to many people, or simply more irrelevant than offensive.

“The Crown,” which has depicted him as maturing into a wise and dedicated, if emotionally distant, figure.

Again and again, people paying tribute on Wednesday cited Philip’s commitment to duty.

“I just have so much respect for Prince Philip and all he’s done,” Britta Bia, 53 said outside Buckingham Palace, headquarters of the royal household. “I have so much respect for the royal family. I think they’ve done so much for charitable causes, and I think they’ve been upstanding citizens of the commonwealth.”

gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey, explaining their clashes within the palace and their decision to move to California. Philip, Harry’s paternal grandfather, was not mentioned as a factor, but defenders of the royals attacked the young couple for adding strain to the family at a time when Philip was hospitalized and appeared to be in failing health.

The decision not to give Philip a state funeral and have him lie in state is in accordance with his wishes, according to the College of Arms, a part of the royal household that helps organize state occasions. The last consort of a monarch who died, Queen Mary, mother of Queen Elizabeth and widow of King George VI, did lie in state after her death in 2002.

“It is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral,” the College of Arms said in a statement.

The palace said Philip had died peacefully and did not cite a specific cause, but said he did not have the coronavirus. He had been hospitalized several times over the past decade, including once for treatment of a blocked coronary artery and, in increasingly frail condition, he had stepped back from public duties in 2017.

hospitalized for four weeks, and underwent surgery on March 3 for what the palace described only as a pre-existing heart condition. He was also treated for an unspecified infection. He was released on March 16, just 24 days before his death.

Elian Peltier, Stephen Castle, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Geneva Abdul, Alex Marshall and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.

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Vaccine Passports: What Are They, and Who Might Need One?

With Covid-19 vaccinations accelerating, attention is turning to tools for people to prove that they have been inoculated and potentially bypass the suffocating restrictions used to fight the pandemic.

Though the idea is meeting some resistance over privacy and equity concerns, several types of coronavirus vaccination records, sometimes called “vaccine passports,” already exist, in paper and digital form. Hundreds of airlines, governments and other organizations are experimenting with new, electronic versions, and the number grows daily, although so far their use has been very limited.

Portable vaccine records are an old idea: Travelers to many parts of the world, children enrolling in school and some health care workers have long had to supply them as proof that they have been vaccinated against diseases.

But vaccine passports use digital tools that take the concept to new levels of sophistication, and experts predict that electronic verification will soon become commonplace, particularly for international air travel, but also for admission to crowded spaces like theaters.

“yellow card,” used for decades by travelers to show inoculation against diseases like yellow fever. But those are on paper, filled out by hand and fairly vulnerable to forgery.

The tool might have to address several variables: It is unclear how long inoculation lasts, there can be bad batches and the emergence of new variants of the virus are likely to require new vaccines. So in the long run, an electronic record might need to show which specific vaccine a person received, from which batch and when.

More than a dozen competing versions are already being developed and promoted.

using CommonPass, developed by the Commons Project, a Swiss-based nonprofit, with support from the World Economic Forum. Lufthansa passengers flying into the United States can also use it.

The same month, Singapore Airlines became the first carrier to make limited use of Travel Pass for people flying between Singapore and London, and will put it into wide use in May.

Also in March, New York State became the first government in the United States to implement a system, the Excelsior Pass, developed with IBM, which some venues have used to prove vaccination. The governors of Florida and Texas have vowed to block any such system in their states, calling it government overreach and an invasion of privacy.

Vaccine Credential Initiative, to develop a broadly agreed-upon set of open standards, meaning that the software underlying a verification system is transparent and it can adapt easily to other systems, while safeguarding privacy. The W.H.O. has a similar initiative, the Smart Vaccination Certificate.

But several companies are creating closed, proprietary systems that they hope to sell to clients, and some apparently would have access to users’ information.

One concern is that a profusion of systems might not be compatible, defeating the purpose of making it easy to check someone’s status.

Another objection is that any requirement to prove vaccination status would discriminate against those who can’t get the shot or refuse to, and there is lingering uncertainty about how well inoculation prevents virus transmission.

For those reasons, the W.H.O. said this week that it does not support requiring proof of vaccination for travel — for now.

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Latest Updates: Prince Philip’s Funeral Will Be Scaled Back Due to Covid

The death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, at 99 on Friday came at the end of a year marked by mourning, with 150,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in Britain.

Buckingham Palace said that Prince Philip had died peacefully, and he was vaccinated against the coronavirus early this year, along with the queen.

Yet his death is likely to take on a new meaning in the middle of a pandemic, and to raise many questions: What will the funeral look like at a time of social distancing measures? With global travel restrictions in place, when will his grandson Prince Harry be able return from the United States with his wife, Meghan?

And with families across Britain unable to hold typical funerals for loved ones lost to Covid-19, how will the country’s most famous family mourn one of their own?

The palace said that a full outline would soon be released, and details began to emerge on Friday. The ceremony will not be a state funeral and will not be preceded by a lying-in-state, according to a statement from the College of Arms, which has created and maintained official registers of coats of arms and pedigrees since 1484.

“His Royal Highness’s body will lie at rest in Windsor Castle ahead of the funeral in St. George’s Chapel,” the statement said.

“The funeral arrangements have been revised in view of the prevailing circumstances arising from the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added, “and it is regretfully requested that members of the public do not attempt to attend or participate in any of the events that make up the funeral.”

Philip had been hospitalized in February for a heart problem and was discharged last month. Buckingham Palace said that his hospitalization was not related to the coronavirus.

But the privileges of royalty did not grant the family immunity from the virus.

Prince Charles — Prince Philip’s and Queen Elizabeth’s elder son and the heir to the throne — tested positive for the virus last year, as did Prince William, their grandson.

The queen has encouraged people in the country to be vaccinated. “Once you’ve had the vaccine, you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected,” she said in a public call with health officials.

Britain is slowly emerging from a stringent national lockdown of recent months, with outdoor spaces in pubs and restaurants scheduled to reopen on Monday, as well as nonessential shops, gyms and hair salons. But many bereaved families of those lost to Covid-19 have said that as the country moves to brighter days, the staggering deaths of 150,000 people should not be forgotten.

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‘An Ethic of Service’: Boris Johnson Remembers Prince Philip

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson eulogized Prince Philip, detailing his long life and how he served the British people.

Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world. He was the longest-serving consort in history, one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War at Cape Matapan, where he was mentioned in dispatches for bravery, and in the invasion of Sicily, where he saved his ship by his quick thinking. And from that conflict, he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the post-war era. Like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy. So that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

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On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson eulogized Prince Philip, detailing his long life and how he served the British people.CreditCredit…Leon Neal/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain led tributes to Prince Philip on Friday, praising his lifelong support for Queen Elizabeth II and adding that he had “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.”

“He was the longest-serving consort in history and one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the Second World War,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement read in somber tones.

Referring to the prince’s hobby of driving horse-drawn carriages, Mr. Johnson added that “like the expert carriage driver that he was, he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, echoed those sentiments, saying that Britain had “lost an extraordinary public servant.”

“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country — from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh,” Mr. Starmer added in a statement. “However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to the queen.”

Scotland’s leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she was saddened by the news of Philip’s death and that she was sending her deepest condolences to the royal family.

Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, said that he was grateful for the contributions Philip had made to the city, including his charity work, and that his legacy would positively impact the city for many years to come.

Lindsay Hoyle, the House of Commons speaker, also paid tribute, saying, “His was a long life that saw so much dedication to duty.”

In prerecorded remarks broadcast on ITV News, Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, reflected on Philip’s supporting role: “It must be quite difficult for a male consort. They have to recognize their life is the monarch or head of state. But throughout his life, Prince Philip provided that strength, that rock, that reliable support and played an immensely important role,” she said.

Outside Buckingham Palace in London on Friday.
Credit…Alastair Grant/Associated Press

With Queen Elizabeth in residence at Windsor Castle outside London, mourning the death of her husband, Prince Philip, on Friday, crowds gathered outside the gates of the world’s largest and oldest inhabited castle to pay their respects.

They came to leave flowers, take pictures and note the death of a member of an institution that — despite periods of deep turmoil — still commands respect and fascination.

Outside Buckingham Palace in central London, crowds also formed soon after the news of his death emerged.

A small girl unfurled a British flag on the pavement before the flowers laid at the gate of the magisterial royal home.

“I just have so much respect for Prince Philip and all he’s done,” said Britta Bia, 53. “I have so much respect for the royal family. I think they’ve done so much for charitable causes, and I think they’ve been upstanding citizens of the commonwealth.”

Lottie Smith, 18, said it was a moment to reflect on what really matters in life.

Ms. Smith and two friends who live in Greenwich heard of his death while they were on the train in to London, and decided to take a detour to the palace.

Catherine Vellacott, 19, said she hoped his death would “maybe unite the nation more.”

Peter Appleby, 22, flowers in hand, said that it was one more loss in a year marked by death.

“He’s had a hard year like everybody, and it doesn’t cost much to come and show a bit of respect,” he said.

Elizabeth and Prince Philip, center, on their wedding day.
Credit…Associated Press

Queen Elizabeth II, already Britain’s longest-serving monarch, passed a new milestone in 2017 when she and Prince Philip became the longest-married couple of the country’s royal family.

Where and when they first met remains unclear. He was invited to dine on the royal yacht when Elizabeth was 13 or 14. He was also invited to stay at Windsor Castle around that time while on leave from the Navy, and there were reports that he visited the royal family at Balmoral, its country estate in Scotland.

After that weekend, Elizabeth told her father, King George VI, that the naval officer was “the only man I could ever love.” Her father at first cautioned her to be patient.

Whisked off on a royal tour to South Africa, Elizabeth was said to have written to Philip three times a week. By the time she returned to England, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had renounced his foreign titles and become Lt. Philip Mountbatten, a British subject.

The engagement was announced on July 10, 1947. That year, on the eve of the wedding, Lieutenant Mountbatten was made the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron of Greenwich, and given the title His Royal Highness.

The prince, 26, married the young crown princess, who was 21, on Nov. 20, 1947, in a ceremony complete with horse-drawn coaches and a throng of adoring subjects lining the route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.

The birth of their first child, Charles Philip Arthur George, on Nov. 14, 1948, at Buckingham Palace, was followed by Princess Anne, in 1950; Prince Andrew, in 1960, after Elizabeth became queen; and Prince Edward, in 1964.

In addition to the queen and their children, he is survived by eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

After his marriage, Prince Philip took command of the frigate Magpie in Malta. But King George VI had lung cancer, and when his condition worsened, it was announced that Philip would take no more naval appointments.

In 1952, the young couple were in Kenya, their first stop on a commonwealth tour, when word arrived on Feb. 6 that the king was dead. Philip broke the news to his wife.

The same year, the new queen ordained that Philip should be “first gentleman in the land,” giving him “a place of pre-eminence and precedence next to Her Majesty.”

Philip occupied a peculiar place on the world stage as the husband of a queen whose powers were largely ceremonial. He was essentially a second-fiddle figurehead, accompanying her on royal visits and sometimes standing in for her.

By royal warrant, the queen gave Philip the title Prince of the United Kingdom, bringing her husband’s name into the royal line.

While at times there were rumors of trouble in the marriage, their children’s marital difficulties overshadowed any discord between the parents.

From left, Princess Fedora of Greece, Romania’s King Michael, his mother Princess Helene, Princess Irene of Greece, Princess Marguerite of Greece, Prince Philip of Greece and Prince Paul of Greece, at Mamaia, Romania.
Credit…Associated Press

Philip was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921, the fifth child and only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, who was the brother of King Constantine of Greece. His mother was the former Princess Alice, the oldest daughter of the former Prince Louis of Battenberg, the first Marquess of Milford Haven, who changed the family name to Mountbatten during World War I.

Philip’s family was not Greek but rather descended from a royal Danish house that the European powers had put on the throne of Greece at the end of the 19th century. Philip, who never learned the Greek language, was sixth in line to the Greek throne.

Through his mother, Philip was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria, just as Elizabeth is Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter. Both were great-great-great-grandchildren of George III, who presided over Britain’s loss of the American colonies.

A year after Philip was born, the army of King Constantine was overwhelmed by the Turks in Asia Minor. Prince Andrew, Philip’s father, who had commanded an army corps in the routed Greek forces, was banished by a revolutionary Greek junta.

In “Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II” (2011), the British writer Philip Eade reported that as an infant Philip was smuggled out of Greece in a fruit crate as his father, eluding execution, found refuge for his family in Paris, where they lived in straitened circumstances.

Philip’s father was said to have been an Anglophile. The boy’s first language was English, taught to him by a British nanny. He grew to 6-foot-1, his blue eyes and blond hair reflecting his Nordic ancestry.

When his parents separated, Philip was sent to live with his mother’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He spent four years at the Cheam School in England, an institution bent on toughening privileged children, and then went to Gordonstoun School in Scotland, which was even more austere, promoting a regimen of hard work, cold showers and hard beds. In five years, he said, no one from his family came to visit him.

Even so, Philip sent his son Charles to both schools, to have him follow in his footsteps.

At Gordonstoun, Philip developed a love of the sea, learning seamanship and boatbuilding as a volunteer coast guardsman at the school. He seemed destined to follow his Mountbatten uncles into the British Navy.

Prince Philip, center, in Edinburgh in 2017. He once asked a driving instructor in Scotland, “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”
Credit…Pool photo by Jane Barlow

Brusque, avuncular and with a reputation for being overly plain-speaking, Prince Philip over the years produced a collection of offensive, tone deaf and, on occasion, outrageous one-liners that were recorded by generations of British journalists.

His propensity to embarrass Buckingham Palace waxed and waned over the years, but never entirely faded even after decades of dinners, ceremonies and other engagements alongside Queen Elizabeth II. Some examples:

On a trip to Canada in 1969: “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.”

On another tour of Canada in 1976: “We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

During a recession in Britain in 1981: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.”

When accepting a figurine from a woman during a visit to Kenya in 1984: “You are a woman, aren’t you?”

Speaking to British students in China during a 1986 state visit: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

To a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland, in 1995: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

Suggesting to a British student in 1998 who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea that people there were still cannibals: “You managed not to get eaten, then?”

Visiting a factory in Edinburgh in 1999, pointing to an old-fashioned fuse box: “It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.”

Speaking to young deaf people in Cardiff, Wales, in 1999, referring to a school’s steel band: “Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.”

Meeting the president of Nigeria, who was dressed in traditional robes: “You look like you’re ready for bed!”

To a group of female Labour Party lawmakers at a party at Buckingham Palace in 2000: “Ah, so this is feminist corner then.”

Prince Edward, center right, and his father, Prince Philip, right, in 2012.
Credit…Chris Jackson/Getty Images

As British leaders offered tributes and condolences, members of the royal family also offered personal recollections about Prince Philip.

His youngest son, Prince Edward, said in comments pre-recorded for ITV News that his parents had been “such a fantastic support to each other during all those years and all those events and all those tours and events overseas.”

“To have someone that you confide in and smile about things that you perhaps could not in public,” Edward said, “to be able to share that is immensely important.”

As for Philip’s occasionally abrasive interactions with the news media over the decades, Edward said that his father “used to give them as good as he got, and always in a very entertaining way.”

Edward, 57, added: “Anyone who had the privilege to hear him speak said it was his humor which always came through and the twinkle in his eye.”

Prince Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne, said that her father’s decision to give up his naval career demonstrated his level of commitment to Queen Elizabeth.

“It shows a real understanding of the pressure the queen was going through, and that the best way he could support her was on giving up on his career,” added Anne, 70.

“Without him,” she said, “life will be completely different.”

Members of the news media reporting outside Buckingham Palace on Friday.
Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Leaders from around the world offered tributes to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday, recalling his decades of service, his career in the Royal Navy and his role in Britain’s royal family.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said in a statement that the prince had “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said Philip “had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said the prince would be “remembered as a decorated naval officer, a dedicated philanthropist and a constant in the life of Queen Elizabeth II.”

“A man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others, Prince Philip contributed so much to the social fabric of our country — and the world,” Mr. Trudeau said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called Philip “the consummate public servant” and said he would be “much missed in Israel and across the world.”

Others to offer condolences included Prime Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand; Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission; Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s leader; and Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister.

The White House had not responded as of Friday morning, but other former American officials, including former Vice President Mike Pence and President George W. Bush, offered their condolences.

“He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign,” President Bush said in a statement. He added that he and his wife, Laura Bush, were “fortunate to have enjoyed the charm and wit of his company, and we know how much he will be missed.”

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Prince Philip will lie in rest at Windsor Castle before a funeral in St. George’s Chapel.

The death of Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, at 99 on Friday came at the end of a year marked by mourning, with 150,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in Britain.

Buckingham Palace said that Prince Philip had died peacefully, and he was vaccinated against the coronavirus early this year, along with the queen.

Yet his death is likely to take on a new meaning in the middle of a pandemic, and to raise many questions: What will the funeral look like at a time of social distancing measures? With global travel restrictions in place, when will his grandson Prince Harry be able return from the United States with his wife, Meghan?

And with families across Britain unable to hold typical funerals for loved ones lost to Covid-19, how will the country’s most famous family mourn one of their own?

discharged last month. Buckingham Palace said that his hospitalization was not related to the coronavirus.

But the privileges of royalty did not grant the family immunity from the virus.

Prince Charles — Prince Philip’s and Queen Elizabeth’s elder son and the heir to the throne — tested positive for the virus last year, as did Prince William, their grandson.

The queen has encouraged people in the country to be vaccinated. “Once you’ve had the vaccine, you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected,” she said in a public call with health officials.

Britain is slowly emerging from a stringent national lockdown of recent months, with outdoor spaces in pubs and restaurants scheduled to reopen on Monday, as well as nonessential shops, gyms and hair salons. But many bereaved families of those lost to Covid-19 have said that as the country moves to brighter days, the staggering deaths of 150,000 people should not be forgotten.

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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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Hong Kong residents stranded in Britain meet frustration as they try to return.

The Hong Kong government said last month that it would allow hundreds of residents who have been stranded in Britain by virus-related travel restrictions to return on two special flights.

But when those residents went to book seats on flights, the website for Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, crashed. The snafu on Thursday was the latest chapter in a bureaucratic saga that has left them feeling angry, confused and exasperated.

The Hong Kong government suspended flights from Britain in December as a coronavirus variant spread through that country. It also barred anyone who had spent more than two hours there or in other “extremely high-risk” places in the previous 21 days from boarding a direct flight to the Chinese territory.

Those measures, which remain in effect, also apply to inbound travelers who have recently been to Brazil, Ireland or South Africa. But last week Hong Kong said that it would arrange two special return flights from London on Cathay Pacific in late April. It cited Britain’s declining caseload and “satisfactory vaccination progress” as reasons for the policy shift.

reported last week that the travel ban had stranded more than 600 Hong Kong residents in Britain. Mr. Bux said on Friday that some of them had been unable to book seats on the special flights.

It was unclear whether additional flights would be offered, or why officials in Hong Kong, where the borders have been closed to nonresidents for more than a year, waited more than three months to schedule the two flights. A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department referred questions on Friday to the Food and Health Bureau, which declined to comment.

Mr. Bux said he could sympathize with the stranded travelers because he, too, had been stranded by the December ban while visiting family in Liverpool. He said he was among the 200 to 300 Hong Kong residents who had managed to make it home from Britain after spending a 21-day “wash out” period in a third country like Thailand, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates.

mandatory three-week hotel quarantine, one of the world’s longest. Some scientists have questioned whether that policy is too strict because the coronavirus is widely considered to have a 14-day incubation period.

“After my departure from the U.K., I needed 42 days to resume my normal life in Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s a really long period.”

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Help! I Want to Go to Europe in August. Is This a Pipe Dream?

My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? Kathy

Although there are some signs of life — Iceland is newly open to fully vaccinated travelers and Greece will reopen to vaccinated or virus-tested visitors next month — Europe, where case counts are rising in some parts and the vaccine rollout has been disappointingly slow, is still largely closed to Americans. Ireland is open to United States citizens with a combination of testing and quarantine, but Portugal and Italy, like most of the continent, for now remain off limits. Italy, in particular, was hard-hit by the virus in the early months of the pandemic; and in March, the spread of a contagious variant from Britain pushed the country back into another lockdown.

“This environment is so challenging because there is significant pressure for countries that rely on tourism to rebound, which counterbalances much slower vaccination rates in Europe,” said Fallon Lieberman, who runs the leisure-travel division of Skylark, a travel agency affiliated with the Virtuoso travel network. “So unfortunately, those two forces are at odds with one another.”

Your question, like many related to the pandemic, involves various degrees of risk. First, let’s look at the concrete risk: If you book now for late summer, how likely are you to lose money?

flexibility with seats beyond Basic Economy, and now, especially, it’s wise to book tickets that can be easily changed. Delta Air Lines has eliminated change and cancellation fees for all flights originating from North America, and Delta eCredits set to expire this year — including for new tickets purchased this year — can be used for travel through 2022. United Airlines has also permanently eliminated change fees.

Unlike a plane ticket, which can always be changed (either for free or for a fee), a nonrefundable hotel reservation is generally exactly that: a use-it-or-lose-it investment.

The good news: “Hotels in Europe — and around the world, really — are being quite flexible,” said Ms. Lieberman, who has helped hundreds of Skylark clients cancel and rebook last year’s felled Europe trips, many to this summer and beyond. “While this is a very challenging time, many suppliers are providing maximum flexibility.”

Cancellation policies vary by property, but many of the multinational companies have made it easy, and relatively risk-free, to plan ahead. Companies like Hilton and Four Seasons are allowing cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. Hyatt is allowing fee-free cancellations up to 24 hours in advance for arrivals through July 31 (and it’s always possible that date will be extended). For points nerds, most of the big hotel chains allow most award nights to be canceled scot-free, with the points redeposited, within a day or two of the expected check-in.

More complicated than physical refunds, though, is the larger, metaphysical risk: How likely is it that this trip is actually going to happen? What forces can help predict whether the Europe trips we book today will actually materialize in August and September?

France and Italy have just been locked down again, interest in Europe is rising, aided, no doubt, by signs that President Biden could lift the ban on European visitors to the United States as early as next month, news of the possibility of European health passes, rumors that Spain and Britain could both restart international tourism in mid May, and more.

At Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes and predicts flight and hotel prices, bookings for Europe-bound summer 2021 travel surged 68 percent week-over-week between the last week of February and the first week of March. Searches for round-trip flights to Europe departing this summer increased a whopping 86 percent in the 30 days following February 22.

According to TripAdvisor data of hotel searches from the United States for this summer, five of the 10 most-searched European destinations were in Greece, but Rome — and Paris, for that matter — were also on the list.

To make sense of how traveler zeal will jibe with the realities of the pandemic, analysts and travel industry experts are eyeing several factors, including flight schedules.

According to PlaneStats, the aviation-data portal from Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, the number of Europe-bound flights scheduled to depart the United States this month is around 26 percent of the number that departed the United States for Europe in April 2019. Next month compared to May 2019, that figure is looking even higher so far: 35 percent. (April and May 2020, by contrast, both clocked in at 5 percent.) That’s lower than normal, but it’s still a drastic uptick from any other point during the pandemic. Although many will be connecting flights (Americans can still transit through Europe) or culminate in destinations like London (Americans can visit England, though multiple testing and quarantines are required), schedules still remain a key indicator.

Khalid Usman, a partner and aviation expert at Oliver Wyman. “What airlines don’t want to do is put out schedules where people are not going to be traveling.”

Pandemic Navigator, which simulates day-by-day immunity growth. “That’s good news for the domestic market, but in the context of international travel, we do have to realize that it’s not just about one country — it’s a country at the other end as well.”

Factoring in the spotty vaccine rollout across the pond, Mr. Usman said it’s reasonable to assume that Europe’s herd immunity will lag several months behind the United States. Over the next several months, he added, European countries will follow in Iceland’s footsteps and open individually, complete with their own regulations about vaccinations, testing and quarantines. To spur travel across the continent this summer, the European Union is considering adopting a vaccine certificate for its own residents and their families.

“It’s not going to be a binary open-or-shut,” Mr. Usman said. “Countries are going to start getting more selective about who they’re going to start letting in.”

Italy’s numbers — plus new lockdowns and growing Covid variants — seem to be stifling optimism; Hopper flight searches from the United States to Italy have remained relatively flat.

For now, Ms. Lieberman, of Skylark, has adopted a “beyond the boot” mind-set: “Our theory is that if you’re willing to go beyond the boot — meaning, Italy — there will be fabulous, desirable summer destinations for you to take advantage of.”

Portugal surged in January but has recently eased lockdown measures as infection rates have slowed. The country is now aiming for a 70 percent vaccination rate this summer.

American interest in Portugal is spiking in response. In the first week of March, following an announcement that Portugal could welcome tourists from Britain as soon as mid-May, Hopper searches on flights from the United States to Lisbon rose 63 percent. (That’s not far behind Athens, for which travel searches shot up 75 percent in the same time period.)

will next month start nonstop service between Boston and Reykjavik — and resume its Iceland service from New York City and Minneapolis.

“Unless demand spikes rapidly enough to outpace the increase in supply, flash sales can be found as airlines attempt to entice travelers to return amid piecemeal easings of travel restrictions,” said Mr. Damodaran. Icelandair, for example, is running sales on flights and packages through April 13.

And with prices for summer flights to Europe still relatively low in general — down by more than 10 percent from 2019, according to Hopper — experts see little downside in penciling in a trip.

“If you’re willing to take some risk, plan early and lock in your preferred accommodations and ideal itineraries,” Ms. Lieberman said. “But of course we caution you to be prepared to have to move deposits and dates if it comes to that.”

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Iran Releases South Korean Oil Tanker

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A South Korean oil tanker held for months by Iran amid a dispute over billions of dollars seized by Seoul left port early Friday after the ship and its captain were released, just hours ahead of further talks between Tehran and world powers over its tattered nuclear deal.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the MT Hankuk Chemi left an Iranian port around 6 a.m. local time after completing an administrative process, and data from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker leaving Bandar Abbas in the early morning hours.

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, later confirmed that Iran had released the vessel. “At the request of the owner and the Korean government, the order to release the ship was issued by the prosecutor,” Khatibzadeh was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.

The Hankuk Chemi had been traveling in January from a petrochemicals facility in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates when armed troops from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stormed the vessel and forced the ship to change course and travel to Iran.

Iran in February released much of the ship’s crew.

The Yonhap news agency in South Korea, quoting an anonymous Foreign Ministry official, suggested that Seoul could pay off Iran’s United Nations dues that had been in arrears.

In January, the United Nations said Iran topped a list of countries that owed money to the world body, and the country risks losing its voting rights if the debt issue is not resolved.

The development came as Iran and world powers were set to resume negotiations in Vienna on Friday to break the standoff over U.S. sanctions against Iran and Iranian breaches of the nuclear agreement.

The 2015 nuclear accord, which President Donald Trump abandoned three years later, offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

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