Covid-19 Live Updates: France Begins Monthlong Lockdown as Cases Surge

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Covid-19 Live Updates: France Begins Monthlong Lockdown as Cases Surge

Here’s what you need to know:VideoPrime Minister Jean Castex of France said on Thursday that several regions, including the Paris area, would again

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Prime Minister Jean Castex of France said on Thursday that several regions, including the Paris area, would again impose strict measures to contain the coronavirus.CreditCredit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Several regions in France, including the area that includes Paris, began a new lockdown on Friday that will last for at least a month, as officials sought to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

“The situation is worsening,” Primer Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday at a news conference about the restrictions, which will affect about a third of the French population. “Our responsibility now is that it not get out of control.”

The restrictions affect the Paris region, the country’s northern tip and the area surrounding the southern city of Nice.

Businesses considered nonessential are forced to close, outdoor activities are limited to within a six-mile radius of a person’s home, and travel to other regions is banned. Schools will remain open, Mr. Castex said.

On Thursday, France reported 35,000 new coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database — one of the highest numbers since November, when a second wave of infection forced the entire country into lockdown. The country’s slow inoculation campaign, further set back by a temporary suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, has not helped.

France, along with Germany, Italy and Spain, said on Thursday that it would resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine, within hours of the European Medicines Agency declaring it safe. Norway said it would await further study. But officials worry that a fearful public may not be easily reassured.

Coronavirus infections in France rose 24 percent from the previous week. The variant first identified in Britain now represents three-quarters of new cases.

The Paris region has borne the brunt of it. Last week, health officials in Paris ordered hospitals to cancel many of their procedures to make room for Covid-19 patients. And this week some patients were transferred to other regions to ease the pressure on hospitals.

France has been under a nighttime curfew since mid-January, with restaurants, cafes and museums remaining closed. Making a calculated gamble, the government tried to tighten restrictions just enough to stave off a third wave of infections without taking more severe steps that might hurt the economy.

But as infections started to increase in late February, the government imposed new lockdowns on weekends in the French Riviera, the famed strip along the Mediterranean coast, and in the area surrounding the northern port of Dunkirk. Officials made clear that more lockdowns might follow in other regions.

The new restrictions will affect about a third of the population, though they don’t go as far as those imposed a year ago, at the start of the epidemic.

Primary schools and secondary schools will remain open, and the rules for high schools and universities will remain much the same, with attendance limited to prevent infections. People will also be allowed to take walks and exercise with no time limit.

Though nonessential shops will close, the definition of essential has been expanded to include bookshops and music shops.

Bruno Riou, the head of the crisis center for Paris public hospitals, said a lockdown was the only remaining option to prevent more deaths, given that less than 9 percent of the population has received at least a first vaccination dose.

“I hear a lot of people saying that a week without a lockdown is a week that’s gained,” Mr. Riou said. “For me, it’s a week that’s lost.”

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Biden: U.S. on Track for 100 Million Vaccinations Since Jan. 20

President Biden said Thursday the U.S. would on Friday reach his Covid-19 vaccine goal of 100 million shots in 100 days, though he had earlier conceded they should aim higher.

In the last week, we’ve seen increases in the number of cases in several states — scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread. Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants. While millions of people are vaccinated, we need millions more to be vaccinated. And I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans. That’s weeks ahead of schedule. Eight weeks ago, only 8 percent of seniors, those most vulnerable to Covid-19, had received a vaccination. Today, 65 percent of people age 65 or older have received at least one shot. And 36 percent are fully vaccinated. This is a time for optimism, but it’s not a time for relaxation. I need all Americans, I need all of you to do your part. Keep the faith, keep wearing the mask, keep washing your hands and keep socially distanced. We’re going to beat this. We’re way ahead of schedule, but we’ve got a long way to go.

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President Biden said Thursday the U.S. would on Friday reach his Covid-19 vaccine goal of 100 million shots in 100 days, though he had earlier conceded they should aim higher.CreditCredit…Jon Cherry for The New York Times

As more states expand eligibility for coronavirus vaccinations, the pace of daily shots administered in the United States has steadily increased to a rate that is now 12 percent higher than it was a week ago.

On Thursday, Illinois joined a growing list of at least 16 other states announcing that they were opening appointments to all residents 16 years and older this month or next.

“The light that we can see at end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference.

President Biden said on Thursday that the United States was a day away from reaching his goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days — with six weeks to spare before his self-imposed deadline.

“We’re way ahead of schedule,” he said in brief remarks from the White House, “but we have a long way to go.”

Mr. Biden maintained that the 100 million-shot goal was ambitious, even though he conceded in January that the government should be aiming higher. And though the new administration has bulked up the vaccine production and distribution campaign, its key elements were in place before Mr. Biden took office.

As of Thursday, the seven-day average was about 2.5 million doses a day, according to a New York Times analysis of data reported from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, Mr. Biden set a deadline of May 1 for states to make vaccines available to all adult residents. At least Maine, Virginia, North Carolina and Wisconsin, in addition to Washington, D.C., plan to meet that goal. Others, including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan and Montana, hope to make vaccines available to all of their adult residents even earlier.

Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah said opening up eligibility to all adults in his state would help address vaccine equity and reach rural communities. He also said it would “allow us to take our mobile vaccination clinics into these hard-to-reach areas or populations who may have a little more vaccine hesitancy.”

Other states have also pushed up their eligibility dates: Nevada will make vaccines available to all adults on April 5; Missouri on April 9; Maryland as of April 27; and Rhode Island starting April 19.

New York has yet to make all adults eligible, but the state recently expanded to include public-facing government employees, nonprofit workers and essential building service workers. On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, newly eligible because of the change, received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a news conference.


Eligible only in some counties


Eligible only in some counties


Eligible only in some counties

Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed al-Khalifa, center behind brown box, who plans to climb Mount Everest, arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Monday.
Credit…Nishant S. Gurung/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A peculiar vaccine drama is unfolding at the international airport in Nepal’s capital. It involves a member of Bahrain’s royal family who arrived with thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines from China for an expedition to Mount Everest.

Before setting out, a team of Bahraini climbers led by Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed al-Khalifa had announced that they would be coming with 2,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines, which Nepal’s government said would be of the AstraZeneca kind.

This move would fulfill a pledge that the climbers had made to local villagers during another expedition last September — a promise of generosity that led the villagers to name a local hill “Bahrain Peak.”

But when the climbers arrived in the capital, Kathmandu, on Monday, an inquiry by Nepal’s drug regulators found that the vaccines they were carrying were actually the one developed by Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned vaccine maker.

The Nepali authorities now find themselves in a fix: whether to accept the vaccine doses or refuse.

The doses are being held in cold storage at the airport, and the climbers have been quarantined at a hotel as the authorities ponder how to handle the situation.

Nepal has largely relied on the AstraZeneca vaccine for its rollout, which is off to a slow start. Relying on a donation of one million doses from India, Nepal has vaccinated about 1.7 million people in a country of about 30 million.

Its efforts have been slowed because of a delay in the delivery of two million vaccine doses that it bought from the Serum Institute of India.

Although Nepal approved the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine after China pledged to give 500,000 doses to the country, it has not received the Chinese donation.

In September, the Bahraini climbers arrived in Nepal in a chartered plane to climb two mountains, Mount Manaslu and Lobuche Peak. The vaccine doses they were carrying this week were a gift for villagers in Samagaun, a gateway to Mount Manaslu.

The team of Bahraini climbers could not be reached for comment. But Mingma Sherpa, the owner of Seven Summit Treks, the agency that has been organizing the Bahrain team’s Everest expedition, said the complications might have resulted from miscommunication between Nepal’s foreign ministry and the health ministry.

He said the Sinopharm vaccine had also been used during Bahrain’s vaccination drive.

“It’s up to the government,” Mr. Sherpa said. “If they think it’s OK, the vaccines will be administered to villagers. If they think it’s risky to vaccinate the people, the team will take the vaccine back to Bahrain.”

Maria Alyokhina, center, a member of Pussy Riot, at a hearing at the Moscow City Court in February.
Credit…Moscow City Court Press Service, via Shutterstock

A Russian court has confined some of the country’s most prominent opposition figures to house arrest on accusations that they violated coronavirus safety rules, in what appears to be a government effort to use the restrictions to muzzle its opponents.

The legal action, known as a “sanitary case,” targets 10 opposition politicians and dissidents, including the senior leadership of Aleksei A. Navalny’s organization and members of the protest group Pussy Riot. All are accused of inciting others to violate rules introduced last spring to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Their lawyers have denied that they did.

Prosecutors say their social media posts promoting a protest in Moscow in January resulted in attendance by 19 people who were legally required to isolate because of positive Covid-19 tests, thus putting at risk others who attended.

Defense lawyers say the authorities are cynically twisting coronavirus rules to isolate people who pose no infection risk but are seen by the government as posing a political one.

“The ideological intent is to label opposition figures as infectious, as toxic, as poisoners of the public,” said Danil Berman, a lawyer for Maria Alyokhina, a member of Pussy Riot who was one of those targeted. Isolating key leaders before parliamentary elections scheduled for this year also hobbles the opposition, he said.

Many people around the world have complained that coronavirus restrictions have infringed on their freedoms as a byproduct of safety measures. But the Russian opposition members argue that the government is using the restrictions against them with the specific aim of curbing their liberty.

Online posts from the opposition figures promoting the protest did not specifically encourage people who were sick to attend, as the government charged, defense lawyers say. Lockdowns in Moscow had in any case been mostly lifted months earlier.

Also, the defense lawyers say, the rules are selectively enforced to restrict opposition activity while allowing pro-government events to go ahead with few restrictions, though the virus would spread as readily at either type of gathering.

Hiking at Zion National Park in Utah in November.
Credit…Nikki Boliaux for The New York Times

Last June, as Americans began to emerge from lockdowns and into a new yet still uncertain stage of the pandemic, Amy Ryan and her family set sail in a 44-foot catamaran and headed up the Atlantic coast. They haven’t stopped sailing since.

Ms. Ryan’s husband, Casey Ryan, 56, was on partly paid leave from his job as an airline pilot. School was remote for their daughters, now 7 and 11. Ms. Ryan, a real estate agent, could manage her team from anywhere.

For nine months, the Ryans have been hopscotching, first up the coast and later in the Caribbean. “We’re so secluded most of the time, we won’t see any people on land for weeks at a time,” Ms. Ryan said. The biggest challenge is finding a Covid-19 test before setting sail for a new location.

For many people, the past 12 months have been lived in a state of suspended animation, with dreams and plans deferred until further notice amid worry over venturing out for even basic excursions. But some people, like the Ryans, took the restrictions — virtual school and remote work — as an opportunity to pick up and go somewhere else. With a good internet connection, a Zoom conference call can happen just as easily on a boat or in the back of a camper as it can in a living room.

Many people bristle at the idea of anyone taking a trip at all, let alone traveling indefinitely at a time of immense suffering. School and office closings weren’t meant to make it easier to see the world; they were intended to persuade people to stay home and slow the spread of a deadly virus. And with many out of work and struggling to pay bills, or trying to balance parenting with the demands of remote work, it would have been impossible.

But these families insist that their “slow travel” methods — allowing for only rare encounters with other people indoors — are no more dangerous than staying home. Spend your time crisscrossing the country in a camper and staying in state parks, and you rarely encounter anyone outside your family, except to get food and gas.

“This pandemic has been so incredibly hard for everybody, and people are finding their ways of managing and getting through it,” said Ashish K. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, adding that isolated activities like sailing and camping are not inherently risky.

Until the pandemic, the Ryans weren’t sailors, nor had they ever planned to be. But they spent the lockdown watching YouTube videos about families that sail. By May, they had bought a boat with no idea how long they would be on it.

“If it hadn’t been for Covid,” Ms. Ryan said, “there is no way this would have happened.”

Marge Rohlf receiving a vaccination at the Madrid Home in Iowa in January.
Credit…Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register, via Associated Press

For the first time in nearly a year, Iowa is reporting that there are no active coronavirus outbreaks in any of the state’s long-term care facilities.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 2,200 residents of those facilities have died from the virus, according to Iowa’s Covid-19 dashboard. But the rate of outbreaks began a steep decline in January, when the state ramped up vaccinations for residents and staff.

In the first two weeks of January alone, cases declined 70 percent, from 410 to 119 by mid-January, according to the Iowa Health Care Association. Of the state’s 445 skilled nursing homes and 258 assisted-living facilities, 146 were experiencing outbreaks in December.

“This is a big milestone,” said Nola Aigner Davis, the public health communications officer for the Polk County Health Department in Des Moines. “It really speaks volumes of how effective this vaccine is.”

For much of the pandemic, residents and employees in nursing homes have been among the most vulnerable people in the country.

The coronavirus, as of late February, had scythed through more than 31,000 long-term care facilities and killed at least 172,000 people living and working in them. More than 1.3 million long-term care residents and workers have been infected over the past year.

Of Iowa’s 5,673 deaths, nearly 60 percent were people over age 80.

That has changed, however, with the advent of vaccinations.

Facilities for older people were given early priority for shots, and from late December to early February, a New York Times analysis found, new cases among nursing home residents — a subset of long-term care residents — fell more than 80 percent. That was about double the rate of improvement in the general population.

Even as fatalities were peaking in the general population, deaths inside the facilities decreased more than 65 percent.

About 4.8 million residents and employees in long-term care facilities have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 2.8 million have been fully vaccinated.



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