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3 European Countries Begin Coronavirus Vaccinations Early

Germany, Hungary and Slovakia began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Saturday, one day ahead of the European Union’s official rollout.

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Germany, Hungary and Slovakia began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Saturday, one day ahead of the European Union’s official rollout.CreditCredit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

BERLIN — From nursing homes in France to hospitals in Poland, older Europeans and the workers who care for them rolled up their sleeves on Sunday to receive coronavirus vaccine shots in a campaign to inoculate more than 450 million people across the European Union.

The inoculations offered a rare respite as the continent struggles with one of its most precarious moments since the pandemic began.

Despite national lockdowns, restrictions on movement, shuttering of restaurants and cancellations of Christmas gatherings, the virus has stalked Europe into the dark winter months. The spread of a more contagious variant of the virus in Britain has raised such alarm the much that continental Europe rushed to close its borders to travelers coming from the country, effectively plunging the nation as a whole into quarantine.

“Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president wrote on Twitter. “The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries.”

For Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, the vaccine’s arrival could not come soon enough. Italy’s suffering at the outset of the pandemic served as a warning for the world, and the current death toll is again among the worst in Europe.

“Today Italy reawakens. It’s #VaccineDay,” he wrote on Twitter after a 29-year-old nurse at Rome’s Spallanzani hospital was the first person to be inoculated. “This date will remain with us forever.”

The nurse, Claudia Alivernini, said she hoped the vaccination campaign would signal “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic.

In Spain, a 96-year-old great-grandmother, Araceli Rosario Hidalgo, was the first to receive the vaccine. The Los Olmos nursing home, where she lives, is in Guadalajara, a city that has a special storage facility where the first doses of the vaccine were delivered on Saturday, transported from Belgium.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on Twitter that the vaccinations marked “a hopeful new chapter.”

Similar scenes played out across the continent, although not every member of the bloc followed the rollout plans. In Germany, a nursing home in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt jumped the gun, inoculating dozens of residents and staff members on Saturday, hours after the doses arrived. Officials in the Netherlands said they planned to begin vaccinations on Jan. 8.

But all E.U. member nations now have a supply of vaccine on hand to distribute.

Early Sunday, dozens of minivans carrying coolers filled with dry ice to keep the doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from rising above minus 70 degrees Celsius fanned out to nursing homes across the German capital. The rollout comes as Europe’s largest nation is confronting its deadliest period since the start of the pandemic.

With nearly 1,000 deaths recorded in Germany each day in the week before Christmas, a crematory in the eastern state of Saxony operated around the clock, straight through the holiday, to keep up.

“I’ve never had to see it this bad before,” said Eveline Müller, the director of the facility, in the town of Görlitz.

More than 350,000 people in the 27 nations that make up the European Union have died from Covid-19 since the bloc’s first fatality was recorded in France on Feb. 15. And for many countries, the worst days have come in recent weeks. In Poland, November was the deadliest month since the end of World War II.

The European Union’s member states made a show of solidarity by waiting for the bloc’s regulatory board to approve the vaccine before beginning coordinated national campaigns. But how those will play out in individual countries is likely to be disparate.

All of the member states have national health care systems, so people will be vaccinated free of charge. But just as hospitals in poorer member states like Bulgaria and Romania were overwhelmed in the latest wave of the virus, the networks in those countries will face challenges in distributing vaccines.

While each nation is determining how to carry out its campaign, in general the first phase will focus on people most at risk of exposure and those most likely to have serious health conditions — health care workers and the oldest citizens.

Most member states have said they expect the vaccine to reach the general public by spring.

As Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece got his shot on Sunday, he encouraged citizens to get one, too. “It’s the only way to take back control of our lives, to hug the people that we love,” he said.

United States › United StatesOn Dec. 26 14-day change
New cases 225,818 –9%
New deaths 1,645 –7%

World › WorldOn Dec. 26 14-day change
New cases 510,393 –7%
New deaths 7,061 –6%

Where cases per capita are

Hundreds of people in Kentucky waiting for help this year with unemployment claims. Federal support could end if President Trump does not sign the pandemic relief bill.
Credit…John Sommers II/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Sunday urged President Trump to sign a sweeping $900 billion aid package after millions of Americans lost their unemployment coverage on Saturday as the president put the fate of the measure in limbo by pushing for bigger relief checks.

Mr. Trump’s resistance to signing the bill risks leaving millions of unemployed Americans without crucial benefits, jeopardizes other critical assistance for businesses and families set to lapse at the end of the year and raises the possibility of a government shutdown on Tuesday.

The president blindsided lawmakers last week when he described as “a disgrace” a relief compromise that overwhelmingly passed both chambers and was negotiated by his own Treasury secretary and administration officials. He hinted that he might veto the measure unless lawmakers raised the bill’s $600 direct payment checks to $2,000, and Mr. Trump, who was largely absent from negotiations over the compromise, doubled down on that criticism on Saturday while offering little clarity on his plans. A White House spokesman declined to indicate what the president intended to do.

“I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Saturday, a day he continued to dedicate many of his posts to falsehoods about the election. “Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.’”

If the president does not sign the $2.3 trillion spending package, which includes the $900 billion in pandemic aid as well as funding to keep the government open past Monday, coverage under two federal jobless programs that expanded and extended benefits will have ended on Saturday for millions of unemployed workers.

“None of us totally liked the bill — it’s the nature of legislating, you’re not going to end up with anything perfect — but we passed it because this was the agreed-upon number,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union. “I don’t understand what’s being done, why, unless it’s just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election. Otherwise I don’t understand it because this just has to get done.”

Multiple lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, said that Mr. Trump should not delay signing the legislation waiting for him at his Mar-a-Lago estate and instead approve a separate bill providing for the $2,000 checks.

“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” Mr. Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Given the terrible economic crisis facing this country, yes, we do need to get $2,000 out to every working-class individual in this country, $500 for their kid. But you can’t diddle around with the bill.”

Two governors also said that the time for negotiations had passed. In an appearance on “State of the Union,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, said she had long supported stimulus checks of $2,000 to Americans, but that it was too late in the process to be making those kinds of requests.

“Sign the bill, get it done, and then if the president wants to push for more, let’s get that done too,” said Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican who also appeared on the show.

Though they harshly criticized Mr. Trump, two progressive representatives-elect also called for greater direct payments. On “State of the Union,” Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, claimed that the president was “posturing to make himself, to bring himself back as the hero of the American people” after his defeat in November. But like Mr. Trump, he said Americans needed more relief.

“It needs to at least be $2,000, so he needs to talk to his Republican buddies and say ‘give the people the money,’” said Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, who also called the $600 figure a “slap in the face to people who are suffering.”

Democrats, who have long advocated increasing the amount of financial relief distributed across the country, plan to hold a vote on Monday to approve a stand-alone bill that would increase the payments to $2,000. But it is unclear whether that legislation will stand a chance in the Senate, where Republicans have long been resistant to spending more than $1 trillion on pandemic relief.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he would oppose such a measure and urged the president to sign the bill, adding that “time is running out.”

“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks,” Mr. Toomey said. “But the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”

Then & Now


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CreditCredit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

As 2020 comes to a close, we are revisiting subjects whose lives were impacted by the pandemic. When Sabrina Tavernise first spoke with Valicia Anderson in April, the 45-year-old wife and mother had to think hard to come up with a single person she knew who was not recently unemployed.

In Las Vegas, the Anderson family is still hurting.

The Rio casino finally reopened on Dec. 22. But the restaurant inside the casino where Jovaun Anderson worked until March, Guy Fieri’s El Burro Burracho, did not reopen, and the family has not heard anything about when it might.

Valicia Anderson, Jovaun’s wife, said the family will lose their health insurance in February if Jovaun is still unemployed then. It is a frightening prospect, because their daughter, Nylah, needs frequent medical care.

In an email, Ms. Anderson said Jovaun has been submitting applications elsewhere, but has not found a job. They are still receiving food aid from food banks. In October, they had to choose between paying rent and making their car payment. They chose rent, she said, and as a consequence, their car was repossessed. They now take the bus to doctors for Nylah, and to food banks, and worry about catching the virus while riding.

Evidence of financial hardship isn’t hard to find anywhere, but the economic impact of the pandemic has been especially merciless in Las Vegas, where one-third of the local economy is in the leisure and hospitality industry. Most of those jobs cannot be done from home. Once the Vegas strip shut down, thousands of restaurant, hotel and casino workers found themselves out of work.

For the Andersons, it has been a hard year, and it was a very hard Christmas.

Ms. Anderson said they could not afford to buy Nylah gifts as in years past, and that it hurts. She said they have been following the news from Washington, and she worries that her husband’s unemployment benefits could end for good.

“The stress is unimaginable,” she said in the email. “The pandemic is not our fault. My husband and I were stable, our life was in order.”

She added: “I just want our life back.”

Nurses at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center administered coronavirus tests at the hospital’s drive-through testing site in Colton, Calif., this month.
Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

With bubble-enclosed Santas and Zoom-enhanced family gatherings, much of the United States played it safe over Christmas while the coronavirus rampaged across the country.

But a significant number of Americans traveled, and uncounted gatherings took place, as they will over the New Year holiday.

And that, according to the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, could mean new spikes in cases, on top of the existing surge.

“We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s — surge,” Dr. Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“We’re really at a very critical point,” he said. “If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post-seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for, you know, the good warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it’s very tough for people to not do that.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the administration’s testing coordinator, noted that Thanksgiving travel did not lead to an increase of cases in all places, which suggested that many people heeded recommendations to wear masks and limit the size of gatherings.

“It really depends on what the travelers do when they get where they’re going,” Admiral Giroir said. “We know the actual physical act of traveling in airplanes, for example, can be quite safe because of the air purification systems. What we really worry about is the mingling of different bubbles once you get to your destination.”

Still, U.S. case numbers are about as high as they have ever been. Total infections surpassed 19 million on Saturday, meaning that at least 1 in 17 people have contracted the virus over the course of the pandemic. And the virus has killed more than 332,000 people — one in every thousand in the country.

Two of the year’s worst days for deaths have been during the past week. A number of states set death records on Dec. 22 or Dec. 23, including Alabama, Wisconsin, Arizona and West Virginia, according to The Times’s data.

And hospitalizations are hovering at a pandemic height of about 120,000, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Against that backdrop, millions of people in the United States have been traveling, though many fewer than usual.

About 3.8 million people passed through Transportation Safety Administration travel checkpoints between Dec. 23 and Dec. 26, compared with 9.5 million on those days last year. Only a quarter of the number who flew on the day after Christmas last year did so on Friday, and Christmas Eve travel was down by one-third from 2019.

And AAA’s forecast that more than 81 million Americans would travel by car for the holiday period, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, which would be about one-third fewer than last year.

For now, the U.S. is no longer seeing overall explosive growth, although California’s worsening outbreak has canceled out progress in other parts of the country. The state has added more than 300,000 cases in the seven-day period ending Dec. 22. And six Southern states have seen sustained case increases in the last week: Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas.

Holiday reporting anomalies may obscure any post-Christmas spike until the second week of January. Testing was expected to decrease around Christmas and New Year’s, and many states said they would not report data on certain days.

On Christmas Day, numbers for new infections, 91,922, and deaths, 1,129, were significantly lower than the seven-day averages. But on Saturday, new infections jumped past 225,800 new cases and deaths rose past 1,640, an expected increase over Friday as some states reported numbers for two days post-Christmas.

Storing the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines in a super freezer in Oss, the Netherlands, on Saturday.
Credit…Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA, via Shutterstock

The European Union rollout of the coronavirus vaccine officially began on Sunday, but each nation is setting its own timeline. Germany, Greece France, Italy, Spain and Poland were among the first to offer inoculations. More nations are to follow on Monday and Tuesday. The Netherlands is likely to be the last to begin.

The first Dutch citizens are not expected to be vaccinated until Jan. 8.

Throughout the pandemic, the Dutch response has been criticized as erratic, with many wondering how one of Europe’s richest and best organized countries has not been able to do more to keep coronavirus infections down.

Two weeks ago, the Netherlands entered a second lockdown that is to last until Jan. 19. Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister, said last week that vaccinating the country’s 17 million citizens “needs time” and should be done “with care” to ensure prevent further fatalities and ensure wide acceptance. He had to defend the plan from critics frustrated by the delay. “The success of a vaccine does not depend on starting a week earlier, it depends on being careful and safe,” he told local media outlets. “Caution makes an important contribution to people’s acceptance of vaccinations.’

First in line will be those 60 and older with pre-existing medical conditions, followed by older citizens without medical conditions — some 6.5 million people — the Health Council of the Netherlands said. Healthy people younger than 60 will not be eligible for vaccinations before August.

But many Dutch people — skeptical after government promises for national programs in the fight against the virus fell apart — are wondering whether the mass vaccination project will also go off the rails.

In a rare televised address announcing the second lockdown — which limited gatherings over Christmas to only three guests per household and forced all nonessential stores to close — Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged citizens to accept the limitations in an effort to save lives.

“Every day, on average, 60 people die of Covid-19. Every day around 9,000 new infections are registered,” Mr. Rutte said. “That’s an entire football stadium of people in less than six days.”

As he spoke, protesters outside his office shouted slogans against the lockdown and beat on pots and pans, before they were dispersed by the police for not having a permit to demonstrate.

Many Dutch had been flouting requests to maintain social distancing, with lines of shoppers outside stores in the university town of Leiden laughing at their own disobedience. Even once the lockdown took effect, the streets remained full of people out for walks, enjoying takeaway coffees.

Emilie Repikova, a World War II veteran, left, and Prime Minister Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic received vaccine jabs in Prague on Sunday.
Credit…David W Cerny/Reuters

Prime Minister Andrej Babis of the Czech Republic received his country’s first coronavirus vaccination on Sunday, followed by a World War II veteran, as the nation began both a vaccine campaign and a stricter lockdown to confront a second wave of infection that is sweeping thorough Eastern Europe.

His vaccination — like that of political leaders in Bulgaria, Greece and several other nations — was partly intended to overcome skepticism over coronavirus vaccines.

“The vaccine which arrived from the European Union yesterday, that is a hope, a hope that we will return to a normal life,” Mr. Babis said before receiving the jab in Prague’s Central Military Hospital.

In a survey published in Poland last week, only 17 percent of respondents said they wanted to be vaccinated as soon as possible. The survey — conducted by Warsaw Medical University and ARC Rynek i Opinia, a pollster — found that a further quarter of respondents would rather wait, while 38 percent said they did not want to be vaccinated at all, according to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

There are social incentives for people to be inoculated, however.

In Poland, those who can show proof of vaccination will be exempt from limits on gatherings outside the home and will not be required to undergo the mandated 10 days of quarantine upon entering the country.

Poland was largely spared during the first wave of the virus, but it has torn through the country in recent months. With hospitals struggling to meet the demand and the death toll rising, restrictions on movement were reintroduced after Christmas.

Although the European Union’s vaccination effort was due to kick off in member states collectively on Sunday, both Slovakia and Hungary got a head start on Saturday, shortly after doses arrived in their countries.

The coordinated effort across the bloc’s 27 member states is intended to ensure that the smaller members receive equal treatment to larger, wealthier countries such as Germany and the Netherlands.

Each E.U. member state decides which groups to prioritize. Austria and Slovenia are focusing on residents of care facilities, while Slovakia is putting doctors, nurses and other medical workers first.

“We know that with today the pandemic will not just be over with a blow,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria said on Twitter. “But the vaccine is the start of our victory over the pandemic — the vaccine is a game changer!”

Pope Francis, center, delivering a Christmas blessing inside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Friday.
Credit…Vatican Media, via Associated Press

Pope Francis, whose plans for being inoculated have not been made public by the Vatican, on Sunday welcomed the arrival of a coronavirus vaccine in Italy.

Speaking from a library in the Vatican instead of St. Peter’s Square, where he would usually greet the faithful on Sundays, the pope said his thoughts were with families who have suffered because of the pandemic.

He said his thoughts were also with “the doctors, nurses and health care professionals on the front lines, whose commitment to fight the coronavirus has had important repercussions on family life.”

The Vatican’s own vaccination campaign to inoculate its citizens, employees and their families, though not children under 18, is expected to kick off in January.

The first doses in Italy were given shortly after 7 a.m. on Sunday to three health care workers at Rome’s Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases, prompting a round of applause.

“It’s the beginning of the end,” Claudia Alivernini, a nurse at the hospital, told Italy’s state news channel. She said she was “honored” and “grateful” to be part of a “day we will never forget.”

In all, nearly 10,000 doses were given on Sunday, and the Italian news media was filled with videos of people being given jabs in the nation’s hospitals, where frontline workers were given priority.

Domenico Arcuri, the official overseeing the logistics of Italy’s coronavirus response, said that 470,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be arriving per week.

“Today is not a day of polemics. All the European countries will begin together, and will all arrive together,” he told reporters in Rome, responding to concerns that most Italians will not receive the vaccine for months.

Italian newspapers greeted the campaign’s start with enthusiasm but tempered expectations. “Vaccine, a Beginning for Few, the Real Campaign is in April,” read a front-page headline in the Roman daily Il Messaggero.

Italian officials say they hope that about 30,000 doses a day can be administered, seven days a week. The push has started with health care workers and nursing home residents, a process that officials estimate will take at least eight weeks.

Next in line will be Italy’s oldest citizens and other at-risk groups. By the end of February, colorful flower-shaped pavilions are expected to be installed in 1,500 public squares as part of the country’s vaccination campaign.

Vaccination teams leaving the former Tegel airport in Berlin to distribute doses on Sunday.
Credit…Lena Mucha for The New York Times

“Am I famous now?” Kurt Klingseisen, 90, asked as he and his wife, Helga, 83, rolled up their sleeves to receive injections of the BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Sunday morning in the southern German state of Bavaria.

The couple, who live in a nursing home in Germering, were among the first to be inoculated in Germany, whose scientists played a lead role in developing the vaccine.

“This is a day of hope,” Dilek Kalayci, Berlin’s leading health official, said after the first residents in the capital received their jabs. “This vaccine is a stroke of luck. That we even have a vaccine after only 10 months is not to be taken for granted.”

Unlike some other European countries, where political leaders were first in line to receive the vaccine in an effort to raise public confidence, members of the German government said they would wait for their turn.

For days, doctors had been visiting the homes, explaining to residents what would happen on Sunday when the nationwide immunization program began. They secured residents’ willingness to accept the vaccine, which was developed in the western city of Mainz by the firm BioNTech and produced and distributed together with the U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

Semi-trucks carrying about 150,000 doses arrived in Germany under police escort and distributed them to 400 vaccination centers across the country. Teams of volunteer doctors are administering the jabs free of charge to the public.

Early Sunday, the first vaccinators fanned out to nursing homes across the country. Many of Germany’s 29,778 recorded deaths from Covid have been residents in such facilities. Based on a plan drawn up by government officials, medical experts and members of a national Ethics Council, people age 80 and older and their caregivers are being prioritized, followed by medical and other frontline workers.

Delays were reported in eight districts in the southeastern region of Bavaria, where the authorities said thermometer readings in the coolers used to transport doses showed that the temperature may have risen above the maximum 8 degrees Celsius, or 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Officials said they would consult with BioNTech over the safety of the doses before deciding whether they could be used.

By the end of the year, Germany expects to receive 1.3 million doses, and officials have said they hope the vaccine will be available to the wider public by the summer.

The next challenge will be to persuade people skeptical of the vaccine to be inoculated. About two-thirds of people in Germany are willing to be vaccinated, according to a recent survey by YouGov and the German news agency D.P.A.

“Everyone who participates is saving lives,” Jens Spahn, the health minister, said at the launch of the vaccine campaign. “The vaccine is the key to getting out of this pandemic.”

Waiting for free antigen testing in Paris last week.
Credit…Andrea Mantovani for The New York Times

Canada, France, Japan, Spain and Norway have found small numbers of infections involving a new, potentially more transmissible variant of the coronavirus, most linked to travel from Britain, where it was first detected.

The rapid spread of the variant led to the lockdown of London and southern England, prompted a temporary French blockade of the English Channel and resulted in countries around the world barring travelers coming from Britain. Because few countries have the level of genomic surveillance that Britain does, there is concern that the variant may have been traveling across the world undetected for weeks.

A recent study by British scientists found no evidence that the variant was more deadly than others but estimated that it was 56 percent more contagious.

The British variant has been diagnosed in seven people in Japan, the country’s health ministry said. All had either recently traveled to Britain or were in contact with someone who had.

The discovery in Japan prompted the country to close its borders to all new entry by nonresident foreigners. The ban will go into effect at midnight on Monday and last through the end of January, the public broadcaster NHK reported.

In Spain, the variant was found in the capital region, the local authorities said on Saturday. Antonio Zapatero, a regional health official, said that four cases had been confirmed in Madrid, while another three were being treated as suspicious. At least two of the cases involve people who had recently been to Britain and then tested positive in Madrid, as well as some of their relatives.

In France, the first case of the new variant was identified on Friday, according to the country’s health ministry. Officials said the patient was a French citizen living in Britain who had traveled from London to Tours, a city in central France, on Dec. 19, a day before the British government imposed a lockdown because of the variant.

Officials in Sweden said on Saturday that a case of the variant had been detected there after a traveler visited Sormland, near Stockholm, from Britain over Christmas, Reuters reported.

Health officials in Ontario, Canada, said on Saturday that they had confirmed two cases of the variant in the province. The two cases included a couple from Durham, about 90 miles northwest of Toronto. The couple had no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, the province’s health ministry said.

And on Sunday, the Institute of Public Health in Oslo reported that two travelers from Britain who had entered Norway this month had the new variant, according to Reuters.

It is normal for viruses to mutate, and most of the coronavirus mutations have proved minor. The British variant has a constellation of 23 mutations, several of which might alter its transmissibility. Vaccine experts are confident that the available vaccines will be able to block the new variant, although that has to be confirmed by laboratory experiments that are now underway.

A few other concerning variants have also been identified, including one in South Africa and another in Nigeria. Britain said on Thursday that it would ban travel from South Africa after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said two people were confirmed to have been infected with the variant that emerged there.

Germany, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Australia and Singapore have identified infections with the new variant. And Denmark, which has wider genomic surveillance than many other countries, detected 33 cases of it from Nov. 14 to Dec. 14, according to the Danish health authorities.

The United States has not yet reported any cases of the British variant. But the country will require all airline passengers arriving from Britain to test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. The rule will take effect on Monday.

Hisako Ueno and Mike Ives contributed reporting.

Michael Callaway working the door at the Cantab Lounge, a longtime establishment in Cambridge, Mass., in 2008. The lounge’s owner put it up for sale this year, ending its 50-year run.
Credit…Jodi Hilton for The New York Times


The Cantab: A dive bar that drew poets, too.

Before Cambridge, Mass., became a tech boomtown, the Cantab sat on a stretch of Massachusetts Avenue that was genuinely grungy. The bar took only cash. It was always sticky, and you wouldn’t want to use the bathroom.

But if you wandered in there on the right night, you could find a poetry slam or bluegrass night or Little Joe Cook and the Thrillers. Ben Affleck’s father used to work there, serving Budweisers to off-duty postal workers.

In July, when the Cantab’s owner, Richard Fitzgerald, announced that he was putting it up for sale after 50 years, a howl of distress went up from that old, scruffy bohemian Cambridge. Mr. Fitzgerald, known as Fitzy, hopes to find a new buyer to reopen the place in the summer — let’s hope in its old, sticky style. — Ellen Barry


The Cake Cafe and Bakery: Long mornings over crab omelets and cupcakes.

On Saturday and Sunday, mornings the line ran out the door. People waited for French toast, biscuits and gravy, and crab omelets the size of phone books; you could add a cupcake for a dollar.

The staff knew most of the customers on sight, except during carnival season when the tourists flocked. By that time, those in the know had already ordered a king cake, in competition with the best in the city. It closed in June. — Campbell Robertson


The Original Hot Dog Shop: It was never really about the hot dogs

The warnings about the fries were as legendary as the fries themselves.

The large is huge!

Order it with friends.

Seriously, you can’t eat it by yourself.

The Original Hot Dog Shop had “hot dog” right there in the name, but it was the fries — perfectly cut, fried twice in peanut oil to extra crispness, served in a huge pile in a paper basket, with side cups of beef gravy or cheese product — that people talked about.

The University of Pittsburgh’s student newspaper reported that when the O, as the hot dog shop was known, closed in April, the owners served up one more giant order of fries, donating 35,000 pounds of potatoes to charity. — Scott Dodd


The Ma’am Sir restaurant: A Filipino spot with a boisterous vibe.

Credit…Lisa Corson for The New York Times

When Charles Olalia decided to open a Filipino restaurant in Los Angeles’s hip Silver Lake district, he wished to “showcase my country’s food and vibe: beautiful, boisterous, loving” to a wide audience, he said.

Ma’am Sir opened in 2018 to rave reviews for its creative renditions of signature Filipino dishes, like sizzling pork sisig and oxtail kare-kare.

“Ma’am Sir was different,” said Cheryl Balolong, 41, who grew up visiting traditional Filipino cafeteria-style joints in strip malls. “It was a place where we felt proud to bring friends who weren’t from our culture.”

Then the pandemic struck. By August, Mr. Olalia had shut the place down. “Day after day, putting food in a box and seeing an empty dining room, I was getting farther and farther away from what the restaurant really was and why I built it,” he said. — Miriam Jordan

Demonstrators protested federal executions of death row inmates in front of the Justice Department this month. Lisa Montgomery’s scheduled execution remains in limbo.
Credit…Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A judge’s ruling to delay the execution of the only woman on federal death row could push the new date into the early days of the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has vowed to work to end federal capital punishment.

The woman, Lisa Montgomery, was scheduled to be executed on Dec. 8, but that date was delayed after two of her lawyers tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after traveling to a federal prison in Texas to visit her in November.

Should Ms. Montgomery’s life be spared as a result of the delays from her lawyers’ infection, it would be a rare reprieve for a prisoner from a virus that has swept through prisons, infecting inmates crammed into shared spaces.

The Justice Department had rescheduled her execution for Jan. 12, but Judge Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on Thursday that the January execution date had been unlawfully rescheduled because a stay order issued because of her lawyers’ illnesses was still in effect.

Ms. Montgomery, of Melvern, Kan., was convicted in 2008 of killing a pregnant woman and cutting a baby from her abdomen. She tried to pass off the baby as her own before admitting to the crime.

Ms. Montgomery’s lawyers have said that she has severe mental illness, which was inherited from both of her parents and worsened by abuse endured as a child, including being sex-trafficked by her mother and gang-raped by men.

The stay in Ms. Montgomery’s case barred the government from executing her before Dec. 31. How long the government will wait to execute her after that point remains unclear. Federal rules state that execution notices must be given to prisoners at least 20 days in advance, but when the rescheduled date is fewer than 20 days from the original date, the prisoner must be notified only “as soon as possible.”

Marie Fazio and Hailey Fuchs contributed reporting.

Global Roundup

A nurse taking a coronavirus patient outside for fresh air and sunlight at the Daryeel hospital in Somaliland, a self-governing region of Somalia.
Credit…Samantha Reinders for The New York Times

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — When the pandemic began, global public health officials raised grave concerns about the vulnerabilities of Africa. But its countries over all appeared to fare far better than those in Europe or the Americas, upending scientists’ expectations.

Now, the coronavirus is on the rise again in areas of the continent, posing a new and possibly deadlier threat.

In South Africa, a crush of new cases that spread from Port Elizabeth is growing steeply across the nation. Eight countries, including Mali, Nigeria and Uganda, recently recorded their highest daily case counts all year.

“The second wave is here,” John N. Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has declared.

When the virus was first detected, many African countries were considered particularly at risk because they had weak medical, laboratory and disease-surveillance systems and were already battling other contagions. Some were torn by armed conflict, limiting health workers’ access. In March, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the first African director-general of the World Health Organization, cautioned, “We have to prepare for the worst.”

But many African governments pursued swift, severe lockdowns that — while financially ruinous, especially for their poorest citizens — slowed the rate of infection. Some deployed networks of community health workers. The Africa C.D.C., the W.H.O. and other agencies helped expand testing and moved in protective gear, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.

The reported toll of the pandemic on the continent — 2.6 million cases and 61,000 deaths, according to the Africa C.D.C. — is lower than what the United States alone currently experiences in three weeks. But that accounting is almost certainly incomplete.

Evidence is growing that many cases were missed, according to an analysis of new studies, visits to nearly a dozen medical institutions and interviews with more than 100 public health officials, scientists, government leaders and medical providers on the continent.

“It is possible and very likely that the rate of exposure is much more than what has been reported,” Dr. Nkengasong said in an interview.

Updates from elsewhere around the world:

  • Argentina will begin its coronavirus inoculation campaign on Tuesday, using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Ginés González García, the country’s health minister, said on Twitter on Saturday. It is the fourth country in Latin America to start vaccinating its population, after Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica.

  • Japan on Saturday reported record new coronavirus infections both nationwide and in the capital, Tokyo, where there were more than 900 new cases for the first time. Nationally there were almost 3,900 new infections. On Sunday, Tokyo reported an additional 708 cases. Officials in Japan, where there have been several cases involving the new British variant, have closed the country’s borders to all nonresident foreigners from midnight on Monday through the end of January.

  • Israel is also set on Sunday to enter its third weekslong lockdown after a sharp increase in coronavirus cases over the past week. Israelis will be barred from traveling more than 1,000 meters beyond their homes except those participating in protests, receiving a vaccination or fulfilling any other task on a list of exemptions, the government said on Friday. The country has also begun vaccinating people. As of Saturday, more than 200,000 had received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

  • President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines on Saturday extended a ban on flights from Britain until mid-January, in an effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus variant. He also lashed out at the United States, saying that the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement that allows U.S. forces to rotate through Philippine bases would depend on his country’s ability to secure doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

  • Two people in Australia accused of leaving hotel quarantine without permission on Saturday have been apprehended, the police said. A 24-year-old man who had traveled to Melbourne from Sydney told a local radio station that he had been wrongly sent to hotel quarantine instead of being allowed to self-isolate at home, and that his anxiety had driven him to flee after he was told repeatedly that he would soon be released, The Age reported. In Perth, a 49-year-old woman who had recently arrived from Madrid was in police custody after leaving her hotel, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In both places, breaching quarantine can result in fines of thousands of dollars.

Gabriella Ortega, a respiratory therapist, speaks to a health care worker who is helping to treat a Covid-19 patient at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif., on Dec. 17.
Credit…Ariana Drehsler for The New York Times

California, the wealthiest and most populous state of the world’s wealthiest country, has long had a dearth of hospital beds — just 1.8 beds per 1,000 people, according to 2018 data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Now a record-shattering slew of coronavirus cases has wiped out intensive care unit capacity in a large swath of the state.

Southern California, its most populous region, and San Joaquin Valley, a central region, have 0 percent I.C.U. capacity, keeping them under a stay-at-home order until at least Dec. 28, the California Department of Public Health said on Saturday.

Intensive care units in the Bay Area region are at 11.3 percent capacity and the Greater Sacramento Region has 16.9 percent capacity. Both will likely remain under the order at least into the new year.

Before the pandemic, California’s ratio of hospital beds per person was only slightly higher than Washington State and Oregon, both of which ranked last in the nation. Many of the state’s hospitals kept their number of beds low in part to limit costs.

I.C.U. beds have been limited as well: California only had 2.1 beds per 10,000 people, more plentiful than just 10 other states, according to KFF’s 2018 data.

California is the first U.S. state to report more than 2 million coronavirus cases so far. On Friday, the weekly average of new cases per day in the state was 36,418, according to a New York Times database. That is a 21 percent increase from two weeks prior.

The situation is now out of control, officials and health care workers have warned. At Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, resources are so stretched that gurneys have been placed in the gift shop and the lobby is being used to treat patients. And keeping health care facilities sufficiently staffed has been yet another hurdle.

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