Positive news on Covid vaccine fuels new enthusiasm for travel: Travel Weekly


Good news about Covid-19 vaccines has been on the uptick this month, and with it, a bump in inquiries to travel agencies about what these medical advances might mean for travel in 2021.

The calls don’t always lead to bookings, advisors said, and although the good news is tempered in part by spiking cases around the country, consumer response to the vaccine news appears to both reflect high levels of pent-up demand and herald the nascent return of broad consumer confidence to travel.

On Nov. 9, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that preliminary data indicates their vaccine is more than 90% effective. A week later, Moderna on Nov. 16 said preliminary analysis found its vaccine was more than 94.5% effective. And just before Thanksgiving, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said preliminary data found their vaccine up to 90% effective.

“Within an hour of Pfizer announcing their vaccine, we started getting calls,” said Helen Papa, owner of TBH Travel in Dix Hills, N.Y. “Within an hour. It was amazing.”

Cruise lines also saw some positive effects attributable to vaccine news. During Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ most recent financial earnings call, the day after Pfizer’s news, president and CEO Frank Del Rio said bookings in the previous 24 hours were “pretty good; better than the previous four or five Mondays.”

“And that’s, I think, attributable to the vaccine news,” he said. “We did not have any particular promotion or did any outsized marketing.”

Similarly, Royal Caribbean Group chairman Richard Fain addressed the question of positive news about vaccines during Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld, which was held virtually earlier this month.

“I don’t think it will surprise anybody that when the news is scary, people tend to go back into their cocoons,” Fain said. “As the news gets to be more positive they come out. What’s encouraging is how quickly it responds.”

After both the Pfizer and Moderna news broke, Skyscanner found that searches for travel from the U.S. to Mexico surpassed their weekly volume from last year, up 10%. Skyscanner attributed that increase to the vaccine news, as well.

Helen Papa

Helen Papa

For Papa, some of the inquiries she received at TBH have turned into bookings. Clients are “cautiously optimistic,” she said.

On the other side of the country from Papa, Coastline Travel Advisors in Garden Grove, Calif., also received a number of emails and calls from clients following vaccine announcements, according to president Jay Johnson. 

While there has been a general sense of optimism and more confidence in travel’s return by next summer, he said, the influx of inquiries has not yet resulted in new business.

“There is without a doubt a huge amount of pent-up demand to travel in 2021,” Johnson said. “All we need now is confirmation that the vaccines work and a lowering of cases. Then, we’ll be off and running.”

Joshua Bush

Joshua Bush

Avenue Two Travel in Villanova, Pa., saw an uptick in both calls and bookings as a result of the positive vaccine news, but that was tempered by the rising number of cases around the country, said CEO Joshua Bush.

Avenue Two has seen steady, week-over-week increases in travel since mid-August, thanks to domestic travel and clients dreaming about 2021 travel, Bush said. In addition to closer-in domestic bookings, Avenue Two has even been booking things like world cruise segments and expedition trips. Overall, business is down about 70% year over year, but better than the 95 to 97% it was down when the pandemic first hit.

The week before Pfizer had announced its vaccine’s effectiveness, business was “absolutely dead,” which Bush attributed to the unsettled U.S. presidential election. 

But the week of Nov. 16, Bush said, “with the election result [more widely accepted] and the vaccine … we are on track for our best week this year since Covid.” Those bookings were for both the holiday season and 2021 as travelers are getting more optimistic about a vaccine.

At the same time, the good news is offset by the surge in cases and deaths around the world, especially in the U.S.

“We’re hitting milestone death numbers,” Bush said. “We’re hitting milestone cases on individual days. That is really kind of tamping down the news that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’re definitely in this still.”

In some places, though, travelers have shown less concern about traveling during the pandemic, and the news of the vaccines was akin to a nonevent. Jeanne Polocheck, owner of Well Traveled Texan in Houston, said her Texas-based clients largely kept traveling during the pandemic. Things had initially slowed early this year, but by Memorial Day clients were out and about again, a trend that has continued. Domestic spots and Mexico have been popular.

She didn’t even get one phone call from a client about vaccines.

A potential stumbling block to the recovery of travel is the resistance among some people to being vaccinated. A Gallup poll conducted between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1, before the vaccine trial results were announced, indicated 58% of adult respondents were willing to get a vaccination, a rise from 50% in September.

Lingering and significant reluctance to be vaccinated will likely present hurdles to overcome with regard to travel in the future, said Ensemble Travel Group CEO David Harris.

He pointed to the flu vaccine: It’s been available for decades, but a portion of the population skips it each year.

However, he is more hopeful about a Covid vaccine, given how serious the impact of the virus has been. While a vaccine will never be 100% effective, it could go a long way to the resumption of travel, he said, by giving confidence to governments to relax requirements for quarantines and other deterrents to travel.

“Those should, in theory, be relaxed if you get traction from an effective vaccine,” he said.

Johanna Jainchill contributed to this report.


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Bill Would Disclose Noem’s Security Costs for Trump Travel | South Dakota News


PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A House bill endorsed by both parties seeks to disclose the security costs for Gov. Kristi Noem’s travel on behalf of former President Donald Trump’s campaign last year.

Requests for the information by The Associated Press and other media outlets have been rejected with officials citing security concerns.

Republican Rep. Taffy Howard says the proposed legislation would not only require future costs to be disclosed, but would be applied retroactively to Noem’s security costs during her travel across the country on behalf of Trump and other Republicans.

Howard says the governor’s office has told her the Trump campaign covered Noem’s travel costs, but officials would not disclose the cost of security provided by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

“This should be disclosed to every citizen,” Howard told the Argus Leader Tuesday. “We’ve asked several times and keep getting stonewalled. Taxpayers have a right to know. This governor wants to be the most transparent administration, and this bill is all about transparency.”

Noem’s deputy general counsel, Katie Hruska, has said she can’t provide the cost of Noem’s security detail, citing a law that says “public safety information that would create a substantial likelihood of endangering public safety or property, if disclosed” can’t be shared.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Viking Aton to join fleet in Egypt next year | News


Viking has announced an expansion of its Egypt fleet with Viking Aton, a new state-of-the-art river vessel.

Inspired by the design of the award-winning Viking Longships and built specifically to navigate the Nile River, Viking Aton is currently under construction and is scheduled to debut in late 2022.

Sailing on Viking’s popular Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary, the new vessel will join Viking’s existing Egypt river fleet, which includes its identical sister ship Viking Osiris and Viking’s first owned and operated ship on the Nile, Viking Ra.

“Egypt remains a top destination for many of our guests who are inspired to discover the rich history and beauty of the region,” said Torstein Hagen, chairman of Viking.

“We will always maintain our commitment to creating meaningful experiences that are focused on the destination.

“The addition of Viking Aton is a reflection of our continued investment in Egypt; we look forward to introducing the country’s cultural treasures to even more Viking guests in the future.”

Hosting 82 guests in 41 staterooms, Viking Aton will be a state-of-the-art ship with the clean, elegant Scandinavian design for which Viking is known.

The brand offers culturally enriching, destination-focused river and ocean cruises for travellers curious about the world, its rich culture and varied history.


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Travel news latest: ‘No scientific evidence’ for quarantine hotels


The bosses of British Airways, Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic have criticised the Government’s plans to introduce hotel quarantine for arrivals from ‘high risk’ destinations. 

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, executives from the three airlines said they had ‘seen no compelling scientific evidence’ to support the idea of hotel quarantine, and called on Boris Johnson to discuss financial support for the industry.

“Policy should be based on evidence,’ they wrote; ‘and we have seen no compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels, is necessary in addition to measures only recently introduced.

‘We request the opportunity to discuss both an exit plan and a bespoke support package with you urgently, at a time of your convenience.’

The plans, based on Australia’s hotel quarantine system, would cost travellers up to £1,500 for 10 days self-isolating – with meals served in their rooms and round-the-clock supervision by private security guards.

Scroll down for more on this story, and other breaking travel news.


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Coronavirus Australia live news: Everyone in Australia will be able to get AstraZeneca vaccine, Michael Kidd says


Vulnerable Australians being left behind amid scramble for seats on coronavirus repatriation flights 

Composite image of a woman sitting down holding a dog and a takeaway coffee cup (left) and a woman standing in the snow (right).
Vulnerable Australians stuck overseas, like Kate Monroe (left) and Simone Platovnjak (right), have missed out on repatriation flights despite being told they are first in line to get home.(Supplied)


While the Department of Foreign Affairs maintains it is prioritising the most needy, Australians listed as vulnerable have told 7.30 they have missed out on the latest flights.

“They may as well have just drawn us all out of a hat,” said 28-year-old Kate Monroe, who is stranded in the UK.

“I’d been in tears thinking that I was going to be coming home.

“Once I got to the payment information, an error had occurred. That flight was just gone.”

Some Australians who secured seats conceded on social media they were probably not as vulnerable as others.

“People have got these flights and they may not necessarily be as vulnerable as the rest of us, so it was heartbreaking,” Ms Monroe said.

Another Australian deemed vulnerable, 21-year-old Simone Platovnjak in London, also failed to get a repatriation seat after selecting a flight.

“I got to checkout and the page glitched and I went to refresh it and I lost it,” she said.

Read the full story here.


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Hawaiian Airlines posts Q4 loss as travel restrictions remain | News


Hawaiian Airlines reported a fourth-quarter loss of $172.8 million as the ongoing global coronavirus crisis and ensuing strict travel restrictions in its home state continue to create hardship for the business.

The Honolulu-based carrier’s full-year loss came in at $551 million, compared to a profit of $218.9 million in 2019.

Revenue in the quarter was just under $150 million, down 79% from the same quarter in 2019. For the full year 2020, the airline reported $845 million in revenue. That’s 70% lower than the year before.

Hawaiian A321neo

“While 2020 has been the most challenging year the airline industry has experienced, we are encouraged that the re-opening of Hawaii to tourism through the state’s pre-travel testing program and Hawaiian’s successful testing partnerships have allowed us to begin the journey to recovery,” says Hawaiian’s chief executive Peter Ingram.

“The negative impacts of Covid-19 will create a challenging beginning of 2021, but we are confident that the structural pieces are in place for a sustained recovery,” he adds.

He says the company doubled its capacity in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the third quarter, but it remains down 72% compared to the same period in 2019.

The airline seems to have reached what Ingram calls its “inflection point” in October, when the state of Hawaii introduced an opt-out programme for the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine. Those arriving in the islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean have the ability to bypass the self-isolation requirement if they bring proof of a negative coronavirus test result that is no older than 72h.

The popular tourist island of Kauai in the western part of the state continues to be an exception. It re-instated its own quarantine requirement for visitors and returning residents in December. So Hawaiian has also rolled back capacity to the island’s main city Lihue, says senior vice-president of revenue management and network planning, Brent Overbeek.

Ingram adds that the airline’s recovery will depend on a successful vaccination roll-out on the US mainland, and the carrier will adjust its capacity accordingly if and when customers return. 

“Where we really project demand picking up further will track along with the pace of vaccination delivery,” he says. “The more vaccinations that can be delivered, the better that is for demand for Hawaii and demand in general.”

While the opt-out programme has brought more passengers from the US and enabled the airline to restart flights to all of its pre-pandemic cities on the mainland, as well as some connections to and from Japan, the carrier’s biggest non-US market, travel within the islands remained depressed.

The problem, executives say, is that the test’s high costs as compared to the inter-island flight ticket make it difficult to justify travel.

For the first three months of the year, Hawaiian sees much of the same as during the last quarter of 2020. “A lot can change at this point, but we don’t expect a material improvement in revenue compared to the fourth quarter,” Overbeek says. Overall, the airline expects its first quarter 2021 capacity to be about half of that flown during the first quarter of 2019, as the state keeps its pre-departure testing programme in place throughout the period.

On international routes, Overbeek adds that the airline expects to operate about 20% of 2019 levels, and has no plans to resume its service to Australia and new Zealand until “at least the third quarter”.


In mid-2020, Hawaiian reached a deal with Boeing to push back delivery of its first long-awaited Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft by about a year. Originally, the company had expected to take delivery of the first of 10 ordered aircraft beginning in late 2021. That has now been pushed back to September 2022, and the start of revenue service with the type will be in 2023, executives say. Further deliveries will continue on into 2026.

“We did not push back the early ones and then bunch everything up,” Ingram says. “We shifted the entire delivery stream, so we have the original cadence and balance from the time when we start taking deliveries.”

The Boeing 787s were part of an ambitious strategy to expand further in Asia, and even possibly bring a European destination into the carrier’s network in the mid-term. Those plans are on hold, however, as the coronavirus continues to disrupt the entire industry.

Currently, Hawaiian operates Airbus A330-200s on long-haul routes to Asia, as well as to Boston and New York City, which are two of the longest domestic flights in the world.



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Coronavirus Australia live news: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mulls travel bubble arrangement with Australian states


Biden administration to purchase millions more vaccine doses to curb virus


The Biden administration will purchase 200 million more coronavirus vaccines and funnel more to states now, in a bid to deliver on the US president’s promise to curb the pandemic, a senior administration official has said.

Joe Biden, who took office last week, is in a race to contain the virus as faster-spreading variants threaten to increase the death toll across the United States, which has already been hard-hit.

The administration is briefing state governors about its plans to increase the amount of the vaccine going to those local governments to 10 million doses per week for the next three weeks, up from 8.6 million currently, according to the official who declined to be named, who previewed a policy the president has not yet discussed.

The administration will purchase 100 million doses each of the vaccines made by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc , increasing the overall total doses to 600 million, with delivery expected by summer. Each vaccine requires two doses per person to be fully effective, suggesting the new purchases would cover most of the country’s 331 million people.

The administration also promised to provide notice to the states three weeks in advance of how much vaccine they would be getting in the future.

Mr Biden made management of the pandemic a core issue in his presidential election campaign, but in its early days, the administration has sent mixed messages about when exactly the vaccines will be fully administered.

On Monday, Mr Biden said he believed it was possible to have 150 million doses of the vaccine administered in his first 100 days in office, an aspiration his press secretary Jen Psaki said was not an official adjustment of the current target of 100 million doses over that same time period.

“The president and his team have been working around the clock over the past six days to make meaningful progress on vaccinating as many people as possible,” she said.

(with Reuters)


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Covid-19 Live News and Updates


A box containing vials of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Calif., this month.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The federal government’s weekly allocations of coronavirus vaccines will increase by about 1.5 million doses next week — a jump that White House officials plan to inform governors of on a call Tuesday afternoon, according to a federal official familiar with the government’s planning.

The increase, to around 10 million doses per week, will come from the federal government’s plans to release more of the vaccine made by Moderna, the Massachusetts biotech company whose vaccine was authorized for emergency use in December. Although governors will likely welcome the news, it does not reflect any increase in the overall amount that Moderna will deliver to the federal government in the first three months of this year, according to people familiar with the company’s production.

The increase was first reported by the Washington Post.

Moderna and the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which produced another vaccine with emergency approval, have been ramping up production and are on track to together deliver between 12 and 18 million doses a week by the end of March, the federal official said. On Monday President Biden said that he was now aiming for the United States to administer 1.5 million vaccine doses a day, which would be 10.5 million a week.

As of Tuesday, Moderna had delivered to a federal government distributor 30.4 million of the 100 million doses it has pledged to ship out by the end of the March. The company has said it fully expects to fulfill that promise.

Also on Tuesday, Pfizer’s chief executive, Dr. Albert Bourla, said the company would now provide 120 million doses to the United States by the end of March instead of 100 million, an increase that he attributed to a change allowing for the extraction of six doses in vials that were originally supposed to hold only five.

Vaccination sites were already removing six doses from the vials in many cases, but starting this week, the new accounting will be formalized and allocations of Pfizer doses that states will receive will be based on the assumption that each vial contains six and not five doses, meaning that states could receive fewer vials. Some pharmacists have said that six doses cannot always reliably be extracted from the vials, even with special syringes that the federal government is now providing to vaccination sites, which could add to the already complicated rollout process.

Some states and localities have been clamoring for more vaccines, while many others are struggling to use their existing supply. Overall, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 53 percent of the doses distributed have been administered.

Although that percentage has been rising as states get more efficient, Biden administration officials have cited an urgent need for both more vaccinators and vaccination centers. Mr. Biden has already directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin establishing federally supported community vaccination centers, aiming to have 100 centers in operation in the next month. And he intends to set up mobile vaccination units to reach underserved urban and rural populations.

At Kennedy Airport in New York on Monday. Several countries are imposing restrictions on international air travelers, including the United States.
Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Around the world, borders were being tightened this week as rising cases and the threat of more contagious virus variants taking hold prompted travel policy changes from the United States to Europe to Australia.

Even as the United States moved to impose travel restrictions, citing the danger of the fast-moving variants, a case of the variant spreading in Brazil was identified in Minnesota.

In Europe, France is moving to impose strict border measures, Britain is considering a mandatory hotel quarantine for some travelers, and the European Union is urging more coordinated action among member states to limit travel.

Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said on Tuesday that his country was considering “the reduction of air traffic to Germany to almost zero” to head off the spread of the variants. “The people who accept tough restrictions in Germany expect us to protect them as best we can from an explosion in infection numbers,” he told the Bild newspaper.

Already, a hospital in Berlin and another in the state of Bavaria have stopped taking any new patients and have sent much of their staff into quarantine after the B.1.1.7 variant was detected, raising fears that the country’s current safety measures were not stringent enough to meet the new threat.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand said on Tuesday that the country’s borders would remain closed until New Zealanders had been “vaccinated and protected.” Australia has suspended its travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours from Monday, after New Zealand confirmed a case outside its quarantine system of the variant found in South Africa.

As of Tuesday, the United States will begin requiring a negative virus test from all arriving international air travelers. The Biden administration has announced that it is extending a ban on travel by noncitizens into the United States from Brazil, Britain and 27 other European countries, and adding South Africa to the list.

The Brazil-based variant, known as B. or P.1, was identified Monday in a Minnesota resident who had recently traveled to Brazil, the state health authorities said, which could suggest that the variant might not yet be widely circulating.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to President Biden, said it was only a matter of time before the Brazil-based variant was detected in the United States. “With the world travel that you have, and the degree of transmissibility efficiency, it’s not surprising,” he said.

The variants have arrived just as there are signs of progress. Hospitalizations, after peaking in early January, are at their lowest level nationally since Dec. 13, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The average daily caseload in the United States is down by about one-third compared with two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database.

And after a slow start, the pace of vaccinations is picking up, and the United States already seems to be vaccinating well over a million people per day, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Biden said Monday that he is now aiming for the United States to administer 1.5 million doses a day, a 50 percent increase from his initial target.

But scientists fear much of the country’s momentum could be quickly halted if the variants continue to spread unchecked. They are especially anxious about the variants spreading in Brazil and South Africa, which share many mutations, because they may be able to blunt the effectiveness of vaccines.

The United States is flying blind, scientists have warned, as the country navigates the spread of the new variants without a large-scale, nationwide system for checking virus genomes for new mutations. Instead, the work of discovering the variants has fallen to a patchwork of academic, state and commercial laboratories.

Scientists say that a national surveillance program would be able to determine just how widespread the new variant is and help contain emerging hot spots, extending the crucial window of time in which vulnerable people across the country could get vaccinated.

A testing center at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Golf & Spa Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Credit…Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach

Beginning Tuesday, travelers from any foreign country flying into the United States must present proof of a negative test for the coronavirus. Many other countries have been requiring negative test results for months, but the United States has been less strict in its travel requirements.

While travel globally will be affected, especially in light of the Biden administration’s decision to bar travelers — excluding American citizens — from Brazil, Britain, Ireland, South Africa and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders, the biggest impact of the testing rule will be for destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, which have continued to attract American leisure travelers who cannot go to other parts of the world.

“We keep getting curveballs thrown at us in our whole industry,” said Jason Kycek, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Casa de Campo, a golf-and-beach resort in the Dominican Republic that is expanding its existing on-site testing facilities. “The finish line keeps moving, but we are staying on top of things and making sure our guests have what they need and can travel safely.”

Mexico and countries in the Caribbean have remained popular destinations for American travelers even as other destinations closed their borders, in part because of their proximity to the United States, making them relatively easy and affordable to reach. In the fall, several U.S. airlines added flights to the Caribbean islands and to Mexico at a time when routes elsewhere were being cut. In November, nearly 500,000 Americans flew to Mexico alone, according to official figures.

Under the new requirement, travelers will need to get tested no more than three days before their scheduled flight, showing a negative result to their airline before boarding. Those who have already had the virus will need to show documentation of recovery in the form of a recent positive viral test and a letter from a health care provider or a public health official stating they were cleared to travel.

The United States will accept results from rapid antigen tests, while other countries have been asking for what are known as polymerase chain reaction tests, or P.C.R. tests. Antigen tests have been found to be less reliable than P.C.R. tests.

For an industry already decimated by the pandemic, the new testing requirement may cut into any business rebound. Last week, United Airlines told reporters on its fourth-quarter earnings call that Mexican destinations were among the most affected by the new testing requirement.

A vaccine center in Tel Aviv. Israel has outstripped the rest of the world in inoculating its population, making it an international test case.
Credit…Oded Balilty/Associated Press

Israel, which leads the world in vaccinating its population against the coronavirus, has produced some encouraging news: Early results show a significant drop in infection after just one shot of a two-dose vaccine, and better than expected results after both doses.

Public health experts caution that the data, based on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, is preliminary and has not been subjected to clinical trials. Even so, Dr. Anat Ekka Zohar, the vice president of Maccabi Health Services, one of the Israeli health maintenance organizations that released the data, called it “very encouraging.”

In the first early report, Clalit, Israel’s largest health fund, compared 200,000 people aged 60 or over who received a first dose of the vaccine to a matched group of 200,000 who had not been vaccinated yet. It said that 14 to 18 days after their shots, the partly vaccinated patients were 33 percent less likely to be infected.

At about the same time, Maccabi’s research arm said it had found an even larger drop in infections after just one dose: a decrease of about 60 percent, 13 to 21 days after the first shot, in the first 430,000 people to receive it.

Maccabi did not specify an age group or whether it had compared the data with a matched, non-vaccinated cohort.

The Israeli Health Ministry and Maccabi released on Monday new data on people who had received both doses of the vaccine, showing extremely high rates of effectiveness.

The ministry found that of 428,000 Israelis who had received their second doses, only 63, or 0.014 percent, had contracted the virus a week later. Similarly, the Maccabi data showed that more than a week after having received the second dose, only 20 of roughly 128,600 people, about 0.01 percent, had contracted the virus.

In clinical trials, the Pfizer vaccine proved 95 percent effective after two doses in preventing coronavirus infection in people without evidence of previous infection. The Israeli results, if they hold up, suggest the efficacy could be even higher, though rigorous comparisons to unvaccinated people have not yet been published.

Both Clalit and Maccabi warned that their findings were preliminary and said they would soon be followed by more in-depth statistical analysis in peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Israel, where more than 40 percent of the population has already received one dose of the vaccine, has become something of an international test case for vaccination efficacy.

An outbreak at Greene Correctional Facility near Albany was linked to cases at an assisted-living facility and an elementary school, officials said last fall.
Credit…Will Waldron, via The Times Union

When New York announced new vaccine eligibility guidelines two weeks ago covering millions of additional state residents, one particularly hard-hit group remained unmentioned: the nearly 50,000 people incarcerated in the state’s prisons and jails.

Now, with state supplies dwindling and no clear plan for vaccinating incarcerated people, the virus is roaring back behind bars. At least 5,100 people living and working in New York’s prisons have tested positive and 12 have died in recent weeks, outpacing even the early days of the pandemic.

But how and when to vaccinate incarcerated people as millions around the state wait has raised legal, logistical and ethical questions.

Across the country, the arrival of a vaccine was hailed as a harbinger of the pandemic’s eventual end. But administering the limited supply has proved challenging, and correctional facilities — where more than half a million people have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic — present additional complications.

Officials grappling with the same difficult questions have come to different conclusions, creating a patchwork of policies and timelines, according to an analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative, a research nonprofit devoted to reducing mass incarceration. But at least 27 states directly name inmates in their public plans, and about a dozen place them in the first phases of vaccine distribution, including Massachusetts, where tens of thousands of prisoners are to be vaccinated by the end of February.

Other states plan to vaccinate prison and jail workers before incarcerated people, breaking with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends vaccinating everyone at correctional facilities simultaneously. Some, like New York, do not address those behind bars at all.

Vaccinating incarcerated people in the early stages of distribution has proved politically fraught. In New York, state senators have questioned whether prioritizing people in prisons makes sense. In Colorado, a draft plan to offer the vaccine inside prisons was met with fierce opposition for, as one district attorney wrote in The Denver Post, prioritizing “the health of incarcerated murderers” ahead of “law-abiding Coloradans 65 and older.”

New York officials said the state was preparing a plan. Public health experts broadly agree that incarcerated people are at particularly high risk for contracting and spreading the virus; at least 8,800 people living or working in New York’s prison system have tested positive since the start of the pandemic.

And because guards, lawyers, workers and people entering and leaving custody move between the facilities and the community at large, the public health implications of outbreaks behind bars extend far beyond the prison walls.Officials said last fall that an outbreak at Greene Correctional Facility near Albany was linked to cases at an assisted-living facility and an elementary school.

A cemetery in Chislehurst, England, this month. Deaths are rising in Britain as it confronts a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus.
Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain promised on Tuesday to “learn lessons” from the coronavirus pandemic, as he acknowledged that the country had surpassed 100,000 total deaths.

“Its hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic — the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended, and for so many relatives, the missed chance even to say goodbye,” Mr. Johnson said.

He called for the country to remember the lives lost and the efforts of the country’s health care workers as they struggle to help the afflicted and to contain the spread of the virus.

“I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost, and as prime minister, I take full responsibility for everything that the government has done,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that the government would do everything in its power “to minimize, loss of life and to minimize suffering.”

The British government is preparing to announce tighter restrictions to combat a surge in new fast-spreading variants of the virus, which could include a mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers arriving from abroad. Mr. Johnson did not elaborate on those plans during his news conference.

Nadhim Zahawi, the British vaccine minister, told Sky News that an announcement on the travel rules would come later on Tuesday, but he declined to give details.

New data released by the Office for National Statistics earlier in the day put the total number of registered deaths in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales at 103,602 through Jan. 15.

The country has had some success in getting vaccinations going quickly. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the National Health Service, said on Tuesday that so far, one in eight adults in the country had received the first of the two required vaccine doses. But he cautioned that there were still difficult times ahead.

“This is not a year that anybody is going to want to remember,” Mr. Stevens said.

Cyclists often lock bikes to street signs, breaking a law that is rarely enforced.
Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times

The pandemic set off an extraordinary surge in biking in New York City as people sought to avoid public transit and embrace new ways to exercise.

But now the spike has run headlong into a familiar problem on the city’s congested streets: no parking.

Cyclists have rolled up to apartment buildings, offices, stores and restaurants only to find nowhere to leave their bikes. Many lug them inside, or improvise makeshift parking by locking them to street signs — breaking a city law that is rarely enforced — or trees, gates and fences.

The lack of parking, cyclists and advocates complain, has helped fuel a jump in bike thefts.

Even as New York has created the largest urban bike network in the nation with 1,375 miles of bike lanes and a thriving bike-share program, it has lagged well behind other cities in making bike parking spots widely available, transportation experts and advocates say.

New York has roughly 56,000 bike parking spots on its streets, sidewalks and plazas. Most are part of bike racks, though there are 83 corrals — car parking spots converted to hold bikes — and 20 shelters that shield bikes from snow and rain. (The 56,000 does not include the sharing program Citi Bike, which has 38,000 spaces in about 1,100 docking stations.)

By comparison, London has three times as much bike parking, with more than 150,000 cycling spaces on its streets and at least 20,000 additional spaces at Underground and rail stations. There are also more than 1,500 spaces in curbside cycle hangers, where residents leave their bikes inside a small metal dome.

Some American cities have increased efforts to create more bike parking during the pandemic. Chicago installed nearly 2,000 new spaces last year on racks and in corrals and plans to add 900 more this spring for a total of roughly 34,260.

In New York, cycling had boomed even before the pandemic, with 490,000 daily bike trips in 2017, up from 150,000 in 2000, according to a 2019 city report. Nearly 1.6 million New Yorkers are bike riders, the report said, with almost half getting on a bike at least several times a month.

A patient receiving an injection of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Brighton, England, on Tuesday.
Credit…Ben Stansall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Germany’s Health Ministry has denied widely criticized and thinly sourced reports in local news outlets that AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is barely effective in protecting older people, stressing that the data was still being reviewed as European Union regulators consider approving the vaccine.

“The German Ministry of Health cannot confirm recent reports of reduced efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, after two leading German newspapers reported that the vaccine had proved effective in just 8 percent of people over 65.

“At first glance, it appears that two things have been confused in the reports: About 8 percent of the subjects in the AstraZeneca efficacy trial were between 56 and 69 years of age, and only 3 to 4 percent were over 70 years of age,” the ministry said. “However, this does not imply an efficacy of only 8 percent in seniors.”

The German health minister, Jens Spahn, called the reports “speculation” early Tuesday and pointed out that the available data had not yet been fully assessed.

“It has long been clear — there was a discussion in the fall — that there is less data for older people,” Mr. Spahn said.

AstraZeneca refuted the initial reports in the German media on the effectiveness of the vaccine, calling them “completely incorrect.” AstraZeneca and Oxford, which developed the vaccine, have not released figures on how effective the vaccine is for different age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for emergency use in several countries, including Britain, India and Mexico, but not yet in the European Union. The company applied for authorization on Jan. 12, and the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, is expected to announce its decision on Friday.

The reports come amid growing concern in Germany over the sluggish start to the country’s mass vaccination program, after AstraZeneca informed Brussels on Friday that it would not be able to deliver the anticipated number of doses to the European Union, because of slow production at a manufacturing site within the bloc.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr. Spahn have pledged to make vaccines available by Sept. 21 to all adults in Germany who want the shot. That promise is dependent on the country receiving the 56.2 million does of the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on its original delivery pledge.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico this month. He disclosed on Sunday that he had contracted Covid-19.
Credit…Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times

For nearly a year, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, had minimized the pandemic, claiming that religious amulets protected him, refusing to wear a mask and even drinking from the same clay pot as supporters. It was only a matter of time until he got sick himself, some Mexicans said.

With the president now infected, what most aggrieved many Mexicans was not only that he had flouted basic safety precautions, but also that he may go back to playing down the threat that the surging pandemic poses after his own illness.

They noted that with top-notch medical care delivered at his living quarters, the president may well recover. Their loved ones, on the other hand, will struggle to get the most basic care.

A devastated Mexico is struggling to rein in the pandemic. Last Thursday, the authorities announced more than 1,800 coronavirus deaths, breaking the record of single-day deaths set just days earlier.

In Mexico City, hospitals are at 89 percent capacity, according to the most recent health ministry figures, while nationwide, the figure is 60 percent. Across the country, more than half of all hospital beds with ventilators are full.

So far, more than 1.7 million people have contracted the virus in Mexico and more than 150,000 people have died. That is the fourth-highest death toll in the world.

Amid widespread mistrust of hospitals, many infected people choose to stay home — and often die there. The cause of death may not be listed as Covid-19. That, combined with the country’s low levels of testing, means the pandemic’s true toll is most likely far worse than the official one.

On Monday, the day after the president disclosed his infection, Carlos Slim, a telecommunications tycoon who is the richest man in Mexico, was also reported to have contracted the virus. His son said on Twitter that Mr. Slim, who turns 81 this week, had mild symptoms and was doing “very well.”

While Mr. López Obrador also said that his symptoms were mild and that he “remained positive,” doctors warned that the 67-year-old heart attack survivor was in a high-risk category.

And it remains to be seen if his own bout with the virus will change his attitude toward it.

Mr. López Obrador is not the first world leader to fall ill with coronavirus.

Early last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain famously persisted in shaking hands with Covid-19 patients and later was admitted to a hospital himself after contracting the illness.

Mr. Johnson emerged sounding chastened, and with a new, intimate awareness of the virus’s danger. He went on to embrace mask wearing and lockdowns and other measures designed to help stem transmission.

But in Mexico, some public health experts fear their leader will go more the way of former President Donald J. Trump, who beat the virus last year and then continued to play down the pandemic and undermine health officials’ recommendations.

The Flaming Lips have used plastic bubbles at concerts to protect against the transmission of the coronavirus, but some experts were unsure about the effectiveness of those measures.
Credit…Scott Booker

There are Covid-19 bubbles — small clusters of friends or family who agree to socialize exclusively with each other during the pandemic — and then there are the kinds of bubbles the Flaming Lips used at recent concerts.

Band members and concertgoers alike rocked out and bounced while encased in large individual plastic bubbles amid bright swirling lights in trippy scenes at concerts on Friday and Saturday in Oklahoma City.

The band has taken the elaborate precautions at its live performances to protect against the transmission of the coronavirus, but some health experts were unsure about the effectiveness of those measures.

“I’d need to see how the air exchange was occurring between the outside and the inside of the bubbles to be able to say if it were safe over all or reduced risk of transmission,” said Dr. Eric Cioe-Peña, the director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

The Flaming Lips, an indie rock band founded in the early 1980s, who are known for their exuberant live shows and recording experiments, performed a similar concert in October. They also performed their song “Race for the Prize” in June using the spheres on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

The concerts on Friday and Saturday were originally scheduled for December, but the band postponed them because of rising Covid-19 cases in the Oklahoma City metro area.

“It’s a very restricted, weird event,” the band’s frontman, Wayne Coyne, told Rolling Stone last month. “But the weirdness is so we can enjoy a concert before putting our families and everybody at risk.”

Global Roundup

Medical workers examining a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Bogor, Indonesia, on Monday.
Credit…Adek Berry/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Indonesia officially passed one million coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with many hospitals near capacity even as vaccinations are underway. As in many countries, however, the true number of infections is likely to be much higher.

Indonesia, which has the world’s fourth-largest population at more than 270 million, never succeeded in containing its first wave of infections, and the daily numbers of new cases and deaths have surged to their highest levels in the past 10 days.

On Tuesday, officials reported 13,094 new cases and 336 deaths for a total of 1,012,350 cases, the highest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is the 19th country to surpass one million cases, and among Asian nations it trails only India in the number of cases.

Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist who studies pandemics and global health security at Griffith University in Australia, has been saying for months that Indonesia is undercounting its case numbers by a third or more.

He estimates that the country has at least 60,000 new infections each day, more than four times what the government is reporting.

“The response they give to the pandemic is not equal to the problem,” said Dr. Dicky, a former Indonesian health official.

Though Indonesia began its vaccination program almost two weeks ago, it is likely to be some time before there is a significant effect on new infections. A government spokesman said that as of Tuesday, 162,000 people had received the first of two doses of the vaccine made by Sinovac, a private Chinese company. With a population spread across thousands of islands, experts say vaccinating enough Indonesians to reach herd immunity could take a year or more.

Here’s what else is happening around the world:

  • Violent protests erupted for the third night in cities across the Netherlands, with stores looted and rocks and fireworks thrown at police officers in response to a national 9 p.m. curfew that went into effect on Saturday. In total, the police arrested more than 150 people nationwide, the police chief told the Dutch broadcaster NOS.

    Politicians echoed a similar sentiment. “What’s happening in the Dutch streets is unprecedented,” Wopke Hoekstra, the finance minister, told Dutch television on Tuesday. Ferd Grapperhaus, the justice minister, called the violence “outrageous” and indicated that the protests were no reason to rethink the strict lockdown measures. “We need the curfew,” Mr. Grapperhaus said.

  • France announced on Tuesday that it would not delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to quickly maximize the number of people receiving a first shot, as some countries have done. The French health minister, Olivier Véran, said at a news conference that the debate on delaying the second dose was “legitimate” but that it was still unclear how efficient the vaccine would be if administered six weeks after the first shot, instead of the recommended three to four weeks. “I am choosing the security of confirmed data,” Mr. Véran said.

  • A World Health Organization panel of experts recommended on Tuesday that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine be given in two doses spaced 28 days apart, which could be extended under exceptional circumstances to 42 days. The guidance was issued by the organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization several weeks after it issued similar guidance on the rival Pfizer shot, according to Reuters.

The European health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, speaking at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Monday.
Credit…Pool photo by John Thys

The European Union escalated a war of words with AstraZeneca on Monday over the company’s sudden announcement on Friday that it would have to drastically cut the number of vaccine doses delivered to the bloc and its 27 members.

The European health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said a call with the company’s leadership on Monday had not yielded sufficient answers as to why the company was breaking its contractual obligation and said another call would be held on Monday evening.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca, said: “Our C.E.O. Pascal Soriot was pleased to speak with the Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier today. He stressed the importance of working in partnership and how AstraZeneca is doing everything it can to bring its vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.”

The AstraZeneca debacle delivers a serious blow to the bloc’s sluggish vaccination rollout, and comes days after Pfizer notified E.U. members and several other countries that it would slow down deliveries until mid-February as it upgraded its Belgium factory to increase production.

The twin disappointments have left several E.U. countries hamstrung, and have thwarted the bloc’s collective effort to vaccinate 70 percent of its population by this summer, as Britain and the United States are making better progress with their inoculation programs.

“The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and its production, and wants to see the return,” Ms. Kyriakides said, implying that the E.U. was concerned the company had sold the vaccines the bloc had funded to other countries.

“The European Union wants to know exactly which doses have been produced, where by AstraZeneca so far, and if, or to whom, they have been delivered,” she added.

Ms. Kyriakides also said that the European Commission, the executive branch of the E.U., was proposing its members approve a system in which pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca that produce vaccines in plants in E.U. territory would need to register any intention to export part of that production outside the bloc.

Vials being inspected at the Regeneron’s facilities in New York state, for efforts on an experimental coronavirus antibody drug.
Credit…Regeneron, via Associated Press

The drug maker Regeneron said on Tuesday that its Covid-19 antibody cocktail prevented illness in the family members of people who had tested positive for the virus, according to an early analysis of a clinical trial that has not yet been published in a scientific journal.

The antibody cocktail was authorized last fall to treat people who have already tested positive and are at high risk for complications from Covid-19, but this study looked at whether an injection of the cocktail — what they called a “passive vaccine” — could prevent infections.

The company said an early analysis of 400 trial participants found that the treatment completely prevented symptomatic infections, and also reduced the rate of asymptomatic infections. Among the 186 volunteers who received the treatment, 10 were infected with the virus but did not get sick. In contrast, of the 223 people who got a placebo, 23 tested positive for the virus and eight became ill with symptoms.

Regeneron is one of two companies — Eli Lilly is the other — that developed specially engineered antibodies to combat the virus soon after people are infected. Last fall, both companies received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to administer the drugs to people who are already infected with the virus.

Last week, Eli Lilly also released results from a trial showing that its antibody treatment prevented infections in nursing homes where an outbreak had occurred.

Despite the treatments’ early promise, the drugs have been sitting unused in many hospitals, even as the country has experienced a record wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Doctors and hospital administrators have cited a range of reasons for not using the treatments more frequently, including challenges identifying the right patients, questions over whether they work, and logistical hurdles in administering the cocktails, which must be given as infusions in a clinic. (Regeneron’s preventive trial gave the antibodies as an injection instead.)

Regeneron has received more than $3 billion in federal funding to develop the antibody treatments and provide them to Americans.

In a statement on Tuesday, Regeneron’s president and chief scientific officer, Dr. George D. Yancopoulos, suggested that the treatment could be used to “break the chain” of transmission even as vaccines are slowly being rolled out. “Even with the emerging availability of active vaccines, we continue to see hundreds of thousands of people infected daily, actively spreading the virus to their close contacts,” he said.


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