Covid-19 Live Updates: Vaccine Mandate and Boosters News

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Credit…Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators on Tuesday to expand authorization of their coronavirus booster shot to include all adults, a move could significantly expand the number of recipients who are eligible for booster shots.

The Food and Drug Administration is considered likely to grant the request, perhaps before Thanksgiving, according to people familiar with the situation. The federal government has been intent on broadening the categories of people eligible for additional injections since the first booster shots were authorized for emergency use in late September.

An advisory board of outside experts to the Food and Drug Administration voted in September against a similar request from Pfizer to offer shots to the general population. Instead, the committee recommended booster shots on an emergency basis for those 65 and older or at high risk of Covid-19 because of their medical conditions or jobs. Those categories were still broad enough to cover at least 60 percent of the population, administration officials said.

Experts remain divided on whether booster shots are necessary for the rest of the population, with many insisting that the vaccines continue to offer robust protection against severe disease and hospitalization, especially for younger people without underlying medical conditions. And there is virtually unanimous agreement that vaccinating the roughly 60 million Americans ages 12 and older who have yet to receive even their first shot should remain the government’s highest priority.

For younger, healthy people, the benefits of a booster injection will be marginal, according to Dr. Eric Rubin, a member of the F.D.A.’s advisory panel and an adjunct professor of immunology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

Even so, some leading experts argue that the case for booster shots for the general population is stronger now than it was two months ago. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, said earlier this month that most recent data from Israel shows that nation’s aggressive booster campaign has dramatically limited rates of severe disease, hospitalization and death.

The F.D.A. has the authority to modify Pfizer-BioNTech’s current emergency use authorization and is not expected to reconvene its advisory panel. Pfizer’s plan to file a new request was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

President Biden said in August that he wanted all adults to be eligible for booster shots because of concerns that the vaccines’ protection against infection wanes over time. The administration was aiming to roll out boosters by the third week of September, but was forced to delay after regulators said they needed more time to analyze the data.

At this point, adult recipients of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are eligible for a third shot six months after their second injection if they are at least 65 years old or considered at special risk.

All Johnson & Johnson recipients are eligible for a second shot as a booster. And adult recipients of all three vaccines are allowed to pick which vaccine they would prefer as a booster shot.

Nearly 25 million people have received additional shots so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including those who are eligible because of immune deficiencies. That’s about 14 percent of people who have been fully vaccinated.

Moderna is also expected to soon request a broadening of its emergency use authorization for its booster dose, according to people familiar with the situation. But experts have said that request may be more complicated because of concerns about rare cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, especially in men under the age of 30 who have received two doses of Moderna’s vaccine.

Similar concerns have been raised about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but to a lesser extent. One possibility is that the age restriction for a Moderna booster could be lowered, but not to 18.

At a White House press briefing earlier this month,Dr. Fauci said new data shows “rather dramatic results” from Israel’s booster campaign with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

An Israeli study published in the scientific journal The Lancet in late October compared about 730,000 people who have received a booster dose in August or September with individuals who received only two doses at least five months earlier. The study included recipients 12 and up; the median age was 52.

Compared to the two-dose recipients, the boosted recipients had a 93 percent lower risk of hospitalization, 92 percent lower risk of severe disease and 81 percent lower risk of death, the study found. The boosted recipients were evaluated at least one week after their third dose.

Dr. Rubin, the F.D.A. advisory committee member, said Israeli booster data presented to the panel in September was mostly limited to people 60 and older. Israel’s more recent data is reassuring, he said, because “as they moved into younger groups they really weren’t seeing any significant safety signals.”

Dr. Rubin also said that many Americans appear to be getting booster shots whether or not they are officially eligible, so maintaining complicated eligibility categories may not work anyway. “People are voting with their feet,” he said.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this item misstated the timing of when Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to ask federal regulators to expand authorization of their coronavirus booster shot to include all adults. It is Tuesday, not Wednesday.

Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Moderna and the National Institutes of Health are in a bitter dispute over who deserves credit for inventing the central component of the company’s powerful coronavirus vaccine, a conflict that has broad implications for the vaccine’s long-term distribution and billions of dollars in future profits.

The vaccine grew out of a four-year collaboration between Moderna and the N.I.H., the government’s biomedical research agency — a partnership that was widely hailed when the shot was found to be highly effective. The government called it the “N.I.H.-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine” at the time.

The agency says three scientists at its Vaccine Research Center — Dr. John R. Mascola, the center’s director; Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who is now at Harvard — worked with Moderna scientists to invent the process that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named on the “principal patent application.”

Moderna disagrees. In a July filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the company said it had “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the component in question. Its application for the patent, which has not yet been issued, names several of its own employees as the sole inventors.

The N.I.H. had been in talks with Moderna for more than a year to try to resolve the dispute; the company’s July filing caught the agency by surprise, according to a government official familiar with the matter. It is unclear when the patent office will act, but its role is simply to determine whether a patent is warranted. If the two sides do not come to terms by the time a patent is issued, the government will have to decide whether to go to court — a battle that could be costly and messy.

The dispute is about much more than scientific accolades or ego. If the three agency scientists are named on the patent along with the Moderna employees, the federal government could have more of a say in which companies manufacture the vaccine, which in turn could influence which countries get access. It would also secure a nearly unfettered right to license the technology, which could bring millions into the federal treasury.

The fight comes amid mounting frustration in the U.S. government and elsewhere with Moderna’s limited efforts to get its vaccine to poorer countries. The company, which has not previously brought a product to market, received nearly $10 billion in taxpayer funding to develop the vaccine, test it and provide doses to the federal government. It has already lined up supply deals worth about $35 billion through the end of 2022.

Credit…Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Canada’s health agency authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine nationwide on Tuesday, broadening eligibility for third doses to anyone over the age of 18.

Health Canada, the federal department responsible for approving drugs, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization had previously updated vaccine guidelines in September to recommend booster shots for seniors living in congregate settings and for people with compromised immune systems.

The new guidelines cite early evidence from two studies in Israel, including an Oct. 7 article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that rates of “severe illness were substantially lower” for those who received a third Pfizer-BioNTech dose. Israel approved those booster shots on July 30.

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

In Canada, where the administration of health care falls under provincial control, some provinces had already begun to offer booster doses based on the interim federal guidelines. On Oct. 29, eligibility was expanded to frontline health workers, adults over 70, First Nations communities, and people who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Provinces including Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have already begun administering booster shots to these populations, or to people traveling to countries that require certain vaccines.

The Health Canada announcement on Tuesday standardized eligibility criteria across the country. The agency recommended that adults receive the Pfizer booster at least six months after their second dose.

Pfizer is also seeking regulatory approval for its vaccine to be administered to children aged 5 to 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month, with the country slated to receive 2.9 million pediatric doses when the authorization is granted.

As of Oct. 30, close to 74 percent of the country’s population was fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

All frontline health workers in England will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by next spring to keep their jobs, Britain’s health secretary said on Tuesday, a move that employers and trade unions warned could aggravate staff shortages.

“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the N.H.S., protect colleagues in the N.H.S. and, of course, protect the N.H.S. itself,” Sajid Javid, the health secretary, told Parliament, referring to the National Health Service. He added that about 90 percent of the service’s workers had received at least two vaccine doses.

The measure, which is subject to parliamentary approval, is due to come into force on April 1. Exemptions will be available for people who are medically prevented from receiving vaccines and for health workers who have no face-to-face contact with patients.

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

That time frame is intended to ensure that workers who do not want to be vaccinated remain in their jobs during the winter, when the strain on the country’s overstretched health service is likely to be particularly acute.

Mr. Javid said he had decided against making flu vaccination compulsory for the moment.

England’s health service employs around 1.3 million workers, though not all are in frontline positions. About 80,000 to 100,000 N.H.S. workers in the country remain unvaccinated against Covid, according to Chris Hopson, the chief executive of N.H.S. Providers, a membership organization for the N.H.S. hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can make their own decisions on the issue, and so far have not put forward proposals.

Compulsory vaccination is also a sensitive issue in the United States, and the Biden administration is pushing to introduce a coronavirus vaccine mandate for large businesses.

In Britain, one main concern is that people reluctant to be vaccinated will quit their jobs and worsen staff shortages within a health service that is under acute strain and that expects more pressure as winter sets in.

People working in care homes are required to be vaccinated as of Thursday. Some are thought to have quit their jobs and opted to work instead in the National Health Service.

Mr. Hopson said that, although there was a risk that unvaccinated workers could infect patients and colleagues, staff shortages also posed a danger to public health.

“The problem for both social care and the N.H.S. is that we run these systems incredibly hot on very, very fine margins,” he told the BBC. “Both of us have got around 90,000 to 100,000 vacancies.”

“We are completely reliant on our staff to currently work extra shifts in order to do the work that needs to be done,” he added, “so losing significant numbers of staff, particularly given the pressures both systems are under at the moment, is a real, real problem.”

Trade unions issued more blunt warnings.

“Bulldozing this vaccine will exacerbate the already crushing staffing crisis we face across the N.H.S. and ambulance services,” said Rachel Harrison, a national officer at the GMB union. “Both are operating under extreme pressures, after a decade of austerity and cuts, with an exhausted and demoralized work force who are fearful of what is to come as we head through winter.”

Credit…Adrienne Surprenant/Associated Press

President Emmanuel Macron of France announced the tightening of a key anti-coronavirus measure on Tuesday, as virus cases kept rising across France and the rest of Europe.

In a televised speech, Mr. Macron called the trends worrying and urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible.

People over 65 years old, he said, will now have to get a booster shot to remain eligible for a vaccine “passport” that is required to gain access to restaurants, museums, long-distance trains and other public places. The new rule takes effect Dec. 15.

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

France already has a fairly high vaccination rate, with 69 percent of its population fully vaccinated. Even so, reports of new Covid-19 cases have been increasing in recent weeks, as have hospital admissions, which Mr. Macron called an alarm signal.

An average of 40 Covid-related deaths a day are being reported by hospitals. The figure has risen by 60 percent in a week, though it remains only one-tenth of the figure seen a year ago, when no vaccines were available.

France is the latest European country to experience a resurgence in the virus. Germany set a record this month for new cases reported in a day, and Britain is in the middle of a surge, three months after all restrictions were lifted.

The World Health Organization warned last week that Europe was back at the epicenter of the pandemic and that half a million people on the continent could die from Covid in the next few months.

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U.S. Calls for Release of Detained Chinese Citizen Journalist

The U.S. State Department urged China to release Zhang Zhan, who was prosecuted for documenting the country’s coronavirus crisis. Ms. Zhang’s family and friends said she was seriously ill in a Shanghai prison and could die if she did not receive treatment.

The United States is deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of P.R.C. citizen journalist Ms. Zhang Zhan. According to multiple reports citing her relatives comments, Ms. Zhang is near death. In December of 2020, Beijing authorities sentenced Ms. Zhang to four years in prison on charges associated with her journalism on Covid-19 in Wuhan. The United States, along with other diplomatic missions, we have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about the arbitrary nature of her detention and her mistreatment during it. We reiterate our call to the P.R.C. for her immediate and unconditional release, and for Beijing to respect the free press and the right of people to express themselves freely.

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The U.S. State Department urged China to release Zhang Zhan, who was prosecuted for documenting the country’s coronavirus crisis. Ms. Zhang’s family and friends said she was seriously ill in a Shanghai prison and could die if she did not receive treatment.CreditCredit…Melanie Wang, via Associated Press

The first known person to be prosecuted for documenting China’s coronavirus crisis is seriously ill in a Shanghai prison and could die if she does not receive treatment, her family and friends say — a disclosure that has drawn renewed attention to China’s efforts to whitewash its early handling of the pandemic.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department called on the Chinese government to immediately release the woman, Zhang Zhan. Human Rights Watch has called for the same.

“We have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about the arbitrary nature of her detention and her mistreatment during it,” a State Department spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters.

China has worked aggressively to silence critics of its response early in the pandemic, when it played down the virus’s spread and punished whistle-blowers. It has promoted a triumphant, nationalistic narrative of Chinese superiority, focusing on later success in containing new cases.

Ms. Zhang, 38, was one of several self-styled citizen journalists who traveled to the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, early last year. As the chaos of the initial outbreak, followed by strict government controls on information, made it difficult for outsiders to know what was happening in Wuhan, those citizen journalists posted videos and blog posts to social media to share what they were seeing.

Ms. Zhang visited a hospital, where she filmed beds crowding the hallway, and a crematory. She interviewed residents on the street about their livelihood concerns and asked how they viewed the government’s response.

In May 2020, after several months of dispatches, she disappeared. Her family was later told that she had been arrested and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catchall term that the Chinese authorities use to silence critics. In December, she was sentenced to four years in prison.

Not long after being arrested, Ms. Zhang began a hunger strike, according to her lawyers. One of her lawyers, Zhang Keke, said last year that her hands had been bound during one of his visits; she told him that it was to prevent her from pulling out tubes for force-feeding.

Ms. Zhang has continued to refuse most food since her trial, according to friends and rights activists. She was briefly hospitalized over the summer. Her health has continued to deteriorate: Ms. Zhang, who is 5-foot-10 and once weighed about 165 pounds, appeared to weigh less than 90 pounds in October, according to a Twitter post late last month by her brother, Zhang Ju.

“I think she probably cannot live much longer,” he wrote, adding in a separate post that his mother had recently spoken with Ms. Zhang.

Mr. Zhang could not immediately be reached for comment, but friends of Ms. Zhang confirmed that the Twitter account was his.

Mr. Zhang shared a photo of his sister around age 6 or 7, dancing on a bed at home. “I have never met anyone purer than her,” he said, “nor have I met anyone more determined.”

Credit…Saint Michael’s College

Officials at a college in Colchester, Vt., are blaming Halloween parties for a Covid outbreak, which comes as the state of Vermont has reported a record number of coronavirus cases over the past week.

The virus is surging in Vermont as more people gather inside to avoid the cold weather. Experts warn that holiday gatherings could lead to more cases this winter.

New daily cases have increased 51 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations are also trending upward, fueling anxiety about the state’s hospital capacity as winter approaches.

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.

Vermont is testing for Covid more than most states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Last week, its Republican governor, Phil Scott, said in a statement that while testing had increased and the state’s positivity rate had stayed roughly the same, Vermonters needed to take all precautions they could. He also warned that if cases remain as high as they are, it “would be a significant strain” on the state’s hospitals.

At Saint Michael’s College, a liberal-arts school north of Burlington, 77 students tested positive for the virus this week and last week, according to the college’s Covid-19 dashboard. In letters to the school, Lorraine Sterritt, the college president, said that Halloween parties had fueled the outbreak.

“We were doing really well as a community up to the point where there were numerous Halloween parties where students were unmasked and in close contact,” she said in the letter on Sunday.

Before the post-Halloween surge, the college had reported 11 cases from Aug. 27 to Oct. 22, according to the dashboard. Saint Michael’s has about 1,700 students.

“To be in this situation after such a well-managed semester is heartbreaking,” Ms. Sterritt said in a letter on Friday. “It is imperative that everyone make wise choices.”

The college on Sunday suspended “in-person student social gatherings” through Thanksgiving and asked that students limit off-campus travel. The school moved its classes online on Friday amid the outbreak, but Ms. Sterritt said that in-person classes would continue this week.

Vermont is grappling with its highest number of new cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times database, even though it has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

Credit…Edgar Su/Reuters

Singapore will no longer cover the medical costs of Covid-19 patients who are eligible to get vaccinated against the virus but choose not to, the country’s Health Ministry said.

“We will begin charging Covid-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice” on Dec. 8, the ministry said in a statement on Monday. Those who are not eligible for the shots will be exempt from the rule, it said, including children under 12 and people with certain medical conditions.

The number of severe cases, which have been mainly among unvaccinated people, has stabilized but remains high, the ministry said. Of about 280 intensive-care beds for Covid patients, 134 are occupied, and most are among those not vaccinated, a senior minister of state, Janil Puthucheary, said at a news conference.

“We have to continue to try to keep this number as small as possible,” he said, since health care workers “continue to be stretched.”

Singapore has vaccinated more than 80 percent of its population, outpacing most other countries. But the sustained numbers of severe cases have put such a strain on Singapore’s health care system that officials said they would expand the overall hospital capacity to 4,000 hospital beds from 2,500 by the end of the month.

Most Covid patients vulnerable to severe illness and requiring intensive care are people ages 60 and over, Mr. Puthucheary said. At least 6 percent of people 60 and over in Singapore have yet to get shots, according to the Health Ministry.

“We have to send this important signal to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible,” the health minister, Ong Ye Kung, said at the news conference.

Patients who are unvaccinated by choice may still use other health care financing options to pay their bills, such as government subsidies and private insurance, it added. Even for those who are unvaccinated, billing “will still be highly supported and highly subsidized,” Mr. Ong said.

Singapore will continue to cover partly vaccinated patients until Dec. 31 to allow them time to get their second shots, the health ministry said.

To encourage vaccinations, the officials said they would also begin allowing five fully vaccinated people from any household to dine in restaurants together starting on Wednesday, up from the two that are currently allowed.

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Thousands Protest New Zealand’s Covid-19 Mandates

About 3,000 people gathered in New Zealand’s capital to protest against coronavirus vaccination requirements and restrictions, forcing a lockdown of Parliament.

Crowd: “Freedom. Freedom.” “What do we want?” “Freedom.” “When do we want it?” “Now.” “What do we want?” “Freedom.” “When do we want it?” “Now.”

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About 3,000 people gathered in New Zealand’s capital to protest against coronavirus vaccination requirements and restrictions, forcing a lockdown of Parliament.CreditCredit…Neil Sands/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

About 3,000 people marched through Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, on Tuesday to protest vaccination requirements and coronavirus restrictions, forcing a lockdown of Parliament and closure of local streets.

New Zealand’s government has in recent weeks announced sweeping vaccine mandates for about 40 percent of the country’s workers, as well as requirements for vaccination certificates to gain access to most nonessential services, including restaurants, gyms and public events. Thousands of people working in health care are expected to lose their jobs on Monday when some of these vaccine mandates go into effect.

The protest, organized by a group that calls itself the Freedom and Rights Coalition, blocked streets in the central city. While many people carried either the New Zealand or the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, which is widely used by Maori advocacy groups, a handful of protesters flew banners in support of former President Donald J. Trump, whose base of supporters in the United States has rallied against vaccine and mask mandates.

At least one person covered their face with a picture of Mr. Trump’s face, an apparent shorthand for the resistance to the kind of health restrictions imposed by government officials like New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

No arrests were made, a police spokesman said.

Before the protests, the New Zealand government had increased security, closing off most access points. Parliament had not locked down this heavily in response to a protest in many decades, a government official told the local news media.

Other demonstrations were held around the country. In Northland, New Zealand’s northernmost region, about 50 protesters blocked a police checkpoint for more than an hour, according to a statement from the New Zealand police. One protester bit an officer as the police tried to move protesters off the road, a spokeswoman for the police said.

Covid-related disinformation in New Zealand has increased since August, when the country went into lockdown in response to an outbreak of the Delta variant, according to a working paper published this week by the University of Auckland.

“Covid-19 and vaccination are being used as a kind of Trojan Horse for norm-setting and norm-entrenchment of far-right ideologies,” the paper said.

Ms. Ardern assailed the protests.

“What we saw today was not representative of the vast bulk of New Zealanders,” Ms. Ardern, the country’s prime minister, said.

New Zealanders have been broadly supportive of vaccination efforts, with nearly 90 percent of people aged 12 and up having received at least one dose of a vaccine as of Tuesday.

Credit…Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When news broke that Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, had tested positive for the coronavirus last week and was unvaccinated, Mr. Rodgers justified his decision to not get inoculated by speaking out against the highly effective vaccines and spewing a stream of misinformation and junk science.

Medical professionals were disheartened not just because it will make it harder for them to persuade adults to get vaccinated, but also because they are starting to vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds.

The N.F.L. is investigating whether Mr. Rodgers and the Packers violated any of the league’s expansive Covid-19 protocols, which were developed with the N.F.L. Players Association. Mr. Rodgers admitted to flouting those protocols, including attending a Halloween party with teammates where he appeared in videos unmasked. The Packers and Mr. Rodgers could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for not adhering to the rules.

Mr. Rodgers is in the midst of a 10-day isolation period and did not play in the Packers’ 13-7 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. Like all unvaccinated N.F.L. players who test positive, he must provide two negative tests, taken 24 hours apart, after his isolation to return to the field, which could come as soon as Saturday.

Vaccination rates in the N.F.L. are high compared with the general U.S. population. Nearly every coach and staff member who is around players is vaccinated, and 94 percent of the 2,000 or so players have been inoculated, according to the league.

Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Hong Kong’s latest “zero Covid” policy — a mandatory smartphone tracking app — is prompting online mockery and pushback.

One mother complained that her 2-year-old had been turned away from a sports center for failing to produce a smartphone with the app. A 63-year-old man said that the only public facility he could visit was the cemetery because he did not own a smartphone. Shops are selling secondhand phones with the app already loaded to cater to the technologically hobbled and those suspicious of government.

Hong Kong has avoided the devastating Covid-19 outbreaks that much of the world experienced over the past year thanks to strict border controls and one of the world’s longest mandatory quarantines.

But some residents, long willing to endure tough pandemic rules, have recently chafed at the restrictions amid low Covid case numbers and widespread vaccine availability. The banking community, one group that rarely speaks out, issued a rare criticism last month.

Others have been frustrated by how Hong Kong has tied its pandemic prevention policies with mainland China’s own rigid approach. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has said that opening the border with China was a priority over opening international borders.

A recent rule making the contact tracing app mandatory for those over age 12 and under 65 is turning the focus on those in society who cannot use the app, known as the LeaveHomeSafe app. Residents must show the app to enter any public government facilities — including the city’s outdoor markets, libraries and pools.

One nongovernmental organization warned that the requirement, which started on Nov. 1, would hurt the homeless and others who do not have a smartphone but depend on government services. Others have shared online their experiences of being locked out of basic services.

One photograph that went viral showed an older man with a sandwich board that carried the message: “I am now under quarantine indefinitely.” The 63-year-old said that, with no smartphone, he was prohibited from shopping at the wet market, reading books at the library, swimming at the public pool and even getting sick and going to the hospital. The only place he can go, his message noted, is the cemetery.

The mother of a young child said she had been unable to enter the sports center because she could not show government identification proving that her 2-year-old was under age 12. Others shared similar stories.

Unmoved by the complaints, Ms. Lam told the Hong Kong Economic Times that she was looking into making the app a requirement for more places.

She said she was aware that some people would not be happy with the expansion but, she added, “to a certain degree, the majority rules.”

Credit…Ana Miminoshvili

The pandemic made an oxymoron of the term “frequent flier” as the number of airline passengers plummeted in the early days of lockdowns. Leisure travel has recovered somewhat, but the more lucrative business travel market is still way off, with recovery not expected until 2023 and perhaps not even then.

It’s a challenging time to keep fliers loyal. Many are not traveling because of coronavirus concerns, and those who are can be enticed to try out other airlines because they are not flying enough to earn status. Others may be disenchanted with airline loyalty programs, which, in the years leading up to the pandemic, had made upgrades and free tickets more elusive.

In the meantime, airlines are also facing pressure on the climate front. With loyalty programs encouraging flying, they feel out of step with the current moment.

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Macy’s is offering its employees referral bonuses of up to $500 for each friend or relative who joins the company. Walmart is paying as much as $17 an hour to start, and has begun offering free college tuition to its workers. Some Amazon warehouse jobs now command signing bonuses of up to $3,000.

Expecting the holiday shopping season to be bustling this year after being upended by the coronavirus in 2020, retailers are scrambling to find enough workers to staff their stores and distribution centers in a tight labor market.

It is not proving easy to entice applicants for an industry that has been battered more than most by the pandemic’s many challenges, from fights over mask wearing to high rates of infection among employees. Willing retail workers are likely to earn larger paychecks and work fewer hours than they might have before the pandemic, and consumers may find less inventory on shelves and fewer sales associates in stores.

“Folks looking to work in retail have typically had very little choice — it’s largely been driven by geography and availability of hours,” said Mark A. Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University’s business school. “Now they can pick and choose who’s got the highest, best benefits, bonuses and hourly rates. And as we’ve seen, the escalation has been striking.”

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

More than 300 employees at Hearst’s magazine division have signed a petition objecting to the company’s plan to have them return to the office starting next week, and their union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Hearst, whose titles include Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping, told staff members in October that they would be required to return to U.S. offices starting Nov. 15.

For the first two weeks, workers are expected to come in once a week; then the requirement will be two days per week until early 2022. Eventually, workers will be required to be in the office — the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan for many — three days a week, the company has said. Hearst is also requiring that all employees be vaccinated.

“We recognize that returning to the office is a big step and that some people are apprehensive about it,” Debi Chirichella, Hearst’s president, said in an email to staff last month. “Adjusting to this new way of working will require the same flexibility, patience and collaboration that we all demonstrated when we began working from home.”

Employees have pushed back. Some 300 — a majority of the approximately 550 in the magazine division as well as the 450 in its union — sent their petition to a top Hearst executive on Monday. It calls for the company to do away with required office days, according to a spokesman for the Writers Guild of America, East, the union that represents Hearst journalists.

“We support a continuation of the functional norm that we have reached as a result of our extraordinary circumstances, with employees and teams able to make decisions that are appropriate for their work needs,” the petition said. “We have seen our colleagues adapt to unprecedented changes in our work lives without a drop in productivity.”

A Hearst spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

On Thursday, the Writers Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge against Hearst with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the company had failed to provide requested information over return-to-office protocols. The company’s journalists won a vote to unionize in July 2020 and are negotiating their first contract.

The bargaining committee has asked for a flexible arrangement, and the company rejected it, said Jason Speakman, an associate digital visuals editor at Men’s Health who is a member of the bargaining committee.

Mr. Speakman said most of his colleagues didn’t want to be required to return to the office, while others would accept mandatory office days but not three per week. The reasons for the preference for remote work ranged “from the extra hour of sleep in the morning when they’re not commuting to the mental health toll of commuting on a crowded train to caring for family members in another part of the country,” he said.

Credit…Sem Van Der Wal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Roughly 308 million pieces of personal protective equipment bought by the Dutch government, including masks, goggles and gloves, were rejected for use in hospitals, a spokesman for the Dutch health ministry said.

As of last week, the government had rejected about 30 million masks it had in stock.

The rejected equipment will mostly be sold outside the European market, the spokesman said. If it’s not possible to sell or donate the items, they will be “processed sustainably,” he added.

The government said it was still calculating the financial consequences. According to De Volkskrant, the Dutch newspaper that first reported the figure, the estimated cost of the rejected items is more than 300 million euros (about $348 million).

The consortium that bought the equipment on behalf of the government worked with “many different information systems,” according to the health ministry, so “the status of the products wasn’t always clear.”

As a result, the health ministry did a new review of the equipment, the spokesman said, which found that it was not suitable for hospitals.

The Netherlands recently reintroduced mask mandates in some public places, among other measures, to try to slow the spread of the virus and ease the growing pressure on the country’s health system. Almost 77,000 people tested positive over the past week, according to Dutch government figures. The C.D.C. has deemed the Netherlands “very high risk.”

In the southern province of Limburg, some hospitals warned that they could no longer handle new Covid patients, saying in a statement that they were “heading straight for a health care blockage, and the entire system is grinding to a standstill.”

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