Covid-19 Updates in the U.K. Moves to Impose Harsher Fines on Rule Breakers
Desperate to avoid another nationwide lockdown, Britain moves to impose harsher fines for breaches of the rules.
With the number of new daily cases in Britain rising above 4,000 for the first time since early May, the government has announced tougher penalties for those who fail to follow coronavirus restrictions in hopes of avoiding widespread lockdowns.
The government will impose fines of 1,000 pounds, about $1,300, against those who do not self-isolate after testing positive for the virus or who leave their home after being traced as a close contact of someone who has. The fines, which come into effect from Sept. 28, can increase to a maximum of £10,000 for repeat offenders or for the most serious breaches.
“We’ve relied on people’s civic duty to do the right thing, but there is a minority of people who are not,” Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, told the BBC on Sunday.
The government will also introduce a £500 payment for people on low incomes who are told to self-isolate, an incentive intended to cushion the blow of any financial loss and to encourage compliance.
Where “hot spots” for virus spread have been identified, the government’s strategy has recently favored local restrictions, but Mr. Hancock said on Sunday that he could not rule out another national lockdown.
Roughly 10 million people in central and northern England have already been banned from meeting with anyone outside their household as part of local restrictions, and many pubs and restaurants in those areas have been told they must close at 10 p.m.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is pushing for similar restrictions to be implemented in the British capital.
Russia’s early lead in the race for a vaccine may have evaporated.
More than a month after becoming the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, Russia has yet to administer it to a large population outside a clinical trial, health officials and outside experts say.
The approval, which came with much fanfare on Aug. 11, came before Russia had tested the vaccine in late-stage trials for possible side effects and for its disease-fighting ability. It was seen as a political gesture by President Vladimir V. Putin to assert victory in the global race for a vaccine. Mr. Putin has said that one of his two adult daughters received Russia’s vaccine, called Sputnik V in a reference to the first artificial Earth satellites.
The Russian vaccine is one of nine candidates around the world now in late-stage clinical trials, which are the only sure means to determine whether a vaccine is effective and to find possible side effects.
In one example of the limited scope of distribution, the company financing the vaccine pointed to a shipment sent this past week to the Crimean Peninsula. The delivery contained doses for 21 people in a region with two million.
It is not clear whether the slow start to the vaccination campaign is a result of limited production capacity or second thoughts about inoculating the population with an unproven product.
“Unfortunately, we have very little information,” said Dr. Vasily V. Vlassov, a professor of epidemiology and vice president of the Russian Association for Evidence-Based Medicine. His organization had opposed approval of the vaccine before testing it.
If few Russians are receiving the vaccine, the early approval appears less troubling, he said: “Maybe nothing scary is happening in reality and only the announcement was scary.”
The Russian health authorities have a history of approving medicines after limited testing, a legacy of the Soviet-era regulatory system, Dr. Vlassov said.
For the remote Emmys, children and pets of nominees stuck at home have been invited to join the show.
Red carpet? Canceled. Actors seated shoulder to shoulder in an auditorium as the envelopes are unsealed? Nope.
Jimmy Kimmel will host the ceremony from a nearly empty Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles as more than 100 nominees watch — and broadcast themselves — from locations as diverse as Berlin and Fayetteville, Ga.
Producers of the show, airing on ABC and Hulu Live, have encouraged the nominees to dress however they want — and to feel free to have their children and pets with them on the couch when the winners are announced.
The makeshift quality may increase interest in an awards night that has grown stale in recent years. Despite a boom in scripted entertainment, ratings for the Emmys have declined sharply. The show drew 6.9 million viewers last year, 32 percent down from the previous year, which itself was a record low.
Trying to make the broadcast go smoothly, organizers have sent a kit to each nominee with instructions on how to put together a D.I.Y. studio. It comes with a ring light, a microphone, a laptop and a camera. After that, it’s up to the nominees and their Wi-Fi signals.
“We hope there’s not a major crash,” Guy Carrington, an executive producer of the Emmys, said in an interview.
A lower-income school district in California built an elaborate plan that allowed in-person instruction.
When California schools began shutting down in March, David Miyashiro, the superintendent of the Cajon Valley Union School District, immediately started connecting with families and teachers. During hundreds of calls, Zoom meetings and socially distanced in-person gatherings, he heard pleas from parents torn between work and home instruction, or who needed support for high-needs students.
Mr. Miyashiro vowed to reopen schools in the fall, and over the coming months, he took steps to pave the way. The district near San Diego offered free emergency child care for essential workers in April. It ran an in-person summer enrichment program for more than a third of its 17,000 mostly low-income students, road-testing safety measures.
While many low-income districts have been staying remote, Cajon Valley has opened its 27 schools for a mixture of in-person and remote instruction. It was, in the minds of Mr. Miyashiro and many educational experts, a small victory for poorer students who, according to studies, have been disproportionately hurt by remote instruction.
After the first week and a half with in-person instruction, the district has had no infections so far..
But parents and teachers said the district had prepared in many ways, starting with a good job of responding to the virus crisis when it first hit. In March, the district created playlists with curriculum and content for every grade. Principals frequently made goofy videos to send to students to show that there could be lightness in a heavy moment. Teachers all had Zoom office hours, as well as regular online classes.
Well before that, Cajon Valley had prepared for the kind of challenges the pandemic has presented.
For seven years, the district has provided every child a laptop and access to a curriculum that blends technology into day-to-day teaching. Teachers have received extensive training for high-tech, “blended” classrooms, showcased in YouTube videos as far back as 2014.
Mr. Miyashiro praised the teachers’ union for raising safety concerns he had failed to see, and committed to using federal stimulus funding to offer wraparound services — nutrition, recreation, distance-learning support — for families who need support during the three days that students are not in school. Thirty percent of children’s families opted for all-remote leaning until December, while the rest have returned two days a week.
Yearning for air travel during the pandemic, some are rushing to buy tickets for ‘flights to nowhere.’
In August, Nadzri Harif, a D.J. at Kristal FM radio station in Brunei, set foot in an airport for the first time in six months. The experience, he said, was exhilarating. Sure, moving through Brunei International Airport was different, with masks, glass dividers and social-distancing protocols in place, but nothing could beat the anticipation of getting on a plane again.
His destination: nowhere.
Mr. Harif is one of thousands of people in Brunei, Australia, Japan and Taiwan who have started booking flights that start and end in the same place. Some airlines call these “scenic flights.” Others are more direct, calling them “flights to nowhere.”
“I didn’t realize how much I’d missed traveling — missed flying — until the moment the captain’s voice came on the speaker with the welcome and safety announcement,” Mr. Harif said of his 85-minute experience on Royal Brunei Airlines. On its flight to nowhere, which the airline calls the “dine and fly” program, Royal Brunei serves local cuisine to passengers while flying over the country.
At a time when most people are unable to travel as the pandemic has gutted the global air-travel industry, flights that take off and return to an airport a few hours later allow airlines to keep staff working. The practice also satisfies that itch to travel — even if it’s just being on a plane again.
Royal Brunei has run five of the flights since mid-August, and since Brunei has had very few cases of the virus, the airline does not require passengers to wear masks, though staff members do. The Taiwanese airline EVA Air filled all 309 seats on a Hello Kitty-themed jet for Father’s Day last month in Taiwan, and the Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways had a Hawaiian-resort-themed, 90-minute flight with 300 people on board.
Indonesia suspends some seafood exports to China after packaging was found to be contaminated.
Indonesia has announced a seven-day suspension of a seafood company’s exports to China after fish products tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Indonesian Fisheries Ministry said on Saturday that an investigation had been opened into the company, PT Putri Indah, according to a Reuters report. Other companies were not affected, the ministry added, and “can still do export activities as usual.”
The virus was detected on the outermost side of the package, not on the fish, the ministry noted.
Indonesia reported 3,989 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the total to 244,676, data from the country’s Health Ministry showed.
The data added 105 new deaths, taking the total to 9,553, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia.
Elsewhere in the world:
Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, moved closer to easing lockdown rules after recording only 14 new cases on Sunday. The restrictions could be eased next weekend, with child care centers allowed to reopen and gatherings of up to five people from two different households permitted, if the rolling 14-day average of new cases is below 50. With the lower numbers this weekend, the rolling average is now 36.2.
New Zealand on Sunday reported four new coronavirus cases, including two imported cases and two cases of community transmission in Auckland, the country’s largest city, that are not related to the outbreak there last month. A man who traveled to New Zealand from India last month developed symptoms after his two-week quarantine and infected two household members, officials said; his case had been reported a day earlier. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce on Monday whether restrictions will be further eased in Auckland and lifted entirely in the rest of the country.
Italy will allow as many as 1,000 spectators to attend top tier soccer matches nationwide starting on Sunday, the sports minister, Vincenzo Spadafora, said Saturday on his Facebook page. Officials reported more than 1,600 new infections on Saturday, compared with daily increases of more than 6,000 during the peak of Italy’s outbreak in March, when public attendance was suspended at matches for Serie A, the country’s top soccer league.
Reporting was contributed by Jenny Anderson, John Koblin, Andrew E. Kramer, Tariro Mzezewa, Anna Schaverien and Mark A. Walsh.