The European Union proposed a Covid-19 certificate on Wednesday that would allow people to travel more freely, a move aimed at saving the summer tourist season for member states that depend on it economically.
The proposed document, known as a Digital Green Certificate, would allow residents of member nations to travel at will within the bloc if they have proof of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative test result or a documented recovery from the coronavirus.
The certificates would be free and would be available in digital or paper format.
“The Digital Green Certificate will not be a precondition to free movement, and it will not discriminate in any way,” said Didier Reynders, the bloc’s top official for justice, adding that the aim was to “gradually restore free movement within the E.U. and avoid fragmentation.”
Freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the bloc, but travel restrictions are traditionally under the purview of national governments. The commission’s plan is a bid to coordinate what has become a patchwork of national measures that are hindering travel within the bloc.
Under the proposed rules, national governments could decide which travel restrictions, such as obligatory quarantine, would be lifted for certificate holders.
The proposals, which require approval by the European Parliament and the majority of member states, come as many European countries are experiencing a third wave of infections and an inoculation effort that has been slowed by doubts over AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine. Several countries have suspended use of the vaccine at least temporarily, confusing citizens and possibly increasing resistance to vaccinations.
The hope is to make the certificates operational by mid-June in order to salvage the summer season.
Just under 10 percent of European Union residents have been vaccinated, leaving the bloc far behind Britain and the United States.
As the European Union was offering its proposal to allow greater freedom of movement, Kwasi Kwarteng, the British business secretary, said the government was continuing to look at ways that would allow people to travel.
“We are having conversations all the time about what the next steps should be,” he told the BBC, adding that the government was stressing on the importance of allowing people to travel safely.
An earlier version of this item misstated where the Digital Green Certificate would be valid. The document would be used for travel in all European Union member countries, not in all countries of the border-free Schengen area, which excludes some E.U. members and includes some nonmembers.
Not long ago, Covid-19 vaccines were available only to the most vulnerable Americans and some essential workers. That is quickly changing as vaccine production and distribution ramp up and more states begin to heed a call from President Biden to expand access to all adults by May.
States are also racing to stay ahead of the growing number of virus variants, some of which are more contagious and possibly even more deadly. At least three states — Maine, Virginia and Wisconsin — and Washington, D.C., have said that they will expand eligibility to their general population by May 1, the deadline that Mr. Biden set last week. Other states — including Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana and Utah — hope to do so this month or next.
In Mississippi and Alaska, everyone age 16 or older is eligible, and Arizona and Michigan have made the vaccines available to all adults in some counties.
Mr. Biden said last week that he was directing the federal government to secure an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. With three vaccines now in use, Mr. Biden has said that the United States will have secured enough doses by the end of May for shots to be available for all adults.
Several states have already been expanding eligibility for vaccinations. In Ohio, vaccines will open to anyone 40 and up as of Friday, and to more residents with certain medical conditions. Indiana extended access to people 45 and older, effective immediately.
In Massachusetts, residents 60 years and older, as well as people who work in small spaces and those whose work requires regular public interaction, will be eligible for a vaccine on March 22, the state announced Wednesday. Residents 55 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible on April 5, and everyone else 16 years and older will be eligible on April 19.
Coloradans age 50 and up will be eligible for a shot on Friday, along with anyone 16 years and older with certain medical conditions. Wisconsin said on Tuesday that residents 16 years and up with certain medical conditions would be eligible a week earlier than initially planned.
On Monday, Texans age 50 and older and Georgians over 55 became eligible for vaccines.
In New York State, residents 60 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine, and more frontline workers became eligible on Wednesday, including government employees, building services workers and employees of nonprofit groups.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has yet to announce how or when the state will expand eligibility to all adults. On Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo, 63, received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a church in Harlem, which he framed as an effort to boost vaccination rates among the state’s Black communities.
Since vaccinations began in December, the federal government has delivered nearly 143 million vaccine doses to states and territories, and more than 77 percent have been administered, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country is averaging about 2.4 million shots a day, compared with well under one million a day in January.
As of Tuesday, 65 percent of the country’s older population had received at least one vaccine dose, according to C.D.C. data, with 37 percent fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organization and the head of the European Commission urged European countries to use the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and expressed confidence that it was safe, as investigations continue into unusual cases of side effects that led several countries to pause administering the shots.
The head of the W.H.O.’s vaccines department, Dr. Kate O’Brien, said cases of blood clots reported among millions of Europeans who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine were rare. And, she said, it was not unusual that some of those vaccinated should suffer blood clots resulting from other health conditions. No causative link has yet emerged between the vaccine and blood clots or severe bleeding.
“At this point the benefit-risk assessment is to continue with vaccination,” Dr. O’Brien said, repeating the responses both organizations have offered as some member countries have paused administering doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine following some reports of fatal brain hemorrhaging, blood clots and unusual bleeding in a handful of people who received it.
The European Union’s top drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, is expected to give its assessment of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday. It has so far also pushed back against concerns about the shot, saying there was no sign that it caused dangerous problems. On Wednesday, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, said, “I trust AstraZeneca, I trust the vaccines.” She added that she was “convinced that the statement will clarify the situation.”
Germany, France, Italy and Spain are the prominent European countries to recently halt their rollouts of the AstraZeneca shots this week. More than a dozen countries have either partly or fully suspended the vaccine’s use while the cases are investigated. Most of the countries said they were doing so as a precaution until leading health agencies could review the cases.
Even if experts ultimately conclude there may be an association between the blood clots and the vaccine “these are very rare events,” Dr. O’Brien said.
Blood clots, thick blobs of blood that can block circulation, form in response to injuries and can also be caused by many illnesses, including cancer and genetic disorders, certain drugs and prolonged sitting or bed rest. If a blood clot travels to the brain, it can be deadly.
The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine in some countries comes at a time when the region is facing a third wave of the virus and further slows Europe’s vaccination campaign, already lagging because of shortages. No E.U. country is currently on pace to vaccinate 70 percent of its population by September.
Ms. von der Leyen said Europe’s vaccination campaign would pick up speed, with 55 million doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 200 million of the Pfizer vaccine, 35 million of the Moderna vaccine, and 70 million of AstraZeneca expected in the coming months.
Stained for years by its brutal role in the horrific Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, Serbia is now basking in the glow of success in a good campaign: the quest to get its people vaccinated.
Serbia has raced ahead of the far richer and usually better-organized countries in Europe to offer all adult citizens not only free inoculations, but also a smorgasbord of five vaccines to choose from.
The country’s unusual surfeit of vaccines has been a public relations triumph for the increasingly authoritarian government of President Aleksandar Vucic. It has burnished his own and his country’s image, weakened his already beleaguered opponents and added a new twist to the complex geopolitics of vaccines.
Serbia, with a population under seven million, placed bets across the board, sealing initial deals for more than 11 million doses with Russia and China, whose products have not been approved by European regulators, as well as with Western drug companies.
It reached its first vaccine deal, covering 2.2 million doses, with Pfizer in August and quickly followed up with contracts for millions more from Russia and China.
As a result, Serbia has become the best vaccinator in Europe after Britain, data collected by OurWorldInData shows. It had administered 29.5 doses for every 100 people as of last week compared with just 10.5 in Germany, a country long viewed as a model of efficiency and good governance, and 10.7 in France.
Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, attributed her country’s success to its decision to “treat this as a health issue, not a political issue. We negotiated with all, regardless of whether East or West.”
Serbia’s readiness to embrace non-Western vaccines so far shunned by the European Union could backfire if they turn out to be duds. Sinopharm, unlike Western vaccine makers, has not published detailed data from Phase 3 trials. Data it has released suggest that its product is less effective than Western coronavirus vaccines.
Many Serbians, apparently reassured by the vaccination drive, have also lowered their guard against the risk of infection. The daily number of new cases has more than doubled since early February, prompting the government to order all businesses other than food stores and pharmacies to close last weekend.
After a tough year of toggling between remote and in-person schooling, many students, teachers and their families feel burned out from pandemic learning. But companies that market digital learning tools to schools are enjoying a windfall.
Venture and equity financing for education technology start-ups has more than doubled, surging to $12.6 billion worldwide last year from $4.8 billion in 2019, according to a report from CB Insights, a firm that tracks start-ups and venture capital.
Yet as more districts reopen for in-person instruction, the billions of dollars that schools and venture capitalists have sunk into education technology are about to get tested.
“There’s definitely going to be a shakeout over the next year,” said Matthew Gross, the chief executive of Newsela, a popular reading lesson app for schools.
A number of ed-tech start-ups reporting record growth had sizable school audiences before the pandemic. Then last spring, as school districts switched to remote learning, many education apps hit on a common pandemic growth strategy: They temporarily made their premium services free to teachers for the rest of the school year.
“What unfolded from there was massive adoption,” said Tory Patterson, a managing director at Owl Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in education start-ups like Newsela. Once the school year ended, he said, ed-tech start-ups began trying to convert school districts into paying customers, and “we saw pretty broad-based uptake of those offers.”
Some consumer tech giants that provided free services to schools also reaped benefits, gaining audience share and getting millions of students accustomed to using their product.
The worldwide audience for Google Classroom, Google’s free class assignment and grading app, has skyrocketed to more than 150 million students and educators, up from 40 million early last year. And Zoom Video Communications says it has provided free services during the pandemic to more than 125,000 schools in 25 countries.
Whether tools that teachers have come to rely on for remote learning can maintain their popularity will now hinge on how useful the apps are in the classroom.
JERUSALEM — The occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip received their first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday from the global vaccine sharing initiative Covax, paving the way for Palestinian authorities to start inoculating residents on a wider scale.
The Health Ministry of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority said the vaccines would be administered starting Sunday to medical teams, dialysis and cancer patients, and people who are 75 or older.
The ministry said the shipment included 37,440 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will be used right away; and 24,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which it initially said would be stored until the World Health Organization issued a scientific opinion on the vaccine’s safety.
Later Wednesday, after the W.H.O. recommended the continued use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Palestinian health minister, Mai al-Kaila, said the Palestinians would follow that recommendation.
Tor Wennesland, the top United Nations envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called the shipment “a key step in our fight against #Covid19 in the #WestBank & #Gaza.”
The West Bank now faces what Palestinian officials have called the most challenging public health situation since the pandemic first emerged in the territory last year. Occupancy in coronavirus wards has surged, and the authorities have announced a “comprehensive lockdown” between Monday and Saturday. An average of 1,767 new coronavirus cases have been recorded daily over the past week, according to official figures.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank said that before Wednesday, it had received only 12,000 vaccine doses. Officials in Gaza said they had received a total of 62,000 doses, including 2,000 from the Palestinian Authority and 60,000 from the United Arab Emirates.
Israeli security officials said that about 20,000 of the doses that arrived from Covax on Wednesday went to Gaza.
Israel has faced criticism for providing Israeli citizens with significantly greater access to vaccines than it has allowed for Palestinians living under its occupation.
Last week, Israel started inoculating tens of thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel or in Jewish settlements — the first substantial amount of vaccine it has made available to Palestinians living in the West Bank.
As Dutch voters go to the polls for parliamentary elections this week, the pandemic has changed the usual dynamic.
To help maintain social distancing, the voting process was spread over three days, ending on Wednesday. Voters over 70 were encouraged to vote by mail. And campaigning mainly took place on television, making it hard for voters to spontaneously confront politicians as is typical practice.
Coronavirus cases are again surging in the Netherlands, prompting the authorities to warn of a third wave. Last year, it took the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte until November to get the country’s testing capabilities in order, and the vaccination process is also going slowly.
Yet during the campaigning, more localized issues managed to overshadow the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
The prime minister and his cabinet resigned in January over a scandal involving the tax authorities’ hunting down people, mostly poor, who had made administrative mistakes in their child benefits requests. Many were brought to financial ruin as a result.
Broader policies put forward by Mr. Rutte, who has been in power since 2010, were also a focus on the campaign trail. While his party is ahead in the polls, it has lost some support in recent weeks.
Neighboring Germany is also entering a packed election season, with national and state votes coming in a year that will bring to an end the 16-year chancellorship of Angela Merkel.
In other developments around the world:
Australia will send 8,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea in an attempt to curb a rapidly growing outbreak in the country, which is Australia’s closest neighbor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday. Australia will also ask AstraZeneca to divert to the small island nation a million vaccine doses that were bound for Australia. And it is suspending all charter flights from Papua New Guinea, where about half of the nation’s total reported 2,351 coronavirus cases have been recorded in the past two weeks.
When the pandemic narrowed the world, Jonathan Hirshon stopped traveling, eating out, going to cocktail parties and commuting to the office.
What a relief.
Mr. Hirshon experiences severe social anxiety. Even as he grieved the pandemic’s toll, he found lockdown life to be a respite.
Now, with public life about to resume, he finds himself with decidedly mixed feelings — “anticipation, dread and hope.”
Mr. Hirshon, a 54-year-old public relations consultant, is one of numerous people who find the everyday grind not only wearing, but also emotionally unsettling. That includes people with clinical diagnoses of anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, and also some run-of-the-mill introverts.
A new survey from the American Psychological Association found that while 47 percent of people have seen their stress rise over the pandemic, about 43 percent reported no change in stress and 7 percent said they felt less stress.
Mental health experts said that this portion of the population found lockdown measures protective, a sort of permission to glide into more predictable spaces, schedules, routines and relationships. And experts say that while the lockdown periods have blessed the “avoidance” of social situations, the circumstances are poised to change.
“I am very worried about many of my socially anxious patients,” said Andrea Maikovich-Fong, a psychologist in Denver. That anxiety, she said, “is going to come back with a vengeance when the world opens up.”
Former President Donald J. Trump recommended in a nationally televised interview on Tuesday evening that Americans who are reluctant to be vaccinated against the coronavirus should go ahead with inoculations.
Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, were vaccinated in January. And vaccine proponents have called on him to speak out in favor of the shots to his supporters — many of whom remain reluctant, polls show.
Speaking to Maria Bartiromo on “Fox News Primetime,” Mr. Trump said, “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it — and a lot of those people voted for me frankly.”
He added: “It is a safe vaccine, and it is something that works.”
While there are degrees of opposition to coronavirus vaccination among a number of groups, polling suggests that the opinions break substantially along partisan lines.
A third of Republicans said in a CBS News poll that they would not be vaccinated — compared with 10 percent of Democrats — and another 20 percent of Republicans said they were unsure. Other polls have found similar trends.
Mr. Trump encouraged attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., late last month to get vaccinated.
Still, Mr. Trump — whose tenure during the pandemic was often marked by railing against recommendations from medical experts — said on Tuesday that “we have our freedoms and we have to live by that, and I agree with that also.”
With President Biden’s administration readying television and internet advertising and other efforts to promote vaccination, the challenge for the White House is complicated by perceptions of Mr. Trump’s stance on the vaccine.
Asked about the issue on Monday at the White House, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump’s help promoting vaccination was less important than getting trusted community figures on board.
“I discussed it with my team, and they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, what the local people in the community say,” Mr. Biden said, referring to Mr. Trump’s supporters and campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
This year perhaps more than ever, the college essay has served as a canvas for high school seniors to reflect on a turbulent and, for many, sorrowful year. It has been a psychiatrist’s couch, a road map to a more hopeful future, a chance to pour out intimate feelings about loneliness and injustice.
In response to a request from The New York Times, more than 900 seniors submitted the personal essays they wrote for their college applications. Reading them is like a taking a trip through two of the biggest news events of recent decades: the devastation wrought by the coronavirus, and the rise of a new civil rights movement.
In the wake of the high-profile deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, students shared how they had wrestled with racism in their own lives. Many dipped their feet into the politics of protest.
And in the midst of the most far-reaching pandemic in a century, they described the isolation and loss that have pervaded every aspect of their lives since schools suddenly shut down a year ago. They sought to articulate how they have managed while cut off from friends and activities.
The coronavirus was the most common theme in the essays submitted to The Times, appearing in 393 essays, more than 40 percent. Next was the value of family, coming up in 351 essays, but often in the context of other issues, like the pandemic and race. Racial justice and protest figured in 342 essays.
Family was not the only eternal verity to appear. Love came up in 286 essays; science in 128; art in 110; music in 109; and honor in 32. Personal tragedy also loomed large, with 30 essays about cancer alone.
Some students resisted the lure of current events and wrote quirky essays about captaining a fishing boat on Cape Cod or hosting dinner parties. A few wrote poetry. Perhaps surprisingly, politics and the 2020 election were not of great interest.
New York City landlords are seeking evictions nearly four times more often in the neighborhoods hit hardest by Covid-19 — predominantly Black and Latino communities that have borne the brunt of both health and housing crises since the virus swept the city last year, according to a new report.
The findings were the latest indication that thousands of the city’s most vulnerable residents could be forcibly removed from their homes as early as May, when a statewide pause on evictions is set to expire.
In New York City, about 40,000 residential tenants have been taken to court for eviction proceedings in the last year, with an average claim of $8,150, according to an analysis of state records by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a coalition of housing nonprofits.
The neighborhoods with the highest Covid-19 death rates, the top 25 percent, received 15,517 eviction filings, while areas with the lowest death rates, in the bottom 25 percent, had 4,224 cases, through late February. Roughly 68 percent of residents in the hardest-hit ZIP codes were people of color, more than twice the share in the least-affected areas.
Marisol Morales, 55, moved to the United States from Panama in 1991, and has lived for 11 years in a two-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. She lost her part-time job as a cook last spring and has been unable to pay her subsidized $1,647 rent for several months. Her landlord is now suing her.
“An affordable apartment does not exist in New York,” Ms. Morales said.
Pamela Addison is, in her own words, “one of the shyest people in this world.” Certainly not the sort of person who would submit an opinion essay to a newspaper, start a support group for strangers or ask a U.S. senator to vote for $1.9 trillion legislation.
But in the past five months, she has done all of those things.
Her husband, Martin Addison, a 44-year-old health care worker in New Jersey, died from the coronavirus in April after a month of illness. The last time she saw him was when he was loaded into an ambulance. At 37, Ms. Addison was left to care for a 2-year-old daughter and an infant son, and to make ends meet on her own.
“Seeing the impact my story has had on people — it has been very therapeutic and healing for me,” she said. “And knowing that I’m doing it to honor my husband gives me the greatest joy, because I’m doing it for him.”
With the United States’ coronavirus death toll — over 535,000 people — come thousands of stories like hers. Many people who have lost loved ones, or whose lives have been upended by long-haul symptoms, have turned to political action.
There are Marjorie Roberts, who got sick while managing a hospital gift shop in Atlanta and now has lung scarring; Mary Wilson-Snipes, still on oxygen more than two months after coming home from the hospital; and John Lancos, who lost his wife of 41 years on April 23.
In January, they and dozens of others participated in an advocacy training session over Zoom, run by a group called Covid Survivors for Change. This month, the group organized virtual meetings with the offices of 16 senators, and more than 50 group members lobbied for the coronavirus relief package.
The immediate purpose of the training session was to teach people how to do things like lobby a senator. The longer-term purpose was to confront the problem of numbers.
Numbers are dehumanizing, as activists like to say. In sufficient quantities — 536,472 as of Wednesday morning, for instance — they are also numbing. This is why converting numbers into people is so often the job of activists seeking policy change after tragedy.
The Biden administration will invest $10 billion in congressionally approved funds to vastly expand coronavirus screening for students returning to in-person learning and another $2.25 billion to increase testing in underserved communities, federal health officials said Wednesday.
The plan was announced Wednesday afternoon during the White House’s regular virus briefing. The federal Department of Health and Human Services had previewed the program in an email message to reporters.
Congress approved the $10 billion expenditure when it passed Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which the president signed into law last week. The health department said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would give the money to states “quickly as part of a strategy to help get schools open in the remaining months of this school year.”
Reopening schools has been one of President Biden’s highest priorities — and one of the most contentious issues facing the new administration. Millions of American children have been confined to virtual learning since the start of the pandemic a year ago. Education experts say that many children — and parents — are suffering, psychologically as well as academically. Still, most schools are already operating at least partially in person, and evidence suggests they are doing so relatively safely. Research shows in-school spread can be mitigated with simple safety measures like masking, distancing, hand-washing and opening windows.
Mr. Biden, who initially called for all schools to reopen within 100 days of his inauguration, later narrowed that goal to elementary and middle schools, and has set the reopening benchmark at “the majority of schools” — 51 percent. But there are still many hurdles, including convincing teachers unions that policies are in place to ensure a safe return and easing the fears and frustrations of parents.
One stumbling block to reopening has been the C.D.C.’s recommendation that people remain six feet apart from one another if they do not live in the same household. Amid a growing understanding of how the virus spreads, some public health experts are calling on the agency to reduce the recommended distance from six feet to three.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s senior medical adviser for the pandemic, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. director, have said the guidance is being revisited.
The administration said Wednesday that the C.D.C. and state and local health departments would help states and schools in implementing testing programs. The agency intends to release the state-by-state allocation table on Wednesday, with final awards to be made early April.
The administration said the C.D.C. would also update its guidance on which types of tests should be used in different settings, such as schools, prisons or nursing homes.
The $2.25 billion for testing in underserved populations is intended to address the racial disparities laid bare by the pandemic. Black and Latino people are far more likely than white people to get infected with the coronavirus and to die from Covid-19, and those disparities extend to testing, experts say. The vaccination rate for Black people in the United States is half that of white people, and the gap for Hispanic people is even larger, according to a New York Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information.
The money will be given in grants to public health departments to improve their ability to test for and track the virus.
“Testing is critical to saving lives and restoring economic activity,” Norris Cochran, the acting health secretary, said in a statement, adding that the department is determined to “expand our capacity to get testing to the individuals and the places that need it most.”
People who get Covid-19 shots at thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores may soon be able to verify their vaccination status at airports, schools and other locations using a health passport app on their smartphones.
The retail giant said on Wednesday that it had signed on to an international effort to provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to people. The company joins a push already backed by major health centers and tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, the Mitre Corporation and the Mayo Clinic.
“Walmart is the first huge-scale administrator of vaccines that is committing to giving people a secure, verifiable record of their vaccinations,” said Paul Meyer, the chief executive of the Commons Project Foundation, a nonprofit in Geneva that has developed health passport apps. “We think many others will follow.”
The company said people who get Covid shots at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores will be able to use free health passport apps to verify their vaccination records and then generate smartphone codes that could allow them to board a plane or enter a sports area.
The apps include Health Pass developed by Clear, a security company that uses biometric technology to confirm people’s identities at airports, and CommonPass, developed by the Commons Project.
JetBlue and Lufthansa are already using the CommonPass app to verify passengers’ negative virus test results before they can board certain flights.