Covid News: Known Global Coronavirus Cases Top 300 Million

The number of known cases, likely an undercount, is now less of an indicator than it used to be in determining pandemic strategy. Governments are marshaling resources toward vaccinating people.

The world surpasses 300 million known virus cases, but case counts may not mean what they used to.

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Credit...Agustin Marcarian/Reuters

It took more than a year for the world to record the first 100 million coronavirus cases, and half that time to tally the next 100 million.

The third 100 million came even faster, in barely five months, as large segments of countries, rich and poor alike, remain unvaccinated and a fast-spreading new variant has proved able to infect even those who are.

Case counts, though imperfect, have been a key barometer throughout the pandemic, a benchmark not only for governments implementing mitigation measures but also for people trying to discern the threat in their own communities. Yet surpassing 300 million known cases — a milestone that was reached on Thursday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University — comes as a growing number of experts argue that it is time to stop focusing on case numbers.

So far, the new Omicron variant appears to produce severe illness in fewer people than previous versions of the virus did, and research indicates that Covid vaccines still offer protection against the worst outcomes. And though cases are rising faster than ever — the United States, Australia, France and many other nations are seeing record surges — hospitalizations and deaths from Covid are increasing more slowly.

But experts do worry that the sheer number of possible cases may still burden health care systems already strained by previous waves of infection.

New reported cases by day
Feb. 2020
Jul.
Dec.
May 2021
Oct.
Mar. 2022
1,000,000
2,000,000
3,000,000 cases
7–day average
580,649

These are days with a reporting anomaly.

Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, U.S. 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.

This week, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, suggested that it was time to stop focusing on case counts.

“As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations,” Dr. Fauci told ABC News on Sunday.

About 60 percent of the world has received at least a single dose of a Covid vaccine, but nearly three-quarters of all the shots have been administered in the world’s wealthiest nations, leaving people in parts of Africa and Asia vulnerable.

In the United States, cases are averaging a staggering 610,000 each day, a 227 percent increase from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are rising at a slower rate, up 60 percent in the past two weeks, while deaths are up by 2 percent. In France, average daily cases have quadrupled to a record, while hospitalizations have risen by about 70 percent and deaths have doubled, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.

The trend suggests that the grim cadence seen for the past two years — a wave of infections, followed by a matching surge of hospitalizations, then deaths — may have been altered, in large part because of the protection offered by vaccines. However, because of the way deaths lag cases, it will be weeks before the full effect of the current case surge is reflected in death counts.

And because of the widening availability of at-home tests in the United States and Europe, official case numbers — which scientists have long argued are an undercount — may diverge more than ever from actual totals. Not all home tests are reported to authorities and many people may never get tested. Even before Omicron emerged, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that only one in four U.S. infections was reported.

Case numbers “definitely mean less than they did” earlier in the pandemic, said Robert West, a professor of health psychology at University College London. “If we had this number of infections then, we’d have had an astronomical number of deaths.”

Still, the known death toll remains devastating: more than 830,000 in the United States, 620,000 in Brazil, nearly half a million in India. In many developing nations with huge gaps in health data, the true number may never be known.

And Omicron’s impact could be harsher among populations with less protection from vaccines. Some of the fastest increases in cases are occurring in African countries, which have the lowest vaccination rates. Less than a handful of the countries on the continent are on track to meet a World Health Organization goal of administering two doses to 70 percent of their populations, even as rich nations have offered a third.

“Booster after booster in a small number of countries will not end a pandemic while billions remain completely unprotected,” the W.H.O. director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Thursday.

What is clear, many experts say, is that the virus is likely to become endemic, something that the world will have to live with for years to come, like the flu — and that by the time the world records case 400 million, as it surely will, that statistic will mean even less than it does now.

“I think when we had the first wave, a lot of people felt — not experts, but the public and many politicians felt — that if we could only weather the storm, we could come out the other side in the summer of 2020 and everything would be rosy,” Professor West said. “We know now that is never going to be true.”

Anna Schaverien contributed reporting.

The Mayo Clinic will dismiss 1 percent of its staff for missing vaccine deadline.

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Credit...Jim Mone/Associated Press

The Mayo Clinic, one of the top-rated health care systems in the United States, said it would dismiss about 1 percent of its employees after they failed to comply with the clinic’s Monday deadline for its vaccine program.

Mayo said that about 700 workers would lose their jobs for not meeting the deadline, which required either having received one dose of a vaccine or not being overdue for a second dose. The company employs about 73,000 people. Mayo said it had granted a majority of medical and religious exemption requests.

“The needs of the patient come first,” the health system said, citing scientific consensus that coronavirus vaccines are safe and effective.

Nationwide, vaccine mandates have often pushed health care workers to receive shots ahead of a looming deadline. But there are usually determined holdouts who choose to lose their jobs instead of getting vaccinated.

In October, Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York, announced that 1,400 employees — less than 2 percent of its staff — had to leave their jobs after refusing vaccines. Norwell employs more than 77,000 people.

Now, during the surge of cases fueled by the Omicron variant, the terminations place a burden on already strained doctors and nurses. More than 100,000 Covid patients are hospitalized nationwide, and hospitalizations have increased 58 percent in the past 14 days, according to data from The New York Times.

As patients fill wards, systems face staff shortages as workers test positive. Even before the highly contagious Omicron variant began circulating, health care workers were leaving their jobs, burned out after almost two years of working through the pandemic.

The Mayo Clinic — a Minnesota-based hospital system with campuses in Arizona and Florida — left the door open for the employees to apply for future jobs and return if they chose to get vaccinated. But it stressed its standard of care in its statement.

“While Mayo Clinic is saddened to lose valuable employees,” the health system said, “we need to take all steps necessary to keep our patients, work force, visitors and communities safe.”

Tracking the Coronavirus ›

U.S. cities struggle to maintain services as the virus sidelines essential employees.

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Credit...Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register, via Associated Press

Thousands of police officers, firefighters, bus drivers and other public employees across the United States are off the job with what officials have said are record numbers of coronavirus cases, leaving officials scrambling to reassure residents that crucial services will continue.

In Dallas, 204 of the roughly 2,100 total employees of the city’s fire and rescue department were in quarantine on Thursday because of positive coronavirus tests — the most since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Jason Evans, a department spokesman. He said that approximately one-quarter of the department’s total positive tests since March 2020 had taken place in the last two weeks.

In New York City, on any given day this week, 21 percent of subway operators and conductors — about 1,300 people out of a work force of 6,300 — have been absent from work, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which attributes the jump in absenteeism to the virus. Service has been suspended on three of the system’s 22 subway lines and schedules reduced on many others.

The mayor of Cincinnati recently declared a 60-day emergency to address what he described as a “public danger” posed by depleted public-safety staffing.

Los Angeles city officials said at a news conference on Thursday that almost 300 firefighters were off duty because of the virus, the most the department had seen at any one time. As recently as mid-December, the figure was 24. The Los Angeles Police Department said it had 505 officers out as a result of the virus.

“The Omicron variant has taken off like wildfire,” Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles said at a news conference on Thursday.

Officials said that the city had authorized extra overtime and had canceled leave for Fire Department employees to cover the absences. The mayor said the police and fire departments “have maintained staffing needed to keep Angelenos safe.”

The recent strain on police, fire and other public agencies has intensified disputes over vaccination mandates.

In Los Angeles, officials said thousands of police and fire employees had requested medical or religious exemptions to the city’s vaccine mandate. Some have since complied with the rules and gotten shots, but others are still in the midst of lengthy reviews. Some workers who did not get vaccinated by the deadline have been sent home without pay while they go through disciplinary processes.

Mr. Garcetti said that about 83 percent of the city’s police officers and firefighters were in compliance with the vaccine mandate. He urged employees, and all city residents, to get booster shots as well.

In San Francisco, where rates of new coronavirus case reports are at their highest since the start of the pandemic, public health officials have urged residents to “layer their defenses” by getting booster shots and wearing masks, in part to help ensure that 911 calls are answered quickly and buses and trains run on time.

“San Francisco is in a relatively good position, compared to other municipalities,” the city’s director of health, Dr. Grant Colfax, said in a statement. “But the Omicron variant is challenging us, even more than Delta, to manage this disease while keeping our economy, schools and other essential services open.”

Jeff Cretan, spokesman for Mayor London Breed, said on Thursday that 140 Fire Department employees and 188 Police Department employees had tested positive or were out because of quarantine protocols; so were 110 workers at the city’s transit agency.

Mr. Cretan said that having all of the city’s frontline workers be fully vaccinated had staved off worse trouble. “People aren’t getting sick and ending up in the hospital and dying from our work force,” he said.

Some health advisers to Biden’s transition team call for a new Covid strategy in the U.S.

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Credit...Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Klick Health

On the day President Biden was inaugurated, the advisory board of health experts who counseled him during his transition officially ceased to exist. But its members have quietly continued to meet regularly over Zoom, their conversations often turning to frustration with Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response.

Now, six of these former advisers have gone public with an extraordinary, albeit polite, critique — and a plea to be heard. In three opinion articles published on Thursday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, they called for Mr. Biden to adopt an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy geared to the “new normal” of living with the virus indefinitely, not to wiping it out.

The authors are all big names in American medicine. Several, including Dr. Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. David Michaels, a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration now with George Washington University’s School of Public Health, have held high-ranking government positions. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist, medical ethicist and University of Pennsylvania professor who advised former President Barack Obama, organized the effort.

Like any White House, Mr. Biden’s prizes loyalty and prefers to keep its differences in house; in that regard, the articles are an unusual step. The authors say they wrote them partly because they have not made headway talking directly to White House officials.

“From a macroperspective, it feels like we are always fighting yesterday’s crisis and not necessarily thinking what needs to be done today to prepare us for what comes next,” Dr. Borio said.

The authors shared the articles with White House officials before they were published, but it was unclear whether the administration would adopt any of their suggestions. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the pandemic, declined to comment on the articles.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters she had not read the articles, and dismissed a question about whether the president “is coming around to accepting” that Covid-19 is here to stay, even though several recent media accounts suggested that the administration was beginning to operate under that assumption. Mr. Biden’s recent emphasis on keeping schools open and businesses running even when cases are soaring also suggests a recalibration, as does a recent decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that people with Covid isolate for five days instead of 10.

Adeel Hassan contributed reporting.

North Korea says it will skip the Beijing Olympics because of the pandemic.

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Credit...James Hill for The New York Times

SEOUL — North Korea said on Friday that it would not participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic and moves by “hostile forces.”

Its no-show at the Beijing ​Games would deprive South Korea of a rare opportunity to establish official contact with the ​North. Officials from the South had hoped that the ​Olympics would provide a venue for​ official delegates from both Koreas to meet to discuss issues beyond sports.

In a letter hand-delivered on Wednesday to China by the North’s ambassador, the country’s Olympic Committee and its ministry of sports wished Beijing a successful Games even though “the U.S. and its vassal forces are getting evermore undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday.

The letter added that although North Korea “could not take part in the Olympics due to the hostile forces’ moves and the worldwide pandemic,” it “would fully support the Chinese comrades in all their work to hold a splendid and wonderful Olympic festival.”

North Korea has maintained some of the world’s toughest restrictions to guard against the spread of the virus. It has rejected outside aid and shut its borders, reportedly placing its guards there under “shoot to kill” orders. The country has claimed no Covid-19 cases, and it has rejected offers of millions of vaccine doses, leaving its population vulnerable to explosive outbreaks should its borders reopen.

The pandemic has deepened the North’s diplomatic isolation and economic difficulties. ​On Wednesday, it launched what it called a hypersonic missile.

West Virginia’s governor pushes for fourth shots.

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West Virginia Asks to Distribute Fourth Covid Shots

Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia said he would request authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start offering fourth coronavirus vaccine doses amid the spread of the Omicron variant.

We would offer that fourth dose to folks 50, 50 years of age and older or anyone that is compromised, and in addition to that, the essential workers that we have. In our letter to the C.D.C. asking for their permission to move forward — so that letter is going out today, and that is requesting from the state of West Virginia and me that we absolutely be able to move forward in giving the fourth dose to our people. The reason for this is lots of different things. First of all, it’ll save a bunch, bunch, bunch more lives. That’s all there is to it. But secondly, right behind that, we’re going to end up with a run on our hospitals like you can’t imagine — this Omicron virus is absolutely potent from the standpoint that it is a super spreader. And absolutely, without any question, we’re going to have people sitting outside the waiting room or the emergency rooms, in their cars or whatever like, that have had a stroke or a heart attack that can’t even get into the hospital. We’re going to have more and more and more of that right at our doorstep where it is right now today. Now with all of that, we move in West Virginia. We pivot and we move. And so what we’re going to do is, we’re going to request and make recommendations in the state of West Virginia, those that are 50 and older that want the fourth dose or those that are essential workers can get that fourth dose, and they can get it right now.

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Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia said he would request authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start offering fourth coronavirus vaccine doses amid the spread of the Omicron variant.CreditCredit...Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia said he would ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for authorization to begin offering fourth doses of a coronavirus vaccine to residents.

At a news conference, Mr. Justice, a Republican, said he wanted to start offering fourth doses to people 50 and older, as well as to essential workers, which would make West Virginia the first state to do so.

“We’re going to end up with a run on our hospitals like you can’t imagine,” Mr. Justice said, pointing to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Mr. Justice pointed to Israel, one of the first countries to broadly offer a fourth dose to its older citizens, and cited preliminary data from Israel that suggests immunity wanes a few months after a booster shot. Some experts, however, have warned that a fourth shot may be premature.

In interviews this week with The New York Times, nearly a dozen scientists said that trying to boost the entire population every few months is not realistic. Nor does it make much scientific sense.

Still, the idea may be gaining popularity. Chile said Thursday that it would begin offering fourth shots to immunocompromised citizens next week, Reuters reported, making it the first country in Latin America to do so.

But extra shots still lag in the U.S. So far just over a third of American adults have opted for a booster. There are no data to support the effectiveness of a fourth dose of the current vaccines, but cases are rising swiftly and data on fourth doses is coming.

“In the midst of this epidemic, the Omicron epidemic, we need to respond swiftly and we need to assess the data,” said Dr. Jorge Salinas, a hospital epidemiologist at Stanford. “If the data is convincing, I think it could be reasonable for certain populations.”

In early 2021, West Virginia had one of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Residents are among America’s oldest and least healthy, and officials had partnered with a network of pharmacies and about 200 long-term care facilities to deliver first doses.

The state finished its first round of vaccinations at nursing homes in late January, when many other states were just getting started. West Virginia got a jump on delivering nursing home residents their second shots, too.

But after the notably rapid start, the state now lags in vaccinations. About 55 percent of people in West Virginia are fully vaccinated, below the national average of 62 percent, according to data from The New York Times.

Mr. Justice said that he had anticipated vaccine holdouts, and said he would continue to push for more shots.

Dr. Clay Marsh, the official running the state’s coronavirus response, noted that the most vulnerable people, like those who live in nursing homes, had received their vaccines first. Citing the data from Israel, he said their protection may be waning.

“We can’t afford in West Virginia to have our most vulnerable get sick with Covid-19,” Dr. Marsh said.

Mr. Justice said the federal government had bungled the pandemic response, and suggested that individual states take control.

“We’ve got to do something,” Mr. Justice said. “Either we sit back and just let our people die, and we sit back and let our hospitals be overrun, or we try.”

‘The Late Late Show’ will pause production after James Corden tests positive for the virus.

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Credit...Emily Berl for The New York Times

James Corden joined the ranks of late-night TV hosts who have recently tested positive for the coronavirus, disclosing his diagnosis on Thursday as tapings of his CBS program, “The Late Late Show,” were halted for the next several days.

Corden said in a social media post on Thursday, “I just tested positive for covid 19. I’m fully vaccinated, boosted and because of this am fortunate enough to say I feel completely fine. The show will be off the air for the next few days. Stay safe everyone. All my love, James x.”

A programming schedule released by CBS on Thursday indicated that “The Late Late Show,” which is recorded in Los Angeles, would air repeat broadcasts starting Thursday night and running through Jan. 17.

Corden’s announcement came two days after Seth Meyers, the host of NBC’s “Late Night,” said that he had tested positive and halted tapings of his show. Jimmy Fallon, the host of “The Tonight Show” on NBC, said that he had tested positive for coronavirus during a holiday break, but he has returned to the program this week.

Ian Karmel, a head writer for “The Late Late Show,” joked about Corden in a Twitter post on Thursday: “I told him it was hacky to do this after Fallon and Seth both did it, but whatever,” Karmel wrote.

“Saturday Night Live,” which like “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” is produced at NBC’s headquarters in New York, ran its 2021 year-end episode without a studio audience, a musical guest or many of its cast members amid concerns about Covid. NBC said on Thursday that “S.N.L.” would resume live episodes on Jan. 15.

Stephen Colbert told his audience earlier this week that he intended to continue hosting CBS’s flagship “Late Show” from the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York for as long as possible.

“It’s a privilege to do this show,” Colbert said on the program, “and if I do get it, I promise you, I will not be doing my show.”

More Americans are eligible for boosters. But getting shots in arms hasn’t been easy.

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Credit...Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

The Biden administration has largely responded to the near vertical rise in coronavirus cases by pushing for more people to get not only their initial doses of vaccine, but booster shots as well.

This week, federal health officials endorsed boosters for youths 12 to 17 who had initially gotten the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The government also changed the definition of “up to date” Covid vaccination to include boosters.

But even as the United States has moved rapidly to expand who is eligible for boosters, progress in persuading Covid-fatigued Americans to get them has stalled.

About 62 percent of Americans — about 206 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to federal data. But according to a C.D.C. database, only about 35 percent of Americans have received a booster since mid-August, when additional shots were first authorized, even as eligibility has greatly expanded.

On Nov. 19, the F.D.A. authorized boosters for everyone 18 and older who had received two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and on Dec. 9, it authorized boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Those changes led to more Americans getting boosters, according to the federal database, but that has since leveled off.

New reported doses administered by day

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Note: Line shows a seven-day average. Data not updated on some weekends and holidays. The C.D.C., in collaboration with the states, sometimes revises data or reports a single-day large increase in vaccinations from previous dates, which can cause an irregular pattern.

After the discovery of the Omicron variant in late November, the pace of all vaccinations sped up, but it peaked in early December, and then it plateaued. (Reporting lags around the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays have affected the daily numbers throughout this period.)

Omicron, which is highly transmissible, has shown that it is better at evading vaccines than other variants. But scientists say booster shots can offer substantial protection, especially against severe disease.

The United States is averaging a staggering 585,000 cases a day, a record and a 247 percent increase from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are rising more slowly, up 53 percent in the past two weeks, and a smaller percentage of patients are landing in intensive care units or requiring mechanical ventilation, compared with those in previous waves. Deaths are down by 3 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went even further in encouraging booster shots on Wednesday, when health officials recommended that to remain up to date, people should get three doses of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines. The agency also recommended that recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine receive a second dose, preferably of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s.

“There really isn’t debate here in what people should do,” the C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, said in an interview on Tuesday. “If they’re eligible for a boost, they should get boosted.”

Still, the expansion of booster shot eligibility has not been met with an equal amount of demand. Dr. Rebekah E. Gee, the former health secretary of Louisiana, chalked up the resistance to boosters to pandemic fatigue.

Referring to the pandemic’s many problems, Dr. Gee said some people simply “don’t want this to be there” and are trying to “will it out of existence.”

The vaccine may cause women’s periods to be late, a study suggests.

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Credit...Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

Shortly after coronavirus vaccines were rolled out about a year ago, women started reporting erratic menstrual cycles after receiving the shots.

Some said their periods were late. Others reported heavier bleeding than usual or painful bleeding.

A study published on Thursday found that women’s menstrual cycles did indeed change following vaccination against the coronavirus. The authors reported that women who were inoculated had slightly longer menstrual cycles after receiving the vaccine than those who were not vaccinated.

Their periods themselves, which came almost a day later on average, were not prolonged, however, and the effect was transient, with cycle lengths bouncing back to normal within one or two months.

The study, in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, is one of the first to support anecdotal reports from women that their menstrual cycles were off after vaccination, said Dr. Hugh Taylor, the chair of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine.

“It validates that there is something real here,” said Dr. Taylor, who has heard about irregular cycles from his own patients.

At the same time, he added, the changes seen in the study were not significant and appeared to be transient.

“I want to make sure we dissuade people from those untrue myths out there about fertility effects,” Dr. Taylor said. “A cycle or two where periods are thrown off may be annoying, but it’s not going to be harmful in a medical way.”

It’s not clear why the menstrual cycle might be affected by vaccination, but most women with regular periods experience an occasional unusual cycle or missed period. Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the ovaries regulate the monthly cycle, and they can be affected by environmental factors, stressors and life changes.

(The changes observed in the study were not caused by pandemic-related conditions, the authors said, since women in the unvaccinated group were also living in the pandemic.)

Here’s why Novak Djokovic was denied entry to Australia.

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Australia Denies Entry to Novak Djokovic Over Vaccine Exemption

Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player, was told to leave Australia after a 12-hour standoff with government officials over questions about the evidence supporting a medical exemption from a Covid-19 vaccine.

The visa for Novak Djokovic has been canceled. Obviously, that follows a review of the exemption, which was provided through the Victorian government process of looking at the integrity and the evidence behind it. The advice I have, and if I can just quote it for you, is that “The ABF can confirm that Mr. Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and visa has been subsequently canceled.” So it’s a matter for him whether he wishes to appeal that. But if a visa is cancelled, somebody will have to leave the country. The requirements were not able to be met. There was an exemption that had been provided through the Victorian government process. Clearly, that did not pass the standards of proof that were required by the Australian Border Force. Yes, it’s tough, but it’s fair and it’s equitable. And it’s one rule for all under this Australian government.

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Novak Djokovic, the world’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player, was told to leave Australia after a 12-hour standoff with government officials over questions about the evidence supporting a medical exemption from a Covid-19 vaccine.CreditCredit...Alana Holmberg for The New York Times

Novak Djokovic, the top player in men’s tennis and its leading vaccine skeptic, was stopped at the border in Melbourne late Wednesday after flying from Dubai to defend his Australian Open title.

State government and Australian tennis officials had granted Mr. Djokovic an exemption from Covid vaccination rules that would allow him to compete in the event. But upon his arrival, federal border officials said that Mr. Djokovic did not meet the country’s requirements for entry because he was unvaccinated, and they canceled his visa. He filed a legal appeal on Thursday.

New reported cases by day
Feb. 2020
Jul.
Dec.
May 2021
Oct.
Mar. 2022
50,000
100,000 cases
7–day average
51,272

These are days with a reporting anomaly.

Source: Data for Australia comes from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Population data from the Australia Bureau of Statistics. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.

The exemption had stirred anger in Australia, which has enforced tough rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and has maintained one of the world’s lowest Covid death rates. Citizens who endured long lockdowns, and for months faced strict limits on leaving or returning to the country, demanded to know if Mr. Djokovic had been given special treatment.

Mr. Djokovic’s limbo appears to be rooted in confusion over the exemption granted by Australian tennis officials and local authorities in Victoria, the state where the tournament is held. The exemption was believed to have been approved because of Mr. Djokovic’s previous coronavirus infections — grounds that federal officials had warned were invalid.

New York City subway service suffers, as Omicron infects workers.

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Credit...Gabby Jones for The New York Times

As a dizzying surge in coronavirus cases spurred by the fast-spreading Omicron variant has disrupted life in New York City and undermined its economic recovery, its subway system — the nation’s largest — has confronted a staggering worker shortage that has hampered its ability to keep trains running.

On any given day this week, 21 percent of subway operators and conductors — about 1,300 people out of a work force of 6,300 — have been absent from work, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees the city’s subways, buses and two commuter-rail lines.

The soaring jump in absenteeism, which the transportation authority attributes to the virus, has meant a lack of workers to keep up with the regular train schedules, leading officials to suspend service this week on three of the system’s 22 subway lines and reduce schedules on many others, leading to longer wait times.

The unraveling of train schedules is the latest hit to a transit network that has been battered by the pandemic, which has killed more than 150 workers and chased away millions of daily riders and the fares they pay, inflicting a brutal financial blow that threatens the system’s future.

The worker shortage has not shut down service at any of the system’s 472 subway stations — all those on the suspended lines are served by other trains. But the disruptions have led to longer commutes and travel delays for riders, a major challenge for transit officials who were hoping to lure back more passengers at the start of the year.

“I feel like it’s been bad since Christmas,” Jennifer Hall, 41, said Wednesday morning as she waited with her son for a D train in the Bronx.

Portugal eases pandemic restrictions on those with booster shots.

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Credit...Armando Franca/Associated Press

Portugal’s government said on Thursday it would loosen pandemic rules for people who have received a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine, in order to encourage residents to maintain the country’s status as one of Europe’s most vaccinated.

People who have received a booster will no longer be required to present a negative Covid test to attend events or enter sites where that is otherwise mandatory.

People with booster shots will also no longer have to isolate themselves after coming in contact with a person diagnosed with the coronavirus, unless the infected person lives with them. People without booster shots will still be required to isolate after any contact.

The new rules, announced by Prime Minister António Costa, will come into force on Monday.

Portugal is relaxing its rules in part to forestall staff shortages and disruptions in workplaces and schools as it grapples with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, which is better at bypassing vaccine protection than earlier virus variants were.

New reported cases by day
Apr. 2020
Aug.
Dec.
Apr. 2021
Aug.
Dec.
Apr. 2022
20,000
40,000 cases
7–day average
50,837
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.