Coronavirus Live Updates: Worldwide Cases Reach 20 Million


Russian vaccine works ‘effectively enough,’ President Putin said.

A Russian health care regulator has become the first in the world to approve a vaccine for the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Tuesday, though the vaccine has yet to complete clinical trials.

The Russian dash for a vaccine has already raised international concerns that Moscow is cutting corners on testing to score political and propaganda points.

Mr. Putin’s announcement came despite a caution last week from the World Health Organization that Russia should not stray from the usual methods of testing a vaccine for safety and effectiveness.

Mr. Putin’s announcement became essentially a claim of victory in the global race for a vaccine, something Russian officials have been telegraphing for several weeks now despite the absence of published information about any late-phase testing.

“It works effectively enough, forms a stable immunity and, I repeat, it has gone through all necessary tests,” Mr. Putin told a cabinet meeting Tuesday morning. He thanked the scientists who developed the vaccine for “this first, very important step for our country, and generally for the whole world.”

Mr. Putin also said that one of his daughters had taken the vaccine.

The Russian vaccine, along with many others under development in a number of countries in the effort to alleviate a worldwide health crisis that has killed at least 734,900 people, sped through early monkey and human trials with apparent success.

But the Russian scientific body that developed the vaccine, the Gamaleya Institute, has yet to conduct Phase III tests on tens of thousands of volunteers in highly controlled trials, a process seen as the only method of ensuring a vaccine is actually safe and effective. Around the world, more than 30 vaccines out of a total of more than 165 under development are now in various stages of human trials.

Vaccines generally go through three stages of human testing before being approved for widespread use. The first two phases test the vaccine on relatively small groups of people to see if it causes harm and if it stimulates the immune system. The last phase, known as Phase III, compares the vaccine to a placebo in thousands of people. This final phase is the only way to know with statistical certainty whether a vaccine prevents an infection. And because it’s testing a much larger group of people, a Phase III trial can also pick up more subtle side effects of a vaccine that earlier trials could not.

The Food and Drug Administration in the United States has said that a new coronavirus vaccine would need to be 50 percent more effective than a placebo in order to be approved.

In recent months, Mr. Trump has imposed sweeping rules that ban entry by foreigners into the United States, citing the risk of allowing the virus to spread from hot spots abroad. But those rules have exempted two categories of people attempting to return: American citizens and noncitizens who have already established legal residence.

Now, a draft regulation would expand the government’s power to prevent entry by citizens and legal residents in individual, limited circumstances. Federal agencies have been asked to submit feedback on the proposal to the White House by Tuesday, though it is unclear when it might be approved or announced.

Under the proposal, which relies on existing legal authorities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government could block a citizen or legal resident from crossing the border into the United States if an official “reasonably believes that the individual either may have been exposed to or is infected with the communicable disease.”

The draft, parts of which were obtained by The New York Times, explicitly says that any order blocking citizens and legal permanent residents must “include appropriate protections to ensure that no Constitutional rights are infringed.” And it says that citizens and legal residents cannot be blocked as an entire class of people.

The documents do not appear to detail how long a citizen or legal resident would be required to remain outside of the United States.

Even as President Trump promised relief for tens of millions of unemployed Americans who saw critical $600-a-week benefits lapse at the end of July, it was unclear how quickly states would be able to set up the new system required to distribute aid under Mr. Trump’s executive action.

Experts warn that because the administration can only divert existing aid without the congressional approval of new funds, the combination of aid siphoned from a disaster relief fund with state aid may only last for a few weeks.

Mr. Trump said on Monday that “a lot of money will be going to a lot of people very quickly.” He said he had instructed Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, to move as quickly as possible to make it happen. It was unclear whether the aid would materialize if lawsuits were filed challenging the legality of the president’s actions.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Mr. Trump’s directive would cost his state about $4 billion by the end of the year, making it little more than a fantasy. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said that no New Yorker would see enhanced unemployment benefits because of the president.

Even some Republican governors said the order could strain their budgets and worried it would take weeks for tens of millions of unemployed Americans to begin seeing the benefit.

Congress initially provided a $600-a-week supplement to unemployment benefits when the pandemic shut down much of the United States in March. But that benefit lapsed on July 31, after talks between the White House and Congress broke down. Republicans had pushed for a $400 supplemental benefit, which Democrats said was not enough. On Saturday, Mr. Trump ordered the $400 benefit — but said it was contingent on states coming up with $100 of that on their own.

Republicans largely praised the president for trying to act where Congress had failed, but they said they would need to pull funds from other pressing budgetary needs.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican, said it was possible to comply with Mr. Trump’s executive order, but he would have to reallocate money from another part of the budget.

“We could do it,” Mr. Hutchinson said in an interview. “It would be a readjustment of priorities and take some time.” He added, “That’s not ideal.”

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican and an ally of Mr. Trump, said his staff was still working through what to do about unemployment benefits. “We’re digging in on that issue,” he said.

And Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, a Republican, said the order would cost his state $26 million a week. He said he was hopeful that the federal government would decide to cover the whole cost of the program, and that lawmakers would strike a deal. “We hope Congress will quit being a bunch of political babies,” he said.

New Zealand on Tuesday confirmed its first locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus in months, shortly after its 100-day milestone without any new such infections.

Mr. Johnson’s drive to reopen schools has put him at odds with teachers’ unions and local governments, which generally accept that schools should reopen but argue that Britain’s system for testing and contact tracing is not robust enough to cope with the outbreaks that may follow.

The government, they said, had not developed plans for how teachers should handle sick students or communicate with parents if there is an outbreak. Mr. Johnson’s back-to-school campaign, some said, smacked of a government that had emphasized other priorities, like eating out in restaurants, and was playing catch-up.

“The big question is, if you open schools, how long can you keep them open?” said Devi Sridhar, the director of the global health governance program at Edinburgh University. “If there’s spreading, do you shut down the whole school? Do you shut down a single class?”

Professor Sridhar said the safest way to open schools was to drive down the transmission rate — and the way to do that, she said, was to close “the nighttime economy.” In the Scottish city of Aberdeen, she noted, nearly 800 people were forced into quarantine because of an outbreak that authorities traced to a handful of pubs.

“My message is, you have to choose,” she said. “Which part of the economy do you have to sacrifice? Something’s got to give.”

Mr. Johnson cannot order schools to open or close; those decisions are made by the local health authorities. But some teachers say they are eager to return to the classroom, viewing the health risks as manageable. Schools in Scotland plan to reopen this week, with England’s opening on Sept. 1.

In other news from around the world:

  • Vietnam, which did not record its first Covid-19 death until July 31, reported four on Tuesday, its highest daily number since the start of the pandemic. All 15 of the country’s fatalities so far were linked to an outbreak that began last month in the central city of Danang and infected nearly 400 people. The country now has a total of 847 confirmed cases.

Namibia will auction fishing rights to raise funds to fight the pandemic.

The human health care system has struggled financially through the pandemic, losing billions from the cancellations of lucrative elective operations as patients were first told to stay away from hospitals and then were leery of setting foot in one.

The canine and feline health system, though, is booming.

“It’s crazy, in a good way,” said Dr. Margot Vahrenwald, a veterinarian in Denver. “We’re probably seeing 25 percent more new pets than what we would normally. It feels busier, and we’re seeing increased revenue.”

While hospitals were furloughing workers, Dr. Vahrenwald, an owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center, added five employees, and still has job listings for more. Her clinic has had to buy two phone lines to handle a deluge of calls from pet owners.

Animal hospitals appear to have pulled off something human hospitals have struggled to do: make patients feel comfortable seeking routine care.

Most veterinarians are now requiring curbside service — owners drop their pet at the door, and wait outside during the appointment — lessening the risk of being infected.

Their animal patients tend to be less susceptible to the coronavirus, although not completely immune. Some pets have become infected, and last month the first dog in the United States to test positive for the virus died.

Pet owners have, collectively, decided there is enough value in maintaining the health of their cats and dogs to brave the outside world at least a little more. Much of the increase in veterinary care seems to be for wellness visits and vaccinations. By contrast, primary care spending for humans is estimated to have dropped by $15 billion over the course of the pandemic.

Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Nick Bruce, Emily Cochrane, Caitlin Dickerson, Sarah Kliff, Andrew E. Kramer, Mark Landler, Sarah Mervosh, Alan Rappeport, Michael D. Shear, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Jin Wu and Elaine Yu.



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