Here’s what you need to know:The closed port at Dover on Monday evening.Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times
Growing alarm over an outbreak of a more contagious virus variant in Britain prompted mounting concern and travel chaos on Monday as more than 30 nations banned travelers from the country, suspending flights and cutting off trade routes in scenes reminiscent of the frenzied early days of the pandemic.
Monday should have been a day of breakthroughs. In the United States, federal lawmakers reached a deal on a $900 billion stimulus package and the rollout of a second vaccine, made by Moderna, was set to begin. Across the Atlantic, the European Union approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for millions of doses to be transferred to all 27 European Union member states.
Instead, announcements by government officials sent financial markets reeling. Stocks in Europe were sharply lower, along with energy prices and the British pound. On Wall Street, the decline was tempered slightly by news of the stimulus deal.
Britain was all but cut off from the rest of Europe on Monday, offering a chilling preview of what a rupture might look like, just 10 days before a deadline to negotiate a post-Brexit trade agreement with the European Union.
The disruptions stoked fears of panic buying in British supermarkets, as Britons, already rattled by a surge in infections and a hastily imposed lockdown in much of England, worried about running out of fresh food in the days before Christmas.
The upheaval over the virus mutation grew after Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain said that it had been shown to be 70 percent more contagious than other variants. The 70 percent estimate of greater transmissibility is based only on modeling and has not been confirmed by lab experiments, said Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a scientific adviser to the British government. British officials said there was no reason to believe that the new variant caused more serious illness.
But the statistic raised alarm around the world. France imposed a 48-hour suspension of freight transit across the English Channel, leaving thousands of truck drivers stranded in their vehicles on Monday as the roads leading to England’s ports were turned into parking lots.
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands were among the nations that announced restrictions on travel. Air passengers from the United Kingdom arriving in Germany were detained at airports on Sunday night. Poland said it would suspend flights between the two countries starting Monday. Spain announced that only Spaniards and residents of Spain will be allowed to fly to Spain from Britain, and implemented tighter border checks with Gibraltar, the British territory located at the southern tip of Spain. Greece has extended to ten days the quarantine period for travelers flying in from the U.K., a day after raising it to seven days, but has not suspended flights.
Hong Kong on Monday also closed its borders to travelers from Britain, saying all passenger flights from the country would be barred starting at midnight. The ban will be extended for the first time to Hong Kong residents. Canada, India, Iran, and Russia also issued new restrictions.
Israel is essentially closing its skies to most foreign nationals from Wednesday afternoon. Saudi Arabia went even further in trying to halt the variant from gaining traction, announcing a one week ban on all international travel, according to the Saudi Press Agency. Kuwait on Monday evening suspended all commercial international flights and closed its land and sea borders until Jan. 1.
European Union leaders planned to meet on Monday to devise a “common doctrine” for dealing with the variant’s threat.
In the United States, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York urged the federal government to take action, saying that “right now, this variant in the U.K. is getting on a plane and flying to J.F.K.,” while also acknowledging that it may be too late.
Gov. Cuomo said he took it upon himself to ask the three major airlines that oversee air travel between the United Kingdom and New York — British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic — to require passengers to get tested before they are allowed to fly into the state.
He cautioned: “If it’s been flying around the world, it will be here.”
So far, only British Airways has agreed to the safety precaution, but Mr. Cuomo warned that if Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic did not follow suit, “we will pursue other options.” The governor recognized that he does not have the authority to halt air travel, but also asserted that he has some legal jurisdiction once passengers land on New York soil. In his plea, Mr. Cuomo recalled the state’s first coronavirus wave in the spring originated in Europe. “This is how we had the New York ambush in the first place,” Mr. Cuomo said.
‘This Is Very Concerning,’ Cuomo Says of New Coronavirus StrainOn Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York called for testing of passengers on flights bound to New York from the United Kingdom, after a new strain of coronavirus was discovered.
This is very concerning, this new strain that they have found in the U.K. Why don’t we act intelligently for a change? Why don’t we mandate testing before people get on the flight or halt the flights from the U.K. now? If this is more transmittable than Covid — 70 times more, says Boris Johnson — this is a major problem. And for us to, once again, be incompetent as a federal government and take no action is just not a viable option for us in New York. There are three airlines that come from the U.K. and fly into our airports. Our airports are run by the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, the three airlines are British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic. They daily are bringing seven — several thousand passengers per day. I am asking those airlines to add New York State to the list of the 120 countries that require tests before the flights leave the U.K.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York called for testing of passengers on flights bound to New York from the United Kingdom, after a new strain of coronavirus was discovered.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Hans Pennink
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City also urged further restrictions. “In my view, it’s time for a travel ban from Europe,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference on Monday. “Or at minimum a requirement that anyone getting on a plane has proof that they have a negative test if they’re coming out of Europe.”
The virus shows no signs of abating in the United States — parts of California are down to their last I.C.U. beds and some hospitals in other states are at or over capacity — and the numbers are as alarming as they have ever been: At least 317,800 people have died, more than any other country in the world.
Yet more than a million travelers a day passed through American airport security checkpoints on each of the last three days, a spike in holiday travel that comes despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has urged people not to travel as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
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President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. received a coronavirus vaccine at ChristianaCare Hospital in Newark, Del.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. received the coronavirus vaccine on live television on Monday at the Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., sending a message to Americans across the country that the vaccine is safe to take.
“Left’s good,” he told the nurse practitioner who administered the vaccine, rolling up the sleeve of his black long-sleeve turtleneck and exposing his left arm. “You just go ahead anytime you’re ready.”
He credited the Trump administration for its work on Operation Warp Speed, which helped to deliver a quick vaccine.
“The administration deserves some credit getting this off the ground,” he said. “I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it’s available to take the vaccine.”
Mr. Biden, however, warned Americans that vigilance in the coming months was still necessary.
“It’s going to take time,” he said, encouraging people to continue to wear masks and socially distance. “If you don’t have to travel, don’t travel,” he said. “It’s really important.”
He thanked health care workers, calling them heroes, and ended with an awkward elbow bump with Tabe Masa, the nurse practitioner who administered to him the first course of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. His wife, Dr. Jill Biden, received the vaccine privately, earlier in the day on Monday, according to a spokesman, and joined him at the hospital.
Since March, Mr. Biden’s team has been taking public health guidelines about social distancing and masks seriously, as President Trump and his aides have willfully disregarded them. But even Mr. Biden’s more careful circle has been infiltrated by the virus. Representative Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana and one of Mr. Biden’s closest advisers, tested positive for the coronavirus last week, the transition team announced.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is expected to receive her vaccine after Christmas, a spokeswoman said, following advice from doctors who recommended Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris stagger their first shots rather than receive them together.
Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, all received the first dose of the vaccine on Friday.
Mr. Trump, however, has neither participated in nor supported the public health campaign to reassure vaccine skeptics worried about its dangers.
On Friday, he did nothing to promote Mr. Pence taking the vaccine, an event held at the White House that officials asked all of the television networks to carry live on TV for maximum exposure. Instead, Mr. Trump was tweeting out anti-mask claims minutes after Mr. Pence received his vaccine.
Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have defended his decision to put off his own vaccination, arguing that he still has the protective effects of the monoclonal antibody cocktail that was used to treat him for the virus in October.
But doctors have said it would set a good example to Americans who have recovered from Covid-19 that they still should receive the vaccine.
“We know that infection doesn’t induce a very strong immune response and it wanes over time,” Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser of Operation Warp Speed, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “So I think, as a clear precaution, it is appropriate to be vaccinated because it’s safe. I think people should be vaccinated, indeed.”
A newly built coronavirus vaccination center in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday. The European Union is poised to start distributing shots to all 27 member nations.Credit…Axel Heimken/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The European Union granted authorization on Monday for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for millions of doses to be transferred by Pfizer to the bloc’s 27 member states. Immunization is expected to begin in most countries over the next few days and gather speed in early January, the authorities have said.
The decision comes weeks after Britain granted emergency approval to the vaccine and began its rollout, quickly followed by the United States. The swifter authorization by the British and U.S. authorities created pressure for the European Union to expedite its own process, and the regulator changed its date for the decision, moving it to Monday from Dec. 29. The delay had been criticized, especially in Germany, where BioNTech is based and where the vaccine was developed.
The E.U.’s drug authority, the European Medicines Agency, is expected to give its decision on the Moderna vaccine authorization request on Jan. 6.
Pfizer declined to provide logistical details for its plans to transport the vaccines across the 27 E.U. countries, but said it was ready to begin distribution as soon as it got the green light from the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission. The shots that will be distributed in Europe are manufactured in Pfizer factories in Puurs, Belgium, and in Mainz, Germany.
House Democrats issued subpoenas for Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director.Credit…Jenni Girtman/EPA, via Shutterstock
House Democrats investigating political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued subpoenas for Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, demanding they turn over documents showing how Trump administration appointees attempted to delay and alter guidance documents on the coronavirus.
Rep. James E. Clyburn, the chairman of a special select committee investigating the Trump administration’s pandemic response, described in a scathing 20-page letter how two top H.H.S. appointees loyal to President Trump attempted to edit or block at least 13 editions of the C.D.C.’s closely guarded Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, which contained research on the spread of the coronavirus written by career agency scientists.
The appointees, Michael Caputo, the top public affairs official at the Department of Health and Human Services, and a scientific adviser he hired, Dr. Paul Alexander, targeted C.D.C. scientists they believed were intentionally publishing research unflattering to Mr. Trump and the White House, Mr. Clyburn wrote.
In one instance, Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander attempted to halt the publication of a report on how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that became a right-wing cause after Mr. Trump praised, without evidence, its potential as a treatment against Covid-19.
Department officials even drafted a “rebuttal” to the report, saying it “presents factual information with an agenda” and could “prevent the news from giving the proper coverage of a true ‘miracle cure.’” The rebuttal called the authors of the M.M.W.R. “a disgrace to public service.”
The subpoenas escalated a bitter dispute between H.H.S., which is the C.D.C.’s parent agency, and Mr. Clyburn, who has accused the agency of blocking testimony from a group of top C.D.C. officials, including Dr. Redfield.
Earlier this month, the editor in chief of the reports told the committee that she was ordered to destroy an email showing that H.H.S. political appointees attempted to interfere with their publication. Mr. Clyburn wrote that the attempted interference occurred even as a top H.H.S. official, Bill Hall, warned Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander that the M.M.W.R. reports needed to remain independent.
The H.H.S. public affairs office is “not a science or medical program office and, as matter of longstanding policy, we do not engage in clearing scientific articles,” Mr. Hall wrote. Dr. Alexander then began contacting C.D.C. officials directly in an effort to continue meddling in at least 11 other reports, Mr. Clyburn wrote.
Doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine arrived at sites across the country Monday. Laura Bailey prepared a shot for Dr. Edward Hannoush at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.Credit…Jessica Hill/Associated Press
Just one week after the first, hopeful doses of a coronavirus vaccine were administered in the United States, a new batch of vaccines fanned out across the country on Monday, a significant expansion of a vaccination effort that is expected to help reach rural areas and other vulnerable populations as soon as this week.
Roughly 6 million doses of the newly-authorized Moderna vaccine were being shipped to more than 3,700 locations around the country this week, adding to the nearly 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that were dispatched mostly to health care workers starting last week.
“It was more happiness and hope,” said Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist at OhioHealth, a hospital system in Columbus, Ohio, which received 10,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine in ice-packed cardboard boxes on Monday.
The hospital had already received nearly 2,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and Dr. Gastaldo rolled up his sleeve to get a dose of that vaccine on Monday morning. Not long afterward, he got the news that the Moderna shipment had arrived, adding to their stockpile.
“We are all really exhausted both physically and mentally,” said Dr. Gastaldo, who said he asked to keep an empty vial of his vaccine as a keepsake. “Having everyone rally around being vaccinated offers a glimmer of hope.”
The Moderna vaccine, which can be stored in a normal freezer and comes in a smaller number of units than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, offers particular hope for rural hospitals, which often do not have the ultracold equipment or staffing numbers to handle the Pfizer-BioNTech shipments. That vaccine requires an exceptionally low storage temperature of negative 70 Celsius and comes in units of 975 doses.
More than 70 rural hospitals in Texas are expected to receive the Moderna vaccine and start offering doses as soon as Tuesday. The distribution comes as the country records some of the highest numbers of daily cases and deaths of the entire pandemic, and as many rural hospitals are stretched to the limit. “The burden is worse than it’s been in nine months,” said John Henderson, the chief executive of the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, which represents rural hospitals in Texas. “Their staff is completely worn out,” he said. “The vaccine is the only optimistic news we’ve had in a few months.”
The Oregon State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Salem, also received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine, and will begin vaccinating staff and patients next Monday, said Rebeka Gipson-King, hospital relations director.
“We are very grateful to be included in the 1A rollout,” Ms. Gipson-King said, referring to the first category of people for whom vaccines have been allocated.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 11 patients and 65 staff members have tested positive for the virus at the state hospital. The hospital houses 579 patients on two campuses, and the pandemic has made many feel more isolated, said Ms. Gipson-King.
“This is a really big deal for us,” she added. “Just like everybody, the people who we serve at the state hospital, their lives have been disrupted.”
People lining up for a meal delivery from a food bank in Rochester, N.H., this month. The agreement by Congress on a stimulus package is a welcome relief, though some worry it might not be enough.Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times
After congressional leaders struck a long-sought agreement on a $900 billion pandemic relief package, lawmakers in both chambers on Monday will race to finalize legislative text and send the measure to President Trump’s desk before government funding lapses.
An agreement in principle was reached late Sunday afternoon, hours before a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown. With additional time needed to transform their agreement into legislative text, both chambers had to approve a one-day stopgap spending bill, giving them an additional 24 hours to finalize the deal.
Lawmakers will have just a few hours to review the hundreds of pages of text that will encompass about $2.3 trillion in relief legislation and a catchall omnibus to keep the government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year. But after months of gridlock and debate, both chambers are expected to approve the spending measures on Monday and send them to the president for his signature.
The $900 billion agreement is set to provide $600 stimulus payments to millions of American adults earning up to $75,000. It would revive lapsed supplemental federal unemployment benefits at $300 a week for 11 weeks — setting both at half the amount provided by the first pandemic relief package in March.
The final proposal will also include $69 billion for the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and more than $22 billion for states to conduct testing, tracing and coronavirus mitigation programs.
The agreement is also expected to:
Continue and expand benefits for gig workers and freelancers, and extend federal payments for people whose regular benefits have expired.
Provide more than $284 billion for businesses and revive the Paycheck Protection Program, a popular federal loan program for small businesses that lapsed over the summer.
Expand eligibility under that program for nonprofit organizations, local newspapers and radio and TV broadcasters and allocate $15 billion for performance venues, independent movie theaters and other cultural institutions devastated by the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
Provide $82 billion for colleges and schools, $13 billion in increased nutrition assistance, $7 billion for broadband access and $25 billion in rental assistance.
Extend an eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of the year.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Nov. 25. The Thanksgiving holiday was the last time airport checkpoints handled more than one million passengers in a day.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times
More than a million travelers a day passed through airport security checkpoints on each of the last three days in the United States.
With Christmas on Friday, the numbers show that, despite warnings from the C.D.C., people are on the move. On Friday, 1,066,747 people traveled through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, according to the agency. On Saturday, the figure was 1,073,563 and on Sunday, it was 1,064,619.
The last time passenger figures topped one million was around the Thanksgiving holiday: On Nov. 25, a Wednesday, 1,070,967 people passed through checkpoints, and on Nov. 29, a Sunday, there were 1,176,091 passengers. The numbers were less than half of what they had been for the same days in 2019, when more than two million people passed through airport security checkpoints.
The spikes in holiday travel this year come despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has urged people not to travel as Covid-19 cases continue to rise. The agency issued an advisory this month that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.” It added, “you and your travel companions (including children) may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread Covid-19 to family, friends, and community after travel.”
The C.D.C. encourages anyone who decides to travel to get a flu shot, keep a distance of six feet at checkpoints, wear a mask throughout the trip, bring extra hand sanitizer and wash hands regularly.
United Airlines said on Friday that it was working with health officials to contact passengers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by a man who died on a recent flight. Four flight attendants who responded to the emergency onboard the flight, United 591, went into quarantine for 14 days after the plane reached Los Angeles, the flight attendants’ union said.
Demonstrators protested against virus restrictions outside the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, while legislators met for an emergency session.Credit…Andrew Selski/Associated Press
Dozens of protesters trying to force their way into Oregon’s State Capitol building on Monday were met by officers in riot gear, as lawmakers gathered for a one-day special session amid growing tension over coronavirus restrictions in the state.
The Oregon State Police declared the protests an unlawful assembly, and officers fired mace or pepper balls to drive the crowds away from the entrance to the Capitol in Salem, according to video from the scene.
Many in the crowd carried weapons, wore body armor or held flags supporting President Trump.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon had called a one-day special session of the Legislature to address issues related to the pandemic, including relief for landlords and tenants and funding for vaccine distribution, as well as efforts to address the state’s devastating wildfire season.
Protesters objected to restrictions imposed by Ms. Brown to limit the spread of the coronavirus, shouting about their impact on jobs and schools. “Arrest Kate Brown,” the crowd chanted at officers. One person carried a sign saying, “Politicians are the virus, revolution is the cure.”
Riot officers with batons, some wearing gas masks, later moved in large numbers to shove protesters out of an entranceway to the Capitol building. Many in the crowd yelled that they had long supported law enforcement officers, including at “Back the blue” rallies, but would no longer back them.
Oregon’s coronavirus infection numbers are at the highest point of the pandemic. Under the governor’s orders, many counties face mandatory restrictions, such as prohibitions on indoor dining at restaurants.
Passengers of a flight from Heathrow Airport were given field beds after landing in Hanover, Germany on Sunday as they awaited coronavirus test results.Credit…Sophie & Stefan from Hanover, via Reuters
BERLIN — Before taking off from London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday evening, the cabin crew of the last Eurowings flight to Stuttgart, Germany warned its passengers that because of the new coronavirus mutation they risked spending the night at the airport.
“They are partitioning off a part of the airport — all I can say is cots,” the announcement said, according to a recording cited by German media.
Air passengers from the United Kingdom were detained at German airports on Sunday night after the country had decided to stop incoming flights in a bid to prevent the spread of a new mutation of the coronavirus.
While the German health minister confirmed an official stop to flights from the U.K. and South Africa starting at midnight, hundreds of travelers who touched down between the time the decision was communicated, in the late afternoon, and the official rule was in place had to wait for coronavirus test results before being allowed to leave airports.
Depending on scrambling local health authorities, the procedure varied from place to place.
In Hanover, where a flight from London landed at 6:45 p.m., all 63 passengers had to take a PCR test when stepping off the flight. One passenger refused to take the test and flew back to Britain. The others had to wait until the next morning, when the results were available. One positive case was found, according to health authorities.
“We tried to make the wait as comfortable as possible,” said Kristin Peschel, a spokeswoman for the airport.
Despite the food, bottled water and field beds provided by the airport, passengers demanded to speak with lawyers and even filmed a dramatic video which was broadcast by the country’s main tabloid, the Bild Zeitung. “We are held against our will,” one passenger identified as Manuela T. said in the clip.
At the country’s busiest airport in Frankfurt, roughly 100 passengers were still waiting for test results by midday, according to a spokesman. About 200 travelers had been detained overnight waiting for their test results. A Lufthansa flight from South Africa that had left before the rules were in effect arrived in Frankfurt on Monday morning. In accordance with local health rules, German passengers were allowed to go home to quarantine, while non-Germans were kept at the airport until negative test results were available.
At the new Berlin airport, German passengers were also allowed to go home to follow normal quarantine rules. After several hours, non-German passengers with residence in Germany were allowed to go home to quarantine. Foreign passengers without residence had to spend the night at the terminal to get in line for a coronavirus test when the center there opened at 7 a.m.
Despite the preflight warning, passengers arriving in Stuttgart might have had it the easiest. Local authorities had organized a coronavirus quick-test line. Within two hours all 150 passengers arriving were able to test and leave the airport, according to an airport spokesman.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the Covid-19 vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Saturday.Credit…Amir Cohen/Reuters
JERUSALEM — Israel said on Monday it would close its skies to foreign nationals on Wednesday and would require Israelis arriving from abroad to quarantine in government-run hotels, as part of an effort to keep a new mutation of the coronavirus out of the country. Local airlines were laying on extra flights to whisk Israelis back from vacations abroad before the new quarantine restrictions come into force.
Alarm over an outbreak of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus in Britain spread throughout Europe on Monday, prompting more than 30 countries to ban travelers from the country and suspend flights.
“We have, at the moment, a new pandemic that is spreading, with a virus which we do not yet know about,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding, “This mutation could also be coronavirus 2.” The decision to enforce new travel restrictions was difficult, Mr. Netanyahu said, “but we have no choice.”
With one main international airport in operation and a few land crossings that can easily be sealed, Israel is well placed to self-isolate as a country, though its first attempt in the early stages of the pandemic did not last very long.
People arriving from Britain were already being bused directly from the airport to government-run hotels where they will have to quarantine for up to 14 days. Beginning Wednesday, Israelis arriving from any country will also have to quarantine in the repurposed hotels.
While many countries have closed their borders to Israelis because of high infection rates, tens of thousands have traveled to Dubai this month and others are vacationing in the Seychelles. With many now wanting to beat the Wednesday deadline, local airlines said they were scrambling dozens of planes to bring them home.
A coronavirus testing center in Hong Kong, which has strict quarantine and isolation requirements for people who contract the virus.Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press
A 63-year-old coronavirus patient has been arrested in Hong Kong after his escape from a hospital isolation ward set off a frantic manhunt across the city.
Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory that is currently battling a fourth wave of infections, has strict quarantine and isolation requirements for people who contract the virus and their close contacts. Those who test positive, whether they are symptomatic or not, are sent to a hospital for treatment and monitoring until they test negative, while their close contacts are sent to quarantine camps for up to two weeks. Unbidden departures from quarantine and isolation facilities are illegal and can result in a two-month prison sentence and $645 fine.
The patient, Li Wan-keung, slipped away on Friday while doctors and nurses were occupied with other patients, the health authorities said. He evaded detection for 54 hours, even after the police released his name and photograph on their social media accounts.
Mr. Li was arrested on Sunday night and taken back to the hospital. A police representative said on Monday that the force received a tip about Mr. Li’s whereabouts and dispatched officers to arrest him.
Hong Kong courts have, as of Dec. 1, imprisoned or fined 76 people found guilty of violating quarantine orders. Government officials say that the prison sentences are intended to clearly signal their position of zero tolerance.
Hong Kong, a city of about 7.5 million people, has reported a total of 8,237 coronavirus cases and 130 deaths since the outbreak began.
A relative attended to a patient at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday as doctors across the country went on strike.Credit…Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Citing poor pay, lack of medical insurance and inadequate protective equipment, doctors across Kenya went on strike on Monday, setting off a public health crisis as coronavirus cases continued to rise nationwide.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union, which represents all Kenyan doctors, began the 21-day strike after eight months of negotiations with the government failed. A similar strike in November was suspended to continue deliberations.
For several months, medical practitioners have been asking the government to provide them with comprehensive medical insurance coverage, pay their salaries, enlist 2,000 doctors on “permanent and pensionable terms” and provide a dedicated facility to treat those who contract the coronavirus. But they accused the government of pressuring them to return to work or be fired rather than listening to their demands.
The latest strike comes just months after doctors in several counties, including the capital, Nairobi, put down their tools just as a local television investigation exposed the theft from government coffers of hundreds of millions of dollars of funds allocated to fight the pandemic.
Kenya has so far recorded 94,500 coronavirus infections and 1,639 deaths. The East African nation has seen a rise in cases since easing restrictions in October, raising fears that the country was experiencing a second wave.
More than a dozen Kenyan doctors have died of Covid-19. Among them was Dr. Stephen Mogusu, a 28-year-old who at the time of his death in early December had no insurance and had not received a paycheck for five months.
“Too steep a price for patriotism,” the doctors’ union tweeted at the time.