Saudi Arabia imposes strict limits on this year’s hajj, dashing the hopes of many pilgrims.

Every year, Saudi Arabia plays host to millions of Muslims from around the world taking part in the pilgrimage to Mecca known as the hajj. It is a sacred rite for Muslims and a reliable source of income for the Saudi economy and of prestige for its monarchy.

But not this year.

The kingdom announced on Monday that the hajj, which is taking place next month, would welcome “very limited numbers” of pilgrims to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which oversees the pilgrimage, said the event would allow only Saudi pilgrims and those from other countries already inside the kingdom.

The ministry did not specify the target attendance, but the limitations will surely make this year’s pilgrimage much smaller than those in recent years, which have been vast.

In 2019, 2.49 million pilgrims took part in the hajj, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, and 1.86 million of them came from abroad.

The reduced numbers could strike a big financial blow to a kingdom already reeling from low oil prices and an economic slowdown caused by the lockdown. The holy cities of Mecca and Medina are likely to be especially hard hit.

For the many Muslims planning to make the pilgrimage, it will also be a major disappointment. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and a journey every Muslim who is able must undertake once in a lifetime.

Muslims who have spent years saving for the trip and jockeying for bookings will now have to wait until next year to try again.

President Trump on Monday signed a proclamation temporarily suspending work visas and barring more than half a million foreigners from coming to work in the United States, part of a broad effort by the administration to dramatically limit entry into the country during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The restrictions would block entry into the United States under the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers, and would also affect several other categories of visas, although it would exempt health care professionals and farm workers, among others. Taken together, senior administration officials said, the worker visa bans and green card suspensions would prevent 525,000 immigrants from working in the United States between now and the end of the year.

The order, which has been expected for several weeks, is fiercely opposed by a broad swathe of businesses — including high tech companies in Silicon Valley, manufacturers, and others — whose leaders say it will block their ability to recruit critically needed workers from overseas countries for jobs that Americans cannot or will not perform.

Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s restrictive immigration policies, has pushed for years to limit or eliminate the worker visas, arguing that they harm employment prospects for Americans. In recent months, he has argued that the economic distress caused by the virus has made it even more important to turn off the spigot of foreign entry into the United States.

In April, the president signed an executive order that suspended for 60 days the issuance of green cards to foreigners looking to live in the United States. But at the time, Mr. Miller and the president bowed to pressure from the business community to avoid imposing limits on worker visas.

Monday’s order extends the green-card prohibition in addition to suspending the issuance of many of the worker visas, which will be effective through the end of the year. In addition, the administration officials said that the president would order new regulations to permanently change worker visas in the future so that foreign job offers go to more highly paid, highly-skilled workers that will compete less with Americans.

As the virus spreads at record speeds around the world, the United States accounted for 20 percent of all the new infections worldwide on Sunday, according to New York Times data, even as the country’s population makes up about 4.3 percent of the world’s.

New cases continued to surge over the weekend in 22 states, especially in the West and the South. Oklahoma and Missouri reported their largest single-day case increases yet on Sunday.

Over the weekend, Florida also passed 100,000 cases according the state’s health department and the surgeon general there began formally advising that all residents wear face coverings “in any situation where social distancing is not possible.” In Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez went further on Monday, making it a requirement that residents wear masks in public, effective immediately.

In Washington’s Yakima County, where the number of cases has more than doubled in the past month, the situation is dire. Gov. Jay Inslee said the county was at a “breaking point.” With a shortage of hospital beds, patients were being taken to Seattle, more than two hours away, for medical care. Yakima hospitals are also reporting significant staffing shortages because of employees who are sick with the virus or are under a 14-day quarantine after being exposed.

In the wake of another record-setting day for new cases, Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the W.H.O.’s health emergencies program, said on Monday that increased testing was not driving the surge in cases.

“We do not believe that this is a testing phenomenon,” he said. “Clearly, hospital admissions are also rising in a number of countries, deaths are also rising, and they are not due to increase testing, per se. So there definitely is a shift in the sense that the virus is now very well established at the global level.”

The declaration comes two days after Mr. Trump told supporters at a political rally in Tulsa, Okla., that he had urged U.S. officials to slow down testing for the virus. Mr. Trump has attributed the recent upswing of cases in the United States to increased testing.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., said on Monday that more than 183,000 new cases worldwide were reported in the last 24-hour period, “easily the most in a single day so far.”

He also warned countries not to make the virus a political issue, particularly as infections worldwide are on the rise.

“We know the pandemic is so much more than a health crisis — it’s an economic crisis, a social crisis and in many countries a political crisis,” Dr. Tedros said. Though he did not call out specific countries, the virus has become politically contentious in several countries, including the United States, where the White House has begun rolling back its own virus-related precautions, and Brazil.

Over the weekend, Brazil became the second country to log more than 50,000 virus-related deaths. New cases across the country continue to spike, particularly in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Some epidemiologists say if that trend continues, Brazil could top the United States for the most virus-related deaths by late July.

The case and death counts in Mexico also continue to rise, prompting officials in Mexico City — which has seen the brunt of the infections — to hold off on plans to reopen malls and outdoor markets.

In Germany, which was praised for quickly implementing lockdowns and large-scale testing, a recent increase in infections has been tied to the country’s largest pork processing plant, which has recorded more than 1,300 cases among workers.

Parts of Africa are also becoming global hot spots, after being largely spared from the virus earlier this year. South Africa is now seeing an average of 1,000 new cases a day, and virus-related deaths in Egypt are on the rise.

Leaders of local and state health departments have been subject to harassment, personal insults and death threats in recent weeks, a barrage of abuse from a vocal and angry segment of the population who say that mask requirements and restrictions on businesses have gone too far.

The steadily escalating threats prompted one top health official, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to issue a statement on Monday condemning attacks on public health directors and disclosing that she has been living with repeated threats to her safety.

“In my case, the death threats started last month, during a Covid-19 Facebook Live public briefing when someone very casually suggested that I should be shot,” Dr. Ferrer said in a statement. “I didn’t immediately see the message, but my husband did, my children did, and so did my colleagues.”

“It is deeply worrisome,” she added, “to imagine that our hardworking infectious disease physicians, nurses, epidemiologists and environmental health specialists or any of our other team members would have to face this level of hatred.”

Many public health officials entered the coronavirus pandemic this year with bare-bones staffing and strained budgets, leaving them ill-prepared to handle the mounting crisis.

Lori Tremmel Freeman, the chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said in an interview last week that dozens of top health officials have resigned or been fired since the pandemic began.

“There’s a big red target on their backs,” she said. “They’re becoming villainized for their guidance. In normal times, they’re very trusted members of their community.”

global roundup

Germany scrambles to contain an outbreak at the country’s largest pork processing plant.

Germany is scrambling to contain a fast-growing outbreak in the country’s largest pork processing plant.

The authorities have confirmed 1,331 new cases among workers at the Tönnies plant in the northwestern town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück in the last week. The surrounding community has been quarantined and schools and day care centers have been closed. State and federal health workers and soldiers had been deployed to carry out large-scale testing.

Some workers blamed a lack of safety measures and space to practice social distancing. A video released in early April, apparently recorded by a worker, showed a crowded cafeteria. The state prosecutor said he was considering opening an investigation.

With the new cases, the country’s R0, or “r-naught,” which represents the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case, shot up to 2.7 on Monday, a number not seen since a nationwide shutdown that started in March lowered the rate. But the national health authority, the Robert Koch Institute, cautioned that the R0 was high precisely because the number of cases remained relatively low.

In other international news:

  • India’s underfunded hospitals have begun to buckle as the country reports more infections per day than any country besides the United States and Brazil. People in desperate need of treatment are being turned away, especially in New Delhi. Scores have died in the streets or in the back of ambulances.

  • A top health official in South Korea, Jeong Eun-kyeong, said that the country had been battling a “second wave” since early May, but that the caseload remained too small to qualify as a true “wave.” South Korea has reported new cases in the double digits in recent weeks, after recording as many as 800 cases a day several months ago.

  • Local authorities in Spain on Monday were forced to reimpose lockdown restrictions in some municipalities of Huesca, a northeastern province, after new clusters of infections surfaced, including one among seasonal farm workers. The step back came only a day after Spain lifted a nationwide state of emergency.

  • French schools opened their doors in earnest after weeks of incremental steps, though only two weeks remain before the summer break. Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, told France Inter radio that confinement had been a “global education catastrophe” for students, and vowed that those who had dropped behind during the lockdown would receive special support.

  • Thousands of Palestinians, many wearing masks and gloves, gathered in the West Bank to demonstrate against the prospect of Israeli annexation. Mai Kaila, the health minister of the Palestinian Authority, emphasized the urgency of the protest. “Our people know about the dangers of the coronavirus, but they wanted to send a message to the whole international community against annexation,” she said. Hundreds of new virus cases have been recorded in the West Bank in the past week, bringing the total just under 1,000.

  • The United Nations General Assembly will conduct its annual meeting virtually for the first time this September, and world leaders are expected to deliver their speeches via prerecorded video statements, the president of the 193-member organization said Monday. The president did not rule out the possibility that some leaders may choose to speak in person.

NEW YORK ROUNDUP

New York City begins a new phase of reopening: offices.

Two weeks after it began easing virus restrictions, New York City reached another major milestone on Monday, as offices were allowed to open and as many as 300,000 people were expected to return to work in person.

Phase 2 of reopening also allows for outdoor dining, some in-store shopping, hair salons, barbershops and real estate work.

At his daily briefing on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “a giant step for this city.”

“This is where most of our economy is,” he said.

Still, with offices required to limit their maximum capacity to ensure social distancing, the number of people returning to work appeared to be a fraction of those who once jostled elbows on crowded subways and in high-rise elevators.

“It’s nice to get back to kind of normal, even though it’s not 100 percent normal,” said Kiki Boyzuick, 45, who works in human resources in Midtown Manhattan.

On Monday morning, a time when Midtown would typically be crammed with workers, the sidewalks remained largely vacant and the subway cars still felt relatively empty.

The mayor said that while some businesses might be reluctant to reopen their offices in the summer, he would encourage them to bring workers back in the fall.

“The more that people see it’s working, the more people will want to come back,” he said. “I think a lot of businesses will say, ‘We just cannot get done this work as well if people don’t spend more time together.’”

In a survey conducted this month by the Partnership for New York City, a business group, respondents from 60 companies with Manhattan offices predicted that only 10 percent of their employees would return by Aug. 15.

At Fancy Wave Salon in Flushing, Queens, hairstylists wore face shields, gloves and masks as they attended to their clients’ hair. Derrick Chan, the owner, said he was thrilled to reopen.

“We had to pretty much stay home, no income,” he said. “That’s why you have to save up for the rainy days.”

Here’s what else is happening in the region:

  • More riders returned to public transportation during Phase 1 in New York City than transit officials had anticipated. On the subway, daily ridership has climbed to 17 percent of pre-pandemic levels, when ridership exceeded five million. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects as many as two million people during Phase 2.

  • Regarding Phase 3, Mr. de Blasio said Monday the city would wait the state-mandated minimum of two weeks, and that officials would need to see particular evidence of the outbreak easing.

    “It’s going to be of course a higher bar because to do something here affects so many millions of people,” he said.

  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Monday on CNN that he was discussing, with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut, what to do about travelers coming from other states recording increases in cases, even as he described a quarantine by Florida imposed on New Yorkers in March as “more political than anything else.”

    “I wouldn’t target a specific state,” he said. “I would consider states with the highest transmission rate, that if somebody comes from that state to New York, there’s a period of quarantine where they quarantine themselves to make sure they’re not spreading it.”

  • Since February, the backlog of pending cases in New York City’s criminal courts has risen by nearly a third — to 39,200. The justice system has been limping along with virtual hearings, but officials are struggling with how to restart trials and grand jury proceedings.

  • In New York State, there were 10 additional virus-related deaths, Mr. Cuomo said Monday. In New Jersey, 27 more people had died, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said.

  • Casinos in New Jersey could reopen at 25 percent capacity on July 2, Mr. Murphy said, with other restrictions to be announced soon.

The White House on Monday began easing virus-related restrictions it has had in place since March, even as the Trump campaign announced that two more campaign aides had tested positive.

Temperature checks at the complex will be scaled back, allowing many White House staff members who have been working remotely to return to their offices. And the cafeteria in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, across the street from the West Wing, will be reopened.

But assuring that Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will not be exposed to the virus by visitors remains a priority.

“Every staff member and guest in close proximity to the president and vice president is still being temperature-checked, asked symptom histories and tested,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement.

Mr. Deere said that White House officials would continue to practice social distancing, use hand sanitizer and wear face masks on a voluntary basis, and that the work spaces would be deep cleaned regularly.

In announcing the new guidelines, the White House followed the lead of the City of Washington, which began the second phase of its reopening on Monday.

The White House guidelines also reflect Mr. Trump’s emphasis on returning to normal. They were put in place just days after he staged a “comeback” rally in Tulsa, Okla., where he tried to pack an indoor arena with 19,000 people.

Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman, said in a statement on Monday that the two staffers who had tested positive “attended the rally but were wearing masks during the entire event.”

“Upon the positive tests, the campaign immediately activated established quarantine and contact tracing protocols,” he added.

The news brought to eight the number of Trump campaign advance staffers who have tested positive in recent days. Six aides who had worked on the event had tested positive on Saturday, hours before the rally, and did not attend. The rally drew 6,200 people, according to the Tulsa Fire Department.

Democrats pounced on Monday on Mr. Trump’s claim during the Tulsa rally that he had asked his “people” to “slow the testing down” so they might find fewer cases, pressing top administration officials on Monday to provide records and internal assessments related to the sharp uptick in cases across the country.

Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the chairman of a special virus oversight committee, wrote to Mr. Pence and top health officials asking for details on what the Trump administration was doing to control the spread.

“No American should go untested because the president fears an accurate count of infections, and there is nothing ‘overblown’ about saving American lives,” Mr. Clyburn wrote.

Clusters around the U.S. have been increasingly linked with social and religious gathering places.

As parts of the country tentatively reopen, clusters of cases have spread from the most widely known locations — like meatpacking plants, nursing homes and prisons — to locations that have gotten far less attention.

Four people who spent time at Cruisin’ Chubbys Gentlemen’s Club, a Wisconsin strip club, recently tested positive. In Colorado, at least 11 staff members at Eagle Lake Overnight Camp came down with the virus before any campers showed up, leading the camp to close for the rest of the summer.

Other clusters have been linked to fraternity rush parties in Mississippi. Officials said those gatherings appeared to violate rules that ban indoor gatherings of more than 20 people unless social distancing steps are taken.

And in Connecticut, the city of New Haven shut down a nightclub that the authorities said hosted a gathering of about 1,000 people on Saturday night in its parking lot, violating orders on the size of gatherings.

Many patrons of the club, 50’s Lounge, were not wearing masks and were not practicing social distancing, according to photos and videos that were posted on social media. One of the club’s owners wrote in a Facebook post that the shutdown was racially motivated and that people of color were viewed as public nuisances. The patrons were predominantly African-American.

Churches, whose reopenings have been debated, are also emerging as sources of major clusters around the country. At least 236 cases were recently linked to Lighthouse Pentecostal Church in Oregon.

Experts say clusters will likely continue to crop up as people come into more contact with one another.

“Reopening is part of the story,” said Dr. Arnold S. Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who noted that as states get back to business, more people will be at risk. But the virus is also notoriously erratic, he said, leaving certain people more likely to transmit it than others.

“You have individuals who are super spreaders,” he said, not because they are irresponsible, but because there is something different in how their body reacts to the virus. “It’s a biological phenomenon we do not understand.”

In other U.S. news:

  • As the pandemic erodes the economy and civil unrest sweeps the country, state universities, trying to reverse years of brain drain, are attracting students newly focused on family and community over prestige. At Montclair State University in New Jersey, 16 students applied to transfer back from out of state, and half have accepted offers of admission.

  • The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid nine hand sanitizer products manufactured in Mexico because, it said, they may contain methanol, which can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested.

Federal aid has averted poverty for millions in the U.S., studies say.

The studies carry important caveats. Many Americans have suffered hunger or other hardships amid long delays in receiving the assistance, and much of the aid is scheduled to expire next month. Millions of people have been excluded from receiving any help, especially undocumented migrants, who often have American children.

Still, the evidence suggests that the programs Congress hastily authorized in March have done much to protect the needy, a finding likely to shape the debate over next steps at a time when 13.3 percent of Americans remain unemployed.

“Right now, the safety net is doing what it’s supposed to do for most families — helping them secure a minimally decent life,” said Zachary Parolin, a member of the Columbia University team forecasting this year’s poverty rate. “Given the magnitude of the employment loss, this is really remarkable.’’

The Columbia group’s midrange forecast has poverty rising only slightly this year, to 12.7 percent, from 12.5 percent before the virus. Without the March law that provided one-time checks to most Americans and weekly bonuses to the unemployed, it would have reached 16.3 percent, the researchers found. That would have pushed nearly 12 million more people into poverty.

A separate study analyzing Census Bureau survey data found that incomes rose among needy Americans in April, despite cresting unemployment, as government payments began.

That study, by researchers at the University of Chicago and Notre Dame, estimated that poverty in April and May fell to 8.6 percent for the previous 12 months, from 10.9 percent in January and February. (They use a different census definition of poverty than the Columbia group.)

Currently, remdesivir is given intravenously, which restricts its use to hospitals. Gilead’s inhalable version of the treatment would be administered through a nebulizer, a device often used to treat asthma patients, that sends a mist of therapeutic liquid into the airway. Gilead scientists hope that a more convenient treatment could be used by patients at various stages of infection.

Nebulizers are more commonly available than IV equipment, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “Pretty much every outpatient urgent care clinic has them.” She said that the device could potentially be used to immediately treat people who have tested positive but lack symptoms.

Remdesivir, which interferes with virus replication, is the first drug to show effectiveness against the coronavirus in human trials. It was given Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on May 1, allowing physicians to administer the drug to Covid-19 patients. But the drug has not yet been approved, and its safety and efficacy are currently being investigated in several clinical trials.

Beginning this week, healthy volunteers will be screened for participation in Phase I trials, which will test for safety. Covid-19 patients are expected to join the lineup as early as August.

Culture and Sports Roundup

The Golden Globes picked a later date for their 2021 event, a date the Oscars abandoned.

The 2021 Golden Globes will take place on Feb. 28, a date that the Oscars abandoned last week in pushing its ceremony back. That allows the Globes to retain its place before the Oscars in the calendar.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the small group of journalists that hands out the Globes, did not say how the date would affect eligibility of film and television series, which normally adheres to the calendar year. In other culture and sports news:

  • The P.G.A. Championship announced that golf’s first major championship this year would proceed without spectators Aug. 6 to 9 at T.P.C. Harding Park in San Francisco. Originally scheduled for May, the event would be the first golf major of 2020 contested without fans, but potentially not the last.

  • The Orlando Pride withdrew on Monday from the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup after several staff members and players tested positive without specifying how many. The team said that no one displayed symptoms.

  • An exhibition tennis tournament organized by the top-ranked men’s player, Novak Djokovic, is causing panic in Zadar, Croatia, which had no confirmed infections until it hosted a leg of the competition, where there weren’t social distancing protocols. Now the players Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric and two coaches have confirmed infections.

  • Wednesday is the deadline for N.B.A. players to notify their teams whether they wish to withdraw from participation when play resumes July 7 at the Walt Disney World Resort. The rate of confirmed cases in Orange County, Fla., where the resort is, has risen significantly over the last week.

Here’s how domestic work can safely resume.

As communities begin to reopen, many people are wondering when it will be safe for babysitters and housekeepers to return to work. Here are some tips on how domestic employees and their employers can stay safe.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Brooks Barnes, Julie Bosman, Aurelien Breeden, Christopher Clarey, Choe Sang-Hun, Troy Closson, Michael Crowley, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Jeffrey Gettleman, Rick Gladstone, Michael Gold, James Gorman, Andrew Higgins, Ben Hubbard, Annie Karni, Jeré Longman, Iliana Magra, Raphael Minder, Heather Murphy, Joe Orovic, Matt Phillips, Tariq Panja, Suhasini Raj, Adam Rasgon, Dagny Salas, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nate Schweber, Michael D. Shear, Daniel E. Slotnik, Megan Specia, Mitch Smith, Marc Stein, Eileen Sullivan, Lucy Tomkins, Neil Vigdor, Katherine J. Wu, Mihir Zaveri and Karen Zraick.





Source link