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Britain Is Getting Ready for Its Space Race

Cornwall, in England’s far southwest, is known for antique fishing villages and snug, cliff-lined beaches. Soon it may be the scene of something very different: a small but growing space industry.

One day in a year or two, a modified Boeing 747 is expected to lift off from the long runway at the region’s airport, head out over the Atlantic Ocean and soar into the stratosphere. There, a rocket will drop from below a wing, fire its engines and ferry a load of small satellites into orbit, while the plane returns to the airport.

After six years of planning and fund-raising, construction of a bare-bones spaceport, budgeted at about 22 million pounds ($28 million), is beginning this month at the airport in Newquay.

The anchor tenant is expected to be Virgin Orbit, a part of Richard Branson’s Virgin universe. Its selling point: Putting satellites into orbit via aircraft can be done faster and with less infrastructure than earthbound rockets. It plans to bring its 747 (called the Cosmic Girl) and other gear being tested in the Mojave Desert to Britain with the help of £7.35 million from the U.K. Space Agency.

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Credit…Francesca Jones for The New York Times

“At the beginning, people laughed at us,” said Melissa Thorpe, head of engagement for Spaceport Cornwall, the developer. “It took a lot of work to convince a lot of people.”

Among the better arguments: The spaceport, which is owned by the local government, could eventually provide 150 good jobs in what, despite its charm, is a region dependent on low-paid, seasonal work from tourism.

Britain is doubling down on the always risky space business after, some would say, years of neglect. Besides Cornwall, the government is putting money behind several other potential launch sites, including one on the remote north coast of Scotland, which is being tailored for an environmentally friendly rocket to be manufactured nearby.

This is all new for a country that does not have a deep history of rocketry or launching satellites into space. The case for spaceports in Britain is far from proven. In fact, some analysts say there are already too many such facilities, including in the United States.

The first — and, to date, only — British-made satellite-bearing rocket was launched from Woomera in Australia in 1971. That program, called Black Arrow, was scrapped after four launches for not being cost effective.

“You do have to pinch yourself that the U.K is within a few years of launching satellites,” said Doug Millard, space curator at the Science Museum in London. “That is something that never would have been considered not so long ago.”

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Credit…Francesca Jones for The New York Times

A big reason for the turnaround is Brexit. The decision to pull away from the European Union has heightened awareness that Britain, which has largely relied on European and American space programs for services like satellite navigation, would be at risk without its own space infrastructure. This year the space agency’s budget was bumped up 10 percent to £556 million (still a small fraction of NASA’s $22 billion).

Brexit has provided “a real stimulus to get us to think about what we actually need as a country in space,” said Graham Turnock, chief executive of the U.K. Space Agency, in an interview.

But the decision to look skyward also coincides with the growing commercial use of space around the world, promoted by deep-pocketed investors like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mr. Branson, but also pushed along by a range of less prominent entrepreneurs and businesses.

Key has been the emergence of much smaller and cheaper satellites, some the size of a shoe box and costing a relatively small $1 million or less. Some are used for observation, such as measuring how much oil is stored in a tank farm, valuable data for energy investors. Others are planned to provide internet connectivity on earth and a key link in the burgeoning internet of things, essential for self-driving cars and smart kitchens.

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“We are right at the beginning of this journey,” said Mark Boggett, chief executive of London-based Seraphim Capital, which is managing a $90 million space fund.

The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson put its own chips on such efforts by agreeing in July to spend £500 million to acquire 45 percent of OneWeb, a satellite operator.

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy this year, but is involved in the hottest area of the satellite industry: the creation of so-called constellations, blizzards of coordinated satellites in low orbit, designed to provide blanket coverage for purposes like extending the internet to remote regions.

OneWeb is building its satellites at a factory co-owned by Airbus in Florida. The hope in the British government and space community is that OneWeb will build a future generation of satellites in Britain.

Over all, the government is trying to support activity in what is known as “new space,” a more agile and commercial approach to an industry traditionally dominated by government and military programs.

“OneWeb, and what we are doing on launch, is all about taking a really big role in that new economy,” Mr. Turnock said.

While Britain has participated in prestigious space activities like making a Mars rover for an upcoming European-Russian mission, it has catching up to do. Still, space experts say the direction the industry is moving could play to its advantage.

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The launch vehicles that Britain is trying to nurture would be suited for smaller satellites that operate in low-Earth orbit, around 800 miles up, compared with about 22,000 miles for telecommunications giants that sometimes cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Smaller satellites also have much shorter life spans than the larger ones, implying the need for more of them, and more launches. Virgin Orbit says it plans to charge $12 million to take a nearly 700-pound payload of satellites into space.

Having nearby launch sites will fill a need for companies like In-Space Missions, a space service firm in Hampshire, outside London. Doug Liddle, the chief executive, said the company went all the way to New Zealand to launch a satellite this year, only to lose it when the rocket failed.

The new space economy is also more affordable for medium-size countries like Britain. “The small-satellite approach now means we are not going to spend our entire national budget on our space program,” said Martin Sweeting, a founder and executive chairman of a British university spinoff called Surrey Satellite Technology, a pioneer in small satellites.

Space is also becoming far more accessible to start-ups like Open Cosmos, which offers to build satellites and arrange their launch and early operation at a cost of $10 million or less. The company is one of many technology businesses clustered in Harwell, a community near the University of Oxford.

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Among the neighbors are clients like Lacuna Space, which plans to deploy satellites for a range of uses like tracking cattle on vast Latin American ranches, and potential suppliers like Oxford Space Systems, which builds satellite-mounted antennas that unfurl once in orbit to send data to ground receivers.

“It is a small ecosystem; everybody knows each other,” said Rafel Jordá Siquier, the 31-year-old founder of Open Cosmos.

But not all the companies are start-ups. Airbus, the giant French maker of commercial aircraft, is also a major manufacturer of satellites and employs 3,500 people doing space work in Britain.

The company had been nervous about Brexit’s implications for those operations, but the government’s move into OneWeb offered some reassurance.

“The investment in OneWeb and focus of the U.K. on space is actually making Airbus go, ‘Look, the U.K. is a really good place to invest,’” said Richard Franklin, head of space and defense for Britain at Airbus.

That said, Britain’s ambitions face large unknowns and risks.

The launch technologies it is counting on are unproven. Virgin Orbit’s first test this year in the United States sputtered when the main rocket engine shut down. And the coronavirus pandemic has put huge financial strain on Mr. Branson’s empire, including the flagship, Virgin Atlantic. To help bolster the finances of the airline and other companies, the entrepreneur sold around $500 million of shares in Virgin Galactic, a space tourism business.

But Will Pomerantz, Virgin Orbit’s vice president for special projects, said the 747 would come to Cornwall “when they are ready and they need us.”

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Credit…Francesca Jones for The New York Times

The satellite market is also both competitive and turbulent. Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, whose SpaceX has carried U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station and returned them safely to Earth, is building his own mega constellation satellite system, Starlink. Other technology companies are likely to follow, while many countries can now build satellites.

“One of the beautiful things about small sats is that anyone can make one,” said Alexandre Najjar, senior consultant at Euroconsult, a market research firm.

Still, Britain’s space entrepreneurs say having a launchpad near home might give them an edge.

”If we can get in a van and drive our spacecraft up to Scotland or Cornwall, the whole process becomes much more straightforward,” said Mr. Liddle, the satellite builder.

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London Offices Aren’t Refilling Fast Enough for Shops Relying on Them

LONDON — Schroders, a big asset management firm, wants more of its workers to return to its office in the City of London. Over the summer, it encouraged people to come in for a day to test their commute and so the firm could demonstrate the new safety measures in place, including an app to order food from the canteen.

Last week, about 15 percent of its 2,500 employees were in the office.

A 15-minute walk away, in the building where the law firm Dentons employs 750 workers, fewer than 10 percent were in the office. Two streets to the west, Goldman Sachs’s new 826,000-square-foot European headquarters were about 15 percent full. In east London, in Canary Wharf’s cluster of towers, Citigroup had about 15 percent of its employees in an office that usually fits 5,000. In cities across the country, the offices of the advertising firm WPP were only at 3 percent capacity.

Britain’s sparsely populated offices have put the economy in a quandary. The dry cleaners, coffee shops, lunch places and clothing retailers specializing in suits that serve areas packed with offices are starved of their customers. Many are still shut. In a country that relies on consumer spending to fuel economic growth, the government and business lobby are urging people to return to their offices, pressuring civil servants to set an example, and in turn spend more money on food and travel and in city center shops.

On Sunday, Dominic Raab, a government minister, said, “The economy needs to have people back at work.”

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Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times
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Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

But the companies charged with responding to this call have discovered that they can function productively with their staff working at home, and many aren’t in the mood to ask employees to risk getting on crowded trains or buses to return to the office.

Take the City of London, the financial and legal hub, which before the pandemic was the destination for more than half a million daily commuters. At the start of the month, many of the lunch chains were still unlit and locked, and the train stations were significantly quieter — so were the pubs.

“The people are just not coming back,” said Robert Cane, who has worked at a dry cleaners and shoe repair business in the City for the past six years. “Half of the people have left the offices. I’m watching them evacuate daily.”

In the spring, Britain entered its worst recession since record-keeping began in 1955. After a sharp decline in economic activity during the national lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus, a rebound started to take hold as early as May. The strength and sustainability of that recovery is still being determined, though there are concerns it will be short-lived as coronavirus cases rise in Britain and continental Europe.

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Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, the district’s governing body, said Tuesday that she was “very concerned” about the lack of foot traffic for the small businesses dependent on office workers, especially in the coming months as government support programs end. The corporation has offered rent holidays and business advice, but “it’s just a conundrum” for those businesses, Ms. McGuinness said.

“I do think there is a major challenge looming about unemployment rates and insolvency rates,” she said.

Outside Britain’s city centers, activity is returning faster and online shopping has helped push retail sales above their prepandemic levels. But foot traffic in shopping areas is still down a quarter from last year.

In August, after months of encouraging working from home, the British government changed its advice: People could return to their workplaces if employers made them safe. After only a trickle of people responded, the government planned an advertising campaign — to coincide with the reopening of schools last week — to reassure employees that workplaces have been made safe over the summer. That campaign has reportedly been delayed as ministers study a jump in infections across the country. On Tuesday, new restrictions were put in place in England banning gatherings of more than six people, but they don’t apply to workplaces.

Even if the campaign works, social distancing measures that reduce the capacity of workplaces will continue to suppress the office-dependent economy. It’s a problem that isn’t unique to Britain.

“Our policy is that we won’t have more than 25 percent of any one floor,” said Jeremy Cohen, Dentons’ chief executive officer for the United Kingdom and Middle East. While this policy will be reviewed next month, the law firm is still far from reaching this capacity, he said.

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Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

In the long run, the pandemic has raised questions about the entire nature of the office economy. The role of the office could substantially change as many companies consider how to make some, or all, aspects of remote working permanent. A deputy governor of the Bank of England warned that a lack of investment in commercial real estate could be one of the reasons the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus might be worse than the central bank recently forecast.

In July, Dentons said it would close two of its six offices in Britain, and the company is reviewing the ones that are left. In the future, Mr. Cohen said, he expects to see a “very different” arrangement, where the offices are designed for more flexible working to accommodate teamwork and training, but could also be smaller.

Association Coffee is a shop across the street from a City of London train station. It used to have five employees making about 600 coffees a day; the morning rush could cause a 10-minute wait. Now just one person makes coffee.

Christian Baker, the shop’s manager, said that its business was a direct reflection of the number of workers in the surrounding offices, and that to break even he would need to sell two and a half times the current volume of coffee.

“I have massive empathy for the people who are working from home,” Mr. Baker said. “I understand why you wouldn’t want to come in when you can do your job remotely.” The problem, he added, is that “we’re in the position of serving them.”

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A short walk away, James Shoe Care is running at a loss. An employee, Robert Cane, said he was worried that he’d be without a job once the government’s furlough program — which provides him wage subsidies — ended next month.

“If the offices are empty, then we get no work,” Mr. Cane said. “That’s why I’m only getting four, if I’m lucky five, people a day. And that’s just people who live around here.”

The sticking point for central London is that many people must commute by mass transit, where social distancing would have been difficult, if not impossible, during prepandemic rush hours. Last week, after Britain’s August bank holiday unofficially marked the end of summer, use of National Rail was only a third of last year’s volume. In the past week, the number of journeys on the London Underground have risen noticeably but are also only a third of last year’s. In Britain, fewer people coming out of lockdown are using public transport again than in France, Italy and Germany, according to Google Mobility Reports.

“People aren’t worried about being in the office. What they’re worried about is getting to the office,” said Emma Holden, the global head of human resources at Schroders. “Seventy five percent of our people commute. That is probably the greatest source of anxiety.”

Though Schroders had been a proponent of flexible working before every company was forced to be, Ms. Holden said employees would still be expected to regularly go into the office and work with their teams. Now, with socially distanced desks and a one-way system for walking around the work space, the office can hold half of its normal capacity, she said.

Employees are asked to speak with their manager if they are worried about returning to the office, Ms. Holden said. “And if there’s a reason why you can’t come in, then that’s OK,” she added.

She said that there was no deadline to reach 50 percent capacity but that having teams working together in person was important for innovation. Nonetheless, the firm has decided to roll out a new flexible working regime globally.

For the coffee shops and dry cleaners, fewer office workers will be a lingering problem. But the businesses’ customers aren’t ready to shoulder the burden of their survival.

“I think we have much more of a hybrid going forward, so people will probably come and work two or three days in the office,” said John Lucy, the human resources director for Dentons in Britain. “That will have a massive impact on the local shops, restaurants, bars around the place. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what we can do about that.”

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In Britain, an Idea to Reduce Racial Inequality Gains Momentum

Nearly two years ago, the British government seemed to be on the verge of doing something truly novel about racial and ethnic inequality. Theresa May, the prime minister at the time, had adopted a plan to root out one of the causes of differences in incomes that would “create a fairer and more diverse work force,” she said.

It was October 2018, during Britain’s Black History Month. Ms. May suggested the government require companies and other large employers to report the disparities in pay among their employees based on ethnicity, as they had recently been made to do for gender. She announced a three-month public comment period, or consultation, toward the goal of introducing a new regulation.

“Too often ethnic minority employees feel they’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to career progression,” Ms. May said. Collecting and analyzing this data, which no other country seems to require, could enable companies to see disparities in pay and identify reasons, such as a lack of Black managers in senior positions, and do something about it.

But after the comment period closed in January 2019, little was heard about it.

Little, that is, until a surge of anti-racism protests this summer, provoked by the killing of George Floyd, revived the idea. In June, a petition to make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory amassed more than 100,000 signatures. In response, the government said that it would publish an update by the end of the year, having received more than 300 comments from businesses and other organizations.

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The failure to demonstrate progress for a year a half was not lost on David Isaac, the departing chairman of the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission. Last month, he said establishing the pay gap rule would be a quick win for the government, as he accused it of “dragging its feet” on action to address racial and ethnic inequality.

Since Mr. Isaac’s chairmanship of the commission began four years ago there have been three prime ministers from the same political party, two general elections, Brexit and a pandemic. There have also been four government-sponsored reviews focused on issues of ethnic inequality that have produced nearly 100 recommendations.

Mr. Isaac said that when he took over at the human rights commission, he believed he could achieve a lot, and he says he has since succeeded in helping more people fight legal battles for equal rights. But as he left his post, he still questioned why the government hadn’t taken advantage of a growing desire by businesses to do more to address inequality, and urged for more action instead of reviews.

“The time for more recommendations, in my view, is over,” he told the BBC. “We know what needs to be done, let’s get on with it.”

Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, said it was “just simply not true” that the government had dragged its heels on the issue. For example, she said, policymakers were working toward adopting most of the recommendations from a 2017 review of how “Black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals” were treated in the criminal justice system. Among the proposals was collecting more complete ethnicity data across the system and recruiting a more diverse prison staff.

In response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Mr. Johnson has also created a new commission focused on race and ethnic disparities that will make recommendations for government action by the end of the year. This new board will be a fresh start, Ms. Badenoch told the BBC.

“We’ve picked commissioners who haven’t really done this sort of review before so they wouldn’t be bringing in prejudged recommendations,” she said. “There must be no jumping to conclusions.” She added that the commission would also look into why there was a public perception that the government hadn’t done enough to improve equality.

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Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Amid mounting outrage about inequalities, ethnicity pay gap reporting is something that could be done quickly, Mr. Isaac said in an interview with The New York Times in early August, in part because of the work already done by Ms. May’s government to collect data about ethnic disparities across society.

Mr. Isaac is a lawyer who was once chairman of the L.G.B.T. charity Stonewall. The Equality and Human Rights Commission he led is responsible for enforcing the 2017 legislation that makes it mandatory for companies, charities and public sector organizations with more than 250 employees to publicly report the median and average pay difference between men and women on their payrolls each year. (Organizations were given a break this year, as the reporting deadline fell during the first weeks of lockdown to curb the pandemic.)

Since Mr. Johnson became prime minister, six months after the ethnicity consultation ended, the idea lost its urgency, possibly because leaving the European Union and tackling coronavirus has consumed more of the government’s energy, Mr. Isaac said. But, he added, “this is a leadership issue and a real opportunity to move quickly should the government really wish to do that.”

That said, there are additional challenges to reporting on ethnicity that are distinct from gender reporting. The thorniest issue is privacy. Employers have to get their staff to voluntarily disclose their ethnicity. There will also be companies that lack enough diversity to publish a nuanced breakdown of the data, or publish any data at all, without jeopardizing staff anonymity. (The government offers 18 different classifications of ethnic groups for census data in England and Wales.) And the severity of inequality and underrepresentation can really vary by region. Ethnic minorities make up just 14 percent of Britain’s total population but in London, 40 percent of people identify as having an Asian, Black, Arab, or multiple ethnic backgrounds.

In response to the online petition on ethnicity pay gap reporting, the government said it had done voluntary testing of the methodology in 2019 with a range of businesses, which highlighted “the genuine difficulties” in designing a policy that provides accurate information and protects anonymity.

One way to get around some of these difficulties has been demonstrated by Deloitte, the auditing and financial advisory firm that is one of a handful of companies in Britain that have voluntarily published their own data.

Deloitte offers a single pay gap, showing the difference in pay between whites and all others. The latest report found that the median pay for the group it identified as Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in 2018 was 7.9 percent less than whites, compared with a 6.9 percent gap the year before. The gap for bonuses narrowed, to 25 percent from 30 percent in 2017. This report was made public, but internally more granular data was studied to help make decisions, said Clare Rowe, Deloitte U.K.’s head of inclusion.

A more detailed analysis is needed because a binary pay gap figure, modeled on how gender pay gap reporting is done, can conceal disparities between different ethnic groups. For example, according to a government survey, average hourly pay in Britain in 2018 was 11.82 pounds ($15.53). For white British people it was £11.90 and higher than that for people who are Indian. But Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people received pay that was below the national average.

Business in the Community, a charity focused on responsible business practices, has been pushing for the government to require ethnicity pay gap reporting since 2018, when a study it did found that just 11 percent of people in Britain said their employer was collecting ethnicity pay data, and only half of those were then making it public.

Reporting this data “alone can’t fix everything, but it does ensure that this conversation remains at the top table and that there are actions to follow through on that,” said Sandra Kerr, the charity’s race equality director. “Because looking at the data you can’t just sit back and say, ‘Oh, that’s really terrible.’ You then have to act and say what you are going to do.”

Last month, the government said it would announce by the end of the year how it planned to proceed. Some are not waiting: In the past two months, more than 150 companies have signed on to Business in the Community’s Race at Work Charter, according to Ms. Kerr. The charter encourages, but does not require, the firms to capture ethnicity data as a step toward publishing information on pay gaps.

Mr. Isaac is clear, however, that the requirement needs to be enforced.

“If it’s discretionary, the exemplars will do it and are already doing it,” he said. But others won’t, given all the other pressures created by the pandemic, he said.

“There’s a general appetite now that has never existed in the same way before,” Mr. Isaac said. “Covid and the murder of George Floyd create that kind of tipping point when everybody has been shocked and everybody is keen to be an ally and do things. So why not take advantage of that?”

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How the U.K. Restarted Its Restaurant Industry: Paying Half the Bill

When the British government told people they no longer had to stay home, it needed a convincing pitch to get everyone back outside and, crucially, spending money.

The answer: half-price food. For the month of August, the government has been paying for a 50 percent discount on all meals eaten in restaurants, pubs or cafes, up to 10 pounds ($13) per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

It’s a discount that Britons have taken up with relish.

“Last Wednesday, my God, was pandemonium,” said David Williams, a co-owner of Baltic Market, which houses about a dozen street food and drinks vendors inside a converted 19th-century brewery in Liverpool. “There were more people in the queue than there were inside of the building.”

In the first three weeks of the Eat Out to Help Out program, 64 million meals — enough for nearly the entire British population of about 67 million — were eaten using the discount, costing the government £336 million ($441 million).

When Rishi Sunak, Britain’s top finance official, announced the discount last month, he described it as “a first-of-its-kind” means of supporting the 1.8 million people working in the hospitality industry. Between April and June, the sector’s economic output plunged 87 percent. “They need our support, and with this measure we can all eat out to help out,” he said.

On the first day, Aug. 3, food sales rose 100 percent compared with the previous Monday, according to CGA, a consultancy that tracks data on eating and drinking out in Britain.

“People, and myself included, underestimated the effect it was going to have,” Mr. Williams said of the discount, which includes nonalcoholic drinks. “Most restaurants in Liverpool now, you can’t even get a table for the whole of August Monday to Wednesday.”

Before the national lockdown, Baltic Market was open only Thursdays to Sundays. At the start of August, it opened on Wednesday to take advantage of the discount, and after two weeks the owners decided to open seven days a week for the rest of the month.

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Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

The restaurant industry is grateful for the rush of customers, but there are concerns about whether a temporary discount can trigger a sustainable recovery.

The government’s offer, aided by some pleasant weather this August, has encouraged customers to return to restaurants, especially the outdoor seating offered by many establishments. If diners retreat back to their homes once it’s too cold to dine outdoors, however, or unemployment rises as the furlough program ends in October, what then?

“At the moment I’m trying to really enjoy everything about it,” Mr. Williams said. “But I just can’t help but feel we’re in a bit of a honeymoon period with it all and that come October, with alfresco dining ending and furlough ending, it’s going to be a very, very different landscape and story.”

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, a trade group, added: “People are making hay while the sun shines, and seeing it as an opportunity to build back a degree of resilience” in case the crowds of August thin out in the fall.

On a recent Tuesday evening, the Soho area of central London had taken on a festive atmosphere. Rain held off, and streets were closed to traffic to allow restaurants to put tables outside. Bunting made the socially distanced tables appear more cheerful, and less like a stark reminder of the health risks.

On several streets there wasn’t a single empty table — and they were as noisy as on any pre-pandemic summer evening. It almost disguised the fact that central London is nearly devoid of office workers and tourists, with most theaters and other attractions still shut.

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Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

Before the pandemic, “this was the place to be,” said Stani Visciano, the maître d’ at Lina Stores, an Italian restaurant in Soho. On a typical night, a line of customers would already be waiting when the restaurant opened at 5. The pre-theater crowd morphed into the dinner crowd, and anyone without a reservation faced a long wait, he said.

On this Tuesday evening the restaurant was fully booked — and again for Wednesday.

But the revenue isn’t the same. The pre-theater rush has gone. Before social distancing, the restaurant could seat 52 people. Now, fully booked means 40 diners at a time — nearly one-quarter fewer customers.

The British economy fared worse than any other in Europe during the second quarter of the year, because of a longer lockdown period and heavy reliance on consumer spending. To dig itself out of this hole, the country needs people to return to bars and restaurants and cafes and coffee shops in large numbers. The government set aside £500 million for the half-off discount, an amount that economists didn’t consider to be particularly substantive compared with the £190 billion the government intends to spend on the economic recovery from the pandemic.

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After spending months warning of the dangers of indoor public spaces, the government now has to persuade people that it’s safe to return to their previous habits. Throughout this crisis, the government has turned to behavioral economists to help devise different parts of its response — and their principles seem to be hard at work in the Eat Out to Help Out program.

“There are two psychological forces at play,” said Ivo Vlaev, a professor of behavioral science at Warwick Business School, who has been advising the government and National Health Service on its communication in response to the pandemic. (He didn’t work on the meal discount plan.)

The first is habit creation, he said. When someone does something and receives a reward, like the half-off discount, the next time the same situation arises, the memory of the reward encourages a repetition of the action — and this continues until the situation alone, even without the reward, can trigger the action.

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Credit…Alexander Ingram for The New York Times

The government’s dining discount could be particularly effective at getting people out to eat on their lunch breaks, Mr. Vlaev said. “It’s a very powerful way to change people by habituating their behavior because they then act on autopilot,” he said.

The second force is known as “psychological commitment,” Mr. Vlaev said: In order to get people to agree to a large request, you get them to agree to something small first. People in Britain might agree to take advantage of the restaurant discount, but once they are out and enjoying themselves the government can more easily ask them to return to offices, gyms, theaters and so on.

So far, the experiment is working.

A survey by CGA found that nearly 40 percent of people using the Eat Out to Help Out discount were dining out for the first time since the national lockdown began in late March — a sign it is winning over people who had gotten used to staying at home. The discount was also encouraging families and older customers to go back out, Ms. Nicholls of UKHospitality said. There have been no reports of spikes in coronavirus cases tied to the program.

But even if the customers want to keep coming back, restaurants face a lot of uncertainty.

Half of Britain’s restaurants are still closed, Ms. Nicholls said. Across the hospitality industry, businesses that are open are making only about 70 percent of their pre-pandemic revenue. The government has reduced the VAT, a type of sales tax, on food and nonalcoholic drinks, but this will expire in January. The government also put a moratorium on forfeiture of commercial properties because of unpaid rent for six months, effectively allowing businesses to delay rent payments until the end of September, when the next three months of rent will be due.

That heavy rent debt, building up for over the last six months, is “the single biggest outstanding issue” facing restaurants and the hospitality industry generally, Ms. Nicholls said.

And while the Eat Out to Help Out program can help change consumer behavior, it doesn’t address how each establishment will make up for reduced capacity because of social distancing measures, or what will happen when it’s too cold to dine outside. A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics found that just 43 percent of people felt comfortable eating indoors.

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Credit…Adam Pester

Baltic Market now has a capacity of 150 to 200 people, at best a third of the number of people it could have fit in before. To accommodate more people through the fall and winter, the owners say, they are building heated booths so more people can keep dining outside.

“That’s what the big worry is,” Mr. Williams said. “Obviously, we don’t live in California or Dubai, we live in the U.K. So there’s a finite amount of time that you want to eat a bowl of pasta outside.”

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Camping Outshines Continent for Britons This Summer During Covid Pandemic

LONDON — This summer, Louise Towers and her partner are loading their four children and Nellie the dog into a camper van for their annual holiday. It’s an honored tradition: Each of the past five summers, they took a road trip through continental Europe in a home-on-wheels.

But this year is different. Ms. Towers, 48, and her family will stick closer to home. Specifically, they’ll be at a campsite in Wales, “just an hour down the road.”

Traveling overseas just doesn’t feel safe during the pandemic, Ms. Towers said.

Across the country, in numbers that travel businesses say they had rarely seen before, lockdown-freed Britons are not only staying close to home this vacation season but spending it in motor homes, campers, campsites and glampsites. Vacationers are turning to camping as the holiday of choice for some social distancing in the great outdoors.

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

“For the first time in the U.K., owning a caravan is kind of cool,” said Gareth Mills, a 38-year-old father who lives on the English seaside, referring to big, boxy campers or motor homes. “Some of my parents’ friends who are caravan club enthusiasts, they are very smug at the moment.”

Mr. Mills and his wife and two young children have put off a planned family trip abroad and will head instead to a caravan park in September. “We’re trading Greece for Devon,” he said.

Hotels have largely reopened in England, but many of them are at 30 to 40 percent occupancy, with popular areas such as Cornwall and elsewhere in the southwest faring better, said Patricia Yates, a director at the tourism organization VisitBritain.

Still, concerns about crowds have kept many away from traditionally crowded coastline spots.

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Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times
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Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times
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Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times

“People are looking to go to the countryside,” said Kay Barriball, the chair of Farm Stay U.K., an organization whose members offer lodging, camping and other rural accommodations.

Many are seeking a “relatively safe place to have a break,” Ms. Barriball said.

Finding a spot for your caravan or tent may be more competitive, as demand has surged. During a recent weekend, Pitchup.com, a booking site for camping spots, recorded 6,100 bookings, almost double the amount from the same weekend in 2019.

“We think that this sector is relatively well positioned,” said Dan Yates, the business’s founder.

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Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times

Camping has deep roots in Britain. The man considered the father of modern camping, Thomas Hiram Holding, was a traveling London tailor whose 1908 how-to, “The Camper’s Handbook,” documents the joys of self-reliance and getting away from it all, inspiring generations. About the same time, the Boy Scouts were started in Britain, followed by the Girl Guides a couple of years later.

Caravan parks across Britain have been flooded with bookings for the traditional summer period and into the fall, according to the National Caravan Council, an industry group. Parkdean Resorts, which operates 67 parks across the country, reported a 140 percent rise from last year at its parks in Devon.

Huw Pendleton, the managing director of Celtic Holiday Parks in Wales, said he hadn’t seen anything like it in his two decades in the industry.

“We’re sold out pretty much through to September, with little or no availability now this season for the top-end lodges and glamping with hot tubs,” he said.

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times
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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times
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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

Ms. Towers, too, noticed how popular motor homes seemed to have become when she tried to sell her old one in the pandemic. She and her family were planning to buy a camper van instead to comfortably fit the whole family.

In March, she said, there was hardly any interest in her motor home, but in June she sold the vehicle within 24 hours. “There’s obviously a really high demand,” she said.

Other businesses are reporting similar increases. The Caravan and Motorhome Club said its site bookings were up more than 35 percent this summer. Canopy & Stars, a British travel agency that offers luxury camping, saw a 230 percent increase in traffic to its website, the company said. It added that it had its best booking day in 10 years when England lifted lockdown restrictions in July.

The surge is helping many of the companies balance out a sharp loss of business in the spring and early summer, before the lockdown eased.

Lindsay Berresford, the owner of Quirky Campers, a business in Bristol that rents out customized caravans, can usually count on the Glastonbury Festival in June as its largest revenue generator. An outdoor, weeklong gathering for music and other performing arts on a farm in Somerset, Glastonbury often draws about 200,000 people, including many campers. When it was canceled because of the pandemic, Quirky Campers lost nearly 400,000 pounds (about $520,000) in bookings, and staff members were furloughed, Ms. Berresford said.

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Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times

Now business is back, and some vacationers are extending the season.

“We’re seeing bookings until the end of October, which is kind of unheard-of at this point in the year,” Ms. Berresford said.

Tourism experts say domestic vacations in Britain used to attract primarily older people and families with young children. Now, “we’ve seen a slightly different demographic,” said Ms. Yates of VisitBritain, as young adults forgo trips to the continent or farther for more local adventures.

Clem Balfour, a London native living in Bristol, recently spent 10 days exploring the southwest coast in a rented van. She had once rented a van for a vacation in Australia, but this was the longest vacation she had taken in England, she said.

“We had just as good a time in Cornwall as traveling a van in Australia,” Ms. Balfour, 34, said.

Carys Riley, 28, had never rented a camper van until this summer.

At the height of the pandemic, she was working as an intensive-care nurse at a hospital in the north of England. The unit’s bed capacity more than doubled as the coronavirus raged, her days stretching to 12 hours. When she could finally take time off, Ms. Riley was too scared to book anything abroad, she said.

“Having the camper van and our own space gave us a bit of reassurance so we didn’t have to interact with hotels,” said Ms. Riley, who drove more than 300 miles to Cornwall with her boyfriend.

“The beaches were full,” she said, “which isn’t ideal in a pandemic, but it was lovely.”

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times
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Credit…Suzie Howell for The New York Times
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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times
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U.K. Bars Huawei as Tech Battle Between China and the West Escalates

LONDON — Britain announced on Tuesday that it would ban equipment from the Chinese technology giant Huawei from the country’s high-speed wireless network, a victory for the Trump administration that escalates the battle between Western powers and China over critical technology.

The move reverses a decision in January, when Britain said Huawei equipment could be used in its new 5G network on a limited basis. Since then, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced growing political pressure domestically to take a harder line against Beijing, and in May, the United States imposed new restrictions to disrupt Huawei’s access to important components.

Britain’s about-face signals a new willingness among Western countries to confront China, a determination that has grown firmer since Beijing last month adopted a sweeping law to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, the semiautonomous city that was a British colony until 1997. On Tuesday, Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s national security adviser, was in Paris for meetings about China with counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Huawei’s critics say its close ties to the Chinese government mean Beijing could use the equipment for espionage or to disrupt telecommunications — a point the company strongly disputes.

Arguing that Huawei created too much risk for such a critical, multibillion-dollar project, the British government said Tuesday that it would ban the purchase of new Huawei equipment for 5G networks after December, and that existing gear already installed would need to be removed from the networks by 2027.

“As facts have changed, so has our approach,” Oliver Dowden, the government minister in charge of telecommunications, told the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon. “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K.’s telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run.”

After the British government announced its decision, President Trump took aim at Huawei during a news conference at the White House, saying the United States has “confronted untrustworthy Chinese technology and telecom providers.”

“We convinced many countries, and I did this myself for the most part, not to use Huawei, because we think it’s an unsafe security risk,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump also announced that he was issuing an executive order formalizing a declaration from late May that the United States would treat Hong Kong in the same manner as China rather than as a semiautonomous territory and would impose the same tariffs that it applies to China. He also said he was signing into law a bipartisan congressional bill that encourages sanctions against Chinese officials and entities that take part in the repression of Hong Kong, as well as financial institutions that do business with those parties.

The dispute over Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, is an early front in a new tech cold war, with ramifications for internet freedom and surveillance, as well as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics.

“The democratic West has woken up late to its overdependence on a country whose values are diametrically opposed to it,” said Robert Hannigan, a former head of the British digital surveillance agency GCHQ, who is now an executive at the cybersecurity firm BlueVoyant. “Huawei and other Chinese companies present a real cybersecurity risk, but the primary threat comes from the intent of the Chinese Communist Party, as we see in Hong Kong.”

Huawei described the announcement on Tuesday as a disappointment and “bad news for anyone in the U.K. with a mobile phone.”

“It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane,” said Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei U.K. “Regrettably our future in the U.K. has become politicized; this is about U.S. trade policy and not security. ”

Until the latest turn of events, Britain had been welcoming of Huawei. In 2005, it was the first country to offer Huawei a foothold in Europe, now the company’s largest market outside China. Huawei financed university research and a charity started by Prince Charles. And just last month, Huawei announced plans to spend 1 billion pounds (about $1.25 billion) on a new research center in Cambridge.

The British experience shows the challenges nations face navigating the United States-China rift. In moving forward with the ban, Britain risks retaliation from China, one of its largest and fastest-growing trading partners, when it is trying to craft a more open trade policy outside the European Union. China’s ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, recently warned that Britain would “bear the consequences” of treating China with hostility.

“The Huawei issue is the first of many complicated decisions we’re going to have about striking the right balance between our commercial and economic engagement with China, and our security concerns about how China uses its power,” said John Sawers, a former chief of the British intelligence service MI6.

Huawei is the leading provider for towers, masts and other critical equipment needed to build new wireless networks based on fifth-generation wireless technology, known as 5G.

New 5G networks are seen as essential infrastructure in an increasingly digital global economy. The networks will provide faster download speeds for phone users, but offer even more important potential for commercial applications in industries such as manufacturing, health care and transportation.

Image
Credit…Pool photo by Wpa

Huawei’s technological dominance in this field is viewed as a failure of industrial policy in the West. American authorities have spent more than a year pressuring allies to keep Huawei out of communications networks, warning that the company is a proxy for Beijing and a threat to national security. The Trump administration encouraged the use of other telecom equipment makers, including Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.

At first, countries were resistant, unconvinced that Huawei posed a grave risk. Britain argued that it had a security system in place to ensure all Huawei equipment was reviewed before being put inside its communications networks. The announcement in January stipulated Huawei would be limited to “noncore” parts of the network.

A turning point came in May, when the Trump administration announced a rule that would bar Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology and software. The decision, slated to take effect in September, could throw Huawei’s supply chain into chaos.

In Britain, the American announcement added to pressure Mr. Johnson faced from members of his own Conservative Party to take a harder line against China, especially after the events in Hong Kong. The government announced a review of its January decision after the American punishments were announced.

“American sanctions left the U.K. with little choice,” said Priya Guha, a former British diplomat who represented the country’s interests in Silicon Valley. “There was a bit of checkmate by the U.S.”

The Trump administration has taken other steps, some conducted with little publicity, to undercut China’s position in communications networks.

The U.S. government on Tuesday published an interim rule that will bar Pentagon and NASA contractors from using technology from Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies. Some government contractors say the ban, passed into law two years ago, is too onerous, and the administration estimates it will cost some $12 billion.

In April, a group of agencies that calls itself Team Telecom, led by the Justice Department, moved to remove China Telecom, another big wireless company, from its operations inside the United States. It has long been operating “points of presence” in U.S. networks that help maintain internet connections. In a series of classified briefings, American intelligence agencies accused it of experimenting with rerouting American traffic through China — though the purpose of that rerouting was unclear.

The same group moved last month to block the Pacific Light Cable Network — a partnership involving Facebook and Google among others — from operating an undersea cable linking Hong Kong and the United States, in what was supposed to be the highest-capacity undersea Pacific connection for internet traffic.

The Trump administration asked the Federal Communications Commission to block the connection in Hong Kong, citing concern it “would expose U.S. communications traffic to collection” by China, through a Chinese firm operating where the cable landed. Instead, it wants the commission to approve only direct connections to Taiwan and the Philippines, undercutting China’s effort to make Hong Kong a key data transfer hub. It cited the new national security law for Hong Kong, which at the time was still being drafted.

But it remains unclear if the steps involving Huawei and others will achieve Washington’s objective. Chinese firms will still control much of Asia’s traffic, and that means calls, data and searches will still move through Chinese switching systems. At best, the U.S. moves can make it harder for China’s leaders to cut off communications in times of conflict. But it cannot protect the United States from what Sue Gordon, the former deputy director of national intelligence, called the process of “living in a dirty network.”

Still, Robert B. Blair, a senior Commerce Department official who until recently served as the Trump White House’s chief telecommunications adviser, told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday that “we scored a major victory” with Britain’s decision.

In Britain, officials warned its ban would add significant costs, and delay the rollout of 5G by around two years. The new 5G wireless systems must be built atop existing networks that Huawei had a major role in constructing. In setting a 2027 deadline, the British government said moving any faster to remove Huawei gear would produce a greater risk to the security and resilience of the network.

The ban does not apply to smartphones and other consumer products made by Huawei, or equipment used in 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

Many see the Huawei dispute as foreshadowing future conflicts, with other prominent companies becoming entangled. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was considering actions against Chinese apps, including the hugely popular social media service TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese internet company.

Britain’s decision to bar Huawei will put pressure on other European countries. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is being urged to keep the company out of a new 5G network, but is weighing the economic fallout for German automakers, for whom China is a critical market.

“If Huawei is stopped in its tracks, that does represent a very important inflection point for China’s ability to achieve its objectives,” said Nigel Inkster, a senior adviser at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London who has written a book on the technology battle between the United States and China.

Mr. Inkster warned that the West risks provoking China if it feels more economically isolated. “There is a serious need to think hard and deeply about whether it is realistic to disengage from China totally in these areas,” he said.

Julian E. Barnes and Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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U.K. Bars Huawei From 5G Network, Raising Tensions With China

LONDON — Britain announced on Tuesday that it would ban equipment from the Chinese technology giant Huawei from the country’s high-speed wireless network, a victory for the Trump administration that escalates the battle between Western powers and China over critical technology.

The move reverses a decision in January, when Britain said that Huawei equipment could be used in its new 5G network on a limited basis. Since then, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced growing political pressure domestically to take a harder line against Beijing, and in May, the United States imposed new restrictions to disrupt Huawei’s access to important components.

Britain’s about-face signals a new willingness among Western countries to confront China, a determination that has grown firmer since Beijing last month adopted a sweeping new law to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, the semiautonomous city that was a British colony until 1997. On Tuesday, Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s national security adviser, was in Paris for meetings about China with counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

Huawei’s critics say its close ties to the Chinese government mean Beijing could use the equipment for espionage or to disrupt telecommunications — a point the company strongly disputes.

Arguing that Huawei created too much risk for such a critical, multibillion-dollar project, the British government said Tuesday that it would ban the purchase of new Huawei equipment for 5G networks after December, and that existing gear already installed would need to be removed from the networks by 2027.

“As facts have changed, so has our approach,” Oliver Dowden, the government minister in charge of telecommunications, told the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon. “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K.’s telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run.”

The dispute over Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, represents an early front in a new tech Cold War, with ramifications for internet freedom and surveillance, as well as emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics.

“The democratic West has woken up late to its over-dependence on a country whose values are diametrically opposed to it,” said Robert Hannigan, the former head of the British digital surveillance agency GCHQ, who is now an executive at the cybersecurity firm BlueVoyant. “Huawei and other Chinese companies present a real cybersecurity risk, but the primary threat comes from the intent of the Chinese Communist Party, as we see in Hong Kong.”

Huawei described the announcement on Tuesday as a disappointment and “bad news for anyone in the U.K. with a mobile phone.”

“It threatens to move Britain into the digital slow lane,” said Ed Brewster, a spokesman for Huawei U.K. “Regrettably our future in the U.K. has become politicized; this is about U.S. trade policy and not security. ”

Until the latest turn of events, Britain had been welcoming of Huawei. In 2005, it was the first country to offer Huawei a foothold in Europe, now the company’s largest market outside of China. Huawei financed university research and a charity started by Prince Charles. And just last month, Huawei announced plans to spend 1 billion pounds (about $1.25 billion) on a new research center in Cambridge.

The British experience shows the challenges nations face navigating the United States-China rift. In moving forward with the ban, Britain risks retaliation from China, one of its largest and fastest-growing trading partners, at a time when it is trying to craft a more open trade policy outside the European Union. China’s ambassador in London, Liu Xiaoming, recently warned that Britain would “bear the consequences” of treating China with hostility.

“The Huawei issue is the first of many complicated decisions we’re going to have about striking the right balance between our commercial and economic engagement with China, and our security concerns about how China uses its power,” said John Sawers, the former chief of the British intelligence service MI6.

Huawei is the leading provider for towers, masts and other critical equipment needed to build new wireless networks based on fifth-generation wireless technology, known as 5G.

New 5G networks are seen as essential infrastructure in an increasingly digital global economy. The networks will provide faster download speeds for phone users, but offer even more important potential for commercial applications in industries such as manufacturing, health care and transportation.

Image
Credit…Pool photo by Wpa

Huawei’s technological dominance in this field is viewed as a failure of industrial policy in the West. American authorities have spent more than a year pressuring allies to keep Huawei out of communications networks, warning that the company is a proxy for Beijing and a threat to national security. The Trump administration encouraged the use of other telecom equipment makers, including Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia.

At first, countries were resistant, unconvinced that Huawei posed a grave risk. Britain argued that it had a security system in place to ensure all Huawei equipment was reviewed before being put inside its communications networks. The announcement in January stipulated Huawei would be limited to “noncore” parts of the network.

A turning point came in May, when the Trump administration announced a rule that would bar Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology and software. The decision, slated to take effect in September, could throw Huawei’s supply chain into chaos.

In Britain, the American announcement added to pressure Mr. Johnson faced from members of his own Conservative Party to take a harder line against China, especially after the events in Hong Kong. The government announced a review of its January decision after the American punishments were announced.

“American sanctions left the U.K. with little choice,” said Priya Guha, a former British diplomat who represented the country’s interests in Silicon Valley. “There was a bit of checkmate by the U.S.”

The Trump administration has taken other steps, some conducted with little publicity, to undercut China’s position in communications networks.

In April, a group of agencies that calls itself Team Telecom, led by the Justice Department, moved to remove China Telecom, another big wireless company, from its operations inside the United States. It has long been operating “points of presence” in U.S. networks that help maintain internet connections. In a series of classified briefings, American intelligence agencies accused it of experimenting with rerouting American traffic through China — though the purpose of that rerouting was unclear.

The same group moved last month to block the Pacific Light Cable Network — a partnership involving Facebook and Google among others — from operating an undersea cable linking Hong Kong and the United States, in what was supposed to be the highest-capacity undersea Pacific connection for internet traffic.

The Trump administration asked the Federal Communications Commission to block the connection in Hong Kong, citing concern it “would expose U.S. communications traffic to collection” by China, through a Chinese firm operating where the cable landed. Instead, it wants the commission to approve only direct connections to Taiwan and the Philippines, undercutting China’s effort to make Hong Kong a key data transfer hub. It cited the new national security law for Hong Kong, which at the time was still being drafted.

But it remains unclear if the steps involving Huawei and others will achieve Washington’s objective. Chinese firms will still control much of Asia’s traffic, and that means calls, data and searches will still move through Chinese switching systems. At best, the U.S. moves can make it harder for China’s leaders to cut off communications in times of conflict. But it cannot protect the United States from what Sue Gordon, the former deputy director of national intelligence, called the process of “living in a dirty network.”

In Britain, officials warned its ban would add significant costs, and delay the rollout of 5G by around two years. The new 5G wireless systems must be built atop existing networks that Huawei had a major role in constructing. In setting a 2027 deadline, the British government said moving any faster to remove Huawei gear would produce a greater risk to the security and resilience of the network.

The ban does not apply to smartphones and other consumer products made by Huawei, or equipment used in 2G, 3G and 4G networks.

Many see the Huawei dispute as foreshadowing future conflicts, with other prominent companies becoming entangled. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was considering actions against Chinese apps, including the hugely popular social media service TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese internet company.

Britain’s decision to bar Huawei will put pressure on other European countries. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is being urged to keep the company out of a new 5G network, but is weighing the economic fallout for German automakers, for whom China is a critical market.

“If Huawei is stopped in its tracks, that does represent a very important inflection point for China’s ability to achieve its objectives,” said Nigel Inkster, a senior adviser at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London who has written a book on the technology battle between the United States and China.

Mr. Inksterwarned that the West risks provoking China if it feels more economically isolated. “There is a serious need to think hard and deeply about whether it is realistic to disengage from China totally in these areas,” he said.

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British Workers Try Their Hand at an Unfamiliar Job: Berry Picking

LONDON — If this were any other year, Ella Chandler, 19, would be playing cricket almost every day. Zak Oyrzynski, 23, would be looking for a job as a chef in London. Beth Blease, a 24-year-old personal trainer, would be helping her clients get into shape for the summer. Sam Richards, 32, would be behind a desk, working in sales.

But in this pandemic year, these Britons can be found in fields across the country, doing something they probably would not have imagined a few months ago: working as farm laborers, picking berries.

And pretty much enjoying it.

“It’s been really fun, but it’s been tiring and hard work,” said Ms. Chandler, a professional cricket player for a team in New Zealand whose season was cut short. On a recent day, she said, she picked almost 556 pounds of strawberries in about five and a half hours. “It’s quite satisfying,” she said.

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

She had seen on the news that pickers were needed on British farms because of an expected labor shortage and said she had decided to apply to work on one near her home in Surrey, a county southwest of London.

Besides the chance to make some — though not a lot of — money, the pickers said, it was a good way to meet and talk to people while the country was on lockdown, and prove to themselves they could do something unexpected.

“At least I did something,” said Mr. Oyrzynski, who picks strawberries, too, at the farm where Ms. Chandler works. “I didn’t sit here and do nothing and be a couch potato. I’m proud of myself for doing that.”

The job isn’t glamorous, and the work is hard. A workday starts at 7 a.m., and the income can vary person by person.

“People say you can make a lot of money,” Mr. Oyrzynski said, “but it’s down to the picker.” He said the workers at the farm were paid Britain’s minimum wage — 8.72 pounds, or just below $11, an hour — but could earn more based on how much fruit they picked.

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

At Hall Hunter, the company that runs the farm, the average weekly pay in 2019 was £414 (almost $520), according to the company’s website.

“A couple of young people dropped out because the pay was not what they expected,” Mr. Oyrzynski said. And while the job started off fun, he said, it was also strict, with rules about how to behave. (Someone was written up for throwing an orange peel in a bush, he said.)

“It’s not the ideal job. It’s not something I would always do,” Mr. Oyrzynski said, but “it kept me busy, and it’s educating me.”

Fruit picking in Britain is traditionally done by seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. Over all, 70,000 to 90,000 seasonal workers are needed to pick all the fruit and vegetables that grow in the country.

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

Because of travel restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, many of those workers haven’t been able to make the trip, have been delayed or have chosen not to come. By the time the pandemic hit Europe, most of the crops had been planted.

As a result of the looming labor shortage, the government started a “Pick for Britain” campaign in April to attract British workers. Prince Charles released a video in which he said the country needed “pickers who are stickers.”

Among those who signed up was Ms. Blease, a self-employed personal trainer who was unable to find work because of the lockdown. She works nine-hour shifts picking and packing strawberries and asparagus at Claremont Farm in northern England for minimum wage.

The work is rewarding beyond the pay, Ms. Blease said.

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

“We’re all meant to be outside and growing our own crops and living off the land, and I think we forget that sometimes,” she said. When the pandemic eases, she added, she hopes to own a farm herself where individuals suffering from anxiety, depression or eating disorders can do the same work.

Ms. Richards also works at Claremont Farm. She lost her job as an account manager for a beer company during the pandemic.

“It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked, for the littlest money I’ve ever made, but it’s the happiest I’ve ever been — it’s bizarre,” Ms. Richards said.

“I think going forward I want to work in the outdoors,” she said. “I’ve just decided now that I don’t actually need that much to be happy. Being outdoors is more than enough.”

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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times
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Credit…Alex Atack for The New York Times

Farmers say they have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest in these jobs. They were afraid Britons would stay away from jobs usually performed by overseas workers.

But the placement of workers has its challenges. Desk work this is not: There is reaching, twisting and bending, and the need for good eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills (to avoid tearing the plant when picking a delicate strawberry).

Four-fifths of the people who initially expressed interest drop out before moving to the next stage, such as an interview, according to HOPS Labour Solutions, a recruiter for farm work. Some realized that manual labor was not for them, or their job furlough ended, or the contracts offered by farms were too long.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Updated July 7, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.