Changing Strategy, the E.U. Bets Big on Pfizer to Battle Covid

BRUSSELS — Bruised by major disruptions in supplies of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the European Union Wednesday announced it was putting trust and money into the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to salvage its vaccination rollout and secure doses for the future.

The pivot away from AstraZeneca, once a pillar of the E.U. inoculation program, comes after months of discord over delayed shipments and as the company battles worries over rare potential side effects of its shots.

In announcing the change in strategy, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Pfizer had agreed to an early shipment of doses that she said should likely allow the bloc to reach its goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer.

That goal was in jeopardy after AstraZeneca failed to deliver on expected doses in the first quarter of the year, then suffered fresh setbacks over potential side effects related to blood clots. The European vaccine campaign was dealt a further blow Tuesday when Johnson & Johnson said it would delay its own rollout in Europe because of similar concerns and after regulators paused its use in the United States.

supply disruptions from AstraZeneca in late January, and then with the emergence of the potential rare blood disorder that has battered the public’s confidence in vaccines and led to appointment cancellations.

“As we can see with the announcement by Johnson & Johnson yesterday, there are still many factors that can disrupt the planned delivery schedules of vaccines,” Ms. von der Leyen said Wednesday.

Ms. von der Leyen said the Pfizer doses under negotiation for the next two years would include potential booster shots to extend the immunity of people who have already been inoculated, as well as possible new shots or boosters targeting emerging variants that might prove resilient against existing vaccines.

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines performed well in clinical trials and the possible dangerous side effects have been rare. But trials of the Pfizer and Moderna shots shows that they were even more effective in preventing infection, and similar side effects have not emerged. Another mRNA vaccine, from CureVac, is in clinical trials.

On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s top drug regulator, said it was expediting its investigation of “very rare cases of unusual blood clots” in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and expected to issue a recommendation next week. While the evaluation is ongoing, the agency reiterated its view that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

In a setback for AstraZeneca, Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to permanently stop the administration of the company’s vaccine, saying the potential side effects were significant enough to do so given that it had the pandemic under control and could rely on the Pfizer and Moderna inoculations.

With the fresh commitment by Pfizer to bring forward the delivery of 50 million doses originally slated for the end of the year, the company expects to deliver 250 million doses in total to the bloc by the end of June.

Ms. von der Leyen said more than 100 million people in the European Union had already received at least one vaccine dose, and 27 million had received both. The additional Pfizer vaccines, together with 35 million doses expected from Moderna over the next three months, and a more limited use of AstraZeneca doses already in the pipeline, should likely be enough to get the bloc to the coveted milestone of reaching 255 million people by September, E.U. officials said.

In stark contrast to the criticism of AstraZeneca’s handling of its E.U. dealings, Ms. von der Leyen praised Pfizer effusively, highlighting how important the company’s ability to respond quickly to help the European Union has been.

“I want to thank BioNTech/Pfizer; it has proven to be a reliable partner,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our needs.”

Addressing another sore point, Ms. von der Leyen said that the future Pfizer doses would be produced in the European Union.

Ample exports from the factories within the bloc to the rest of the world have enabled countries like Mexico and Canada to launch their vaccination campaigns, but those exports have also been identified as one reason there weren’t enough vaccines to go around in Europe.

The United States and Britain, by contrast, held tight to the vaccines made in their countries, helping speed along their inoculation efforts.

Monika Pronczukcontributed reporting.

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French Wine Production Ravaged by a Devastating Frost

PARIS — A sudden frost, the worst in decades, has ravaged a French wine industry already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and what is known among winegrowers as the “Trump tax.”

Candles and small fires glittered across vineyards and orchards last week, their pretty flickering belying the disaster, as winegrowers and farmers tried everything to ward off the frost cutting the life from newly formed shoots and buds. A layer of smog from the fires formed over Lyon and areas of the southeast.

But by the time the cold snap ended, destruction had spread across most of France’s winegrowing regions, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire. Jean-Marie Barillère, the head of a major wine industry association, told the French daily Le Figaro the frost had hit “80 percent of French vineyards.”

The frost followed a period of mild weather with the result that plunging temperatures caught rural France by surprise. Vines were the worst hit but almond and fruit trees were also affected, as well as some other crops, including beets and rapeseed.

imposed tariffs on French wines as a result of various subsidy and tax disputes with France. The import taxes contributed to a 14 percent plunge in global French wine and spirt exports last year. With air traffic way down, duty-free wine sales have also plummeted.

French government ministers fell over themselves promising emergency aid to stricken winegrowers and farmers. The French attachment to the land is fierce; no politician can afford to ignore this. Jean Castex, the prime minister, said the ceiling on an agricultural calamities fund would be lifted and “exceptional” assistance given.

Julien Denormandie, the agriculture minister, said the frost was “an episode of extreme violence that has caused very significant damage.” He convened an emergency meeting Monday with winemakers as well as fruit, vegetable and cereal producers to review the damage.

“The government will help us, but probably not to the extent of our losses,” Ms. Colombo said. “Right now, they are spending like there is no tomorrow.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the government of President Emmanuel Macron has decided to spend whatever it takes to compensate people for lost jobs and business. The final cost, and how the debt will be paid back, are unclear. It seemed a similar approach would be taken to the agricultural disaster.

“It’s incredibly hard, very violent,” David Joulain, an almond grower in the south, told Agence France-Presse. “I have the feeling one knee is on the ground. Every tree I have tested is dead, I am afraid that I have lost the whole crop.”

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Covid-19 Live Updates: Regeneron’s Antibody Drug Can Help Prevent Infections, Study Says

clinical trial results announced on Monday. The drug, if authorized, could offer another line of defense against the disease for people who are not protected by vaccination.

The findings are the latest evidence that such lab-made drugs not only prevent the worst outcomes of the disease when given early enough, but also help prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

Using the cumbersome drugs preventively on a large scale won’t be necessary: Vaccines are sufficient for the vast majority of people and are increasingly available.

Still, antibody drugs like Regeneron’s could give doctors a new way to protect high-risk people who haven’t been inoculated or who may not respond well to vaccination, such as those taking drugs that weaken their immune system. That could be an important tool as rising coronavirus cases and dangerous virus variants threaten to outpace vaccinations.

Regeneron said in a news release that it would ask the Food and Drug Administration to expand the drug’s emergency authorization — currently for high-risk people who already have Covid but are not hospitalized — to allow it to be given for preventive purposes in “appropriate populations.”

There’s “a very substantial number of people” in the United States and globally who could be a good fit to receive these drugs for preventive purposes, said Dr. Myron Cohen, a University of North Carolina researcher who leads monoclonal antibody efforts for the Covid Prevention Network, a National Institutes of Health-sponsored initiative that helped to oversee the trial.

“Not everyone’s going to take a vaccine, no matter what we do, and not everyone’s going to respond to a vaccine,” Dr. Cohen said.

Regeneron’s new data come from a clinical trial that enrolled more than 1,500 people who lived in the same household as someone who had tested positive for the virus within four days. Those who got an injection of Regeneron’s drug were 81 percent less likely to get sick with Covid compared to volunteers who got a placebo.

Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who was not involved in the study, said the data were “promising” for people who have not yet been vaccinated. But he said that the study did not enroll the type of patients that would be needed to assess whether the drug should be used preventively for immunocompromised patients. “I would say we don’t yet know that,” Dr. Gandhi said.

Regeneron’s cocktail, a combination of two drugs designed to mimic the antibodies generated naturally when the immune system fends off the virus, got a publicity boost last fall when it was given to President Donald J. Trump after he got sick with Covid.

The treatment received emergency authorization in November. Doctors are using it, as well as another antibody cocktail from Eli Lilly, for high-risk Covid patients.

But use of the antibody drugs has been slowed not by a shortage of doses, but by other challenges, though access has improved in recent months. Many patients don’t know to ask for the drugs or where to find them.

Many hospitals and clinics have not made the treatments a priority because they have been time-consuming and difficult to administer, in large part because they must be given via intravenous infusion. Regeneron plans to ask the F.D.A. to allow its drug to be given via an injection, as it was administered in the results of the study announced on Monday, which would allow it to be given more quickly and easily.

Decorating the exterior of an Italian restaurant in London on Sunday. Pubs and restaurants were permitted to reopen outdoor spaces on Monday.
Credit…Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Britain reopened large parts of its economy on Monday, allowing people in England back in shops, hair salons and outdoor areas of pubs and restaurants, a long-awaited milestone after three months of lockdown, and a day after the country recorded its lowest daily coronavirus death toll since September.

Under the second stage of the government’s gradual reopening, libraries, community centers and some outdoor attractions like zoos will also return, though outdoor gatherings remain limited to six people or two households.

For many in England, the return was a hopeful — if not definitive — sign that the worst of the pandemic was behind them, after a new variant of the virus detected last year in the country’s southeast spun out of control around Christmas, overwhelming hospitals and causing tens of thousands of deaths.

At its winter peak, Britain reported as many as 60,000 daily cases a day and 1,820 daily deaths, according to a New York Times database. But after months of restrictions and an aggressive vaccination program that has offered a dose to about half of Britain’s population, those figures declined to 1,730 daily cases and seven deaths reported on Sunday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far gone ahead with the gradual easing of measures that he had announced, reopening schools on March 8, reducing restrictions on outdoor gatherings on March 29, and allowing large parts of the economy to reopen on Monday.

Mr. Johnson said on Monday that the reopening was “a major step forward in our road map to freedom.” Still, he urged caution.

“I urge everyone to continue to behave responsibly and remember ‘hands, face, space and fresh air’ to suppress Covid,” he said.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where devolved governments are responsible for coronavirus restrictions, have laid out similar plans to reopen their economies.

The apparent success represents a turnaround for Mr. Johnson’s government, which struggled to stem cases earlier in the pandemic and at one point reported the greatest rate of excess deaths in Europe.

But now E.U. countries — hampered by a vaccine rollout slower than Britain’s and a scare over a possible links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots — are facing a third wave of coronavirus infections. France, Italy and other countries have recently imposed new lockdown measures.

In England, business owners reopened on Monday with hope — and some anxiety that the numbers of infections could go up again. Still, “we’re looking confident we won’t be seeing anything like that again,” said Nicholas Hair, the owner of The Kentish Belle, a London pub that opened its doors to patrons one minute after midnight.

Global Roundup

A train station in Mumbai, on Monday.
Credit…Niharika Kulkarni/Reuters

Even as India hit a record for daily coronavirus infections, and its total caseload rose to second in the world behind the United States, the images that dominated Indian news media on Monday were of a crowded religious festival along the banks of the Ganges River.

The dissonance was a clear manifestation of the confusing messages sent by the authorities just as India’s coronavirus epidemic is spiraling, with a daily high of 168,000 cases and 900 deaths reported on Monday.

Yet millions of devotees have thronged the holy city of Haridwar for the monthlong Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, when Hindu pilgrims seek absolution by bathing in the Ganges. Officials have said that about one million people will participate every day, and as many as five million during the most auspicious days, all crowded into a narrow stretch along the river and searching for the holiest spot to take a dip.

Already, fears are running high that one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Hinduism could turn into a superspreading event.

Dr. S. K. Jha, a local health officer, said that an average of about 250 new cases had been registered each day recently. Experts have warned that many more infections are going unrecorded, and that devotees could unwittingly carry the virus with them as they return to their homes across the country.

India is in the grip of the world’s fastest growing outbreak, with more and more jurisdictions going back into varying stages of lockdown. Infections are spreading particularly fast in Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, and the surrounding state of Maharashtra, where the government has announced a partial weekday lockdown and near-total closure over the weekends.

The situation is also worsening in the capital, New Delhi, which reported more than 10,000 new cases on Sunday, surpassing the previous daily high of nearly 8,500. The state government has imposed a curfew and ordered restaurants and public transport systems to run at half capacity. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s top official, has said more restrictions may follow.

Hospitals in several states are reporting shortages of oxygen, ventilators and coronavirus testing kits, and some are also running low on remdesivir, a drug used in serious Covid-19 cases. India has halted the export of remdesivir until the situation improves.

India is also trying to ramp up its vaccination drive, with about three million people being inoculated daily and 104 million doses administered so far. But with many vaccination centers nationwide expressing concern over possible shortages, India’s large pharmaceutical industry has sharply reduced its exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine in order to keep more doses at home, creating serious challenges for other countries that had been relying on those shipments.

On Monday, Indian experts recommended the use of Russia’s Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine, which would become the third available in the country if approved by the authorities.

After months of lower-than-expected infections and deaths from the virus, critics say Indian officials have sent dissonant messages about the seriousness of the crisis. Police officers are enforcing curfew and mask rules, sometimes resorting to beatings captured on videos shared across social media. But senior political leaders, including the prime minister, Narendra Modi, have been holding large rallies for local elections.

Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has also allowed the religious festival to proceed — in contrast to what happened last spring, at the start of the pandemic, when India’s health ministry blamed an Islamic seminary for fanning a far smaller outbreak. Critics say rhetoric from members of Mr. Modi’s party contributed to a spate of attacks against Muslims, a minority of about 200 million people in a Hindu-dominated country of 1.3 billion.

In other news around the world:

  • Bangladesh has announced a weeklong lockdown, closing offices, factories and transport services starting Wednesday, and banning domestic and international flights. The country is facing its severest coronavirus outbreak so far, averaging nearly 7,000 daily new infections, according to a New York Times database, as the virus sweeps across South Asia.

  • In France, all people over 55 are eligible to receive the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines starting Monday, as the authorities try to ramp up their vaccination campaign after a sluggish start. Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Sunday that France would also extend the period between the first and second shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to six weeks from four, echoing Britain’s strategy. Over 14 million people have received a first injection.

  • High schools reopened in Greece on Monday after five months closed. The reopening only applies to senior high-school classes, and pupils and teachers will have to take a virus test twice a week before returning to classrooms. Thousands did so at home on Sunday, with just 613 positives out of some 380,000, a rate of 0.16 percent, according to state television. Stores in the country reopened last week.

  • The world’s wealthy nations should commit $30 billion to a global mass vaccination campaign, Gordon Brown, a former prime minister of Britain, said on Monday. Lower-income countries’ inoculation efforts are trailing far behind richer nations’ and the divide has led to allegations of a “vaccine apartheid,” Mr. Brown warned in an op-ed for The Guardian. “The costs may still be in billions, but the benefit will be in trillions,” he wrote.

Anna Schaverien, Constant Méheut and Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting.

A vaccination center at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia, last month.
Credit…James Ross/EPA, via Shutterstock

Australia has given up on the goal of vaccinating its entire population against Covid-19 by the end of the year, following updated advice from health officials that younger people should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as delays in the delivery of doses.

The Australian government said last week that it had accepted a recommendation by a panel of health experts that people under 50 receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine instead of the one developed by AstraZeneca, which had been the centerpiece of Australia’s vaccination program. The change in guidance came after European regulators found links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, prompting several countries to restrict use of the shot.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that the government had ordered another 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, doubling what it had already purchased. But they are not expected to be available until the fourth quarter of this year, dealing a blow to the government’s previously stated goal of inoculating all of its 25 million people by then.

Mr. Morrison appeared to acknowledge the change in timeline in a Facebook post on Sunday.

“The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” Mr. Morrison said. “While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.”

Public health experts have criticized Mr. Morrison’s government for relying too heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine, a relatively cheap and easy-to-use shot but one whose troubles have jeopardized inoculation efforts in multiple countries. They said the setback to Australia’s vaccination program risked undermining the country’s success in containing the spread of the coronavirus since recording its first case in January 2020.

“We’re in a position a year later where that hard-won success is jeopardized by a completely incompetent approach to a vaccine rollout,” said Bill Bowtell, a public health policy expert and adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Australia has made four separate agreements for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines that would give it a total of 170 million doses, enough to inoculate its population more than three times over. Plans to manufacture almost all of its 54 million AstraZeneca doses domestically were approved last month.

But the Australian government has been under fire for weeks over the sluggish pace of its vaccination rollout, which began in late February. By the end of March, when the government had aimed to vaccinate four million people, only about 600,000 had actually been inoculated. As of Sunday, Australia had administered fewer than 1.2 million doses.

Australian officials have attributed the slow rollout to delays in the delivery of millions of vaccine doses manufactured in the European Union, which has curbed exports amid its own supply shortages. The export restrictions mainly affect the AstraZeneca vaccine.

After enduring strict lockdowns for much of the past year, Australians are now enjoying relatively normal life in a country that has all but stamped out the virus. But public health experts warn that until more of the population is vaccinated, those freedoms are precarious.

“Having eliminated Covid, they thought a mass vaccination campaign would lock that in,” Mr. Bowtell said of the Australian public. “Now they are being deeply disillusioned.”

Covid-19 vaccinations at a monastery in Bangkok this month.
Credit…Adam Dean for The New York Times

Thailand is facing its worst coronavirus outbreak just as millions of people head to their home provinces during the country’s biggest travel holiday.

The latest wave of infections, which has sent at least eight cabinet members into isolation, is centered in a Bangkok nightlife district said to be popular with government officials and wealthy partygoers. The country, which until now has largely kept the virus under control, set a record Monday for new daily cases with 985.

One top health official warned that Thailand could soon face as many as 28,000 new cases a day in the worst-case scenario. The government announced it would set up field hospitals as Covid-19 wards at existing facilities begin to fill up.

Officials ordered the closure of hundreds of bars and nightclubs, but critics say the government has been inconsistent in its efforts to bring the outbreak under control. The prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, stopped short of banning travel between provinces for the Songkran holiday, which begins on Tuesday and marks the beginning of the Thai New Year.

“Whatever will be, will be,” he said last week in explaining his decision. “The reason is it’s a matter that involves a huge number of people. The government will have to try to cope with that later.”

Dozens of provinces have imposed their own restrictions on travelers coming from Bangkok and other affected areas, prompting many Thais to cancel their trips. But many others set off over the weekend.

During earlier outbreaks, the government often acted quickly to require face masks, ban foreign tourists, impose quarantine restrictions and lock down hard-hit areas. It has reported fewer than 34,000 cases — mostly from a January surge traced to a seafood market near Bangkok — and just 97 deaths.

But it has been lax in testing and slow to vaccinate. So far, it has procured about 2.2 million doses and given at least one to about 500,000 people. Thailand’s population is 70 million.

Vaccine production is not expected to begin in earnest until June, when a manufacturer in Thailand is scheduled to begin producing 10 million doses a month of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Health officials were alarmed by the recent discovery of dozens of cases of the highly infectious coronavirus variant first identified in Britain. The finding highlighted the inadequacy of Thailand’s virus testing and suggested that its quarantine procedures have not been as effective as officials believed.

Tourism operators have been especially angered by the government’s lackadaisical approach to obtaining vaccine supplies. The tourism industry, which normally accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s economy, is highly dependent on foreign visitors and has been calling for widespread vaccinations to speed its recovery.

The outbreak in Bangkok has also prompted questions about the activities of some top officials and their aides.

The transportation minister, Saksayam Chidchob, who was hospitalized with Covid-19, was criticized for not being forthcoming about his whereabouts during times when he may have been exposed to the virus. He denied visiting the gentlemen’s club at the center of the outbreak and said he believed he had contracted the virus from an aide.

Eyan Gallegos, 11, a middle schooler in Washington, completing his homework in his room.
Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Parents with school-age children have struggled to combine their usual work and family responsibilities this past year with at least some degree of home-schooling.

But mothers and fathers of middle-schoolers — the parenting cohort long known to researchers as the most angst-ridden and unhappy — are connecting now in a specific sort of common misery: the pressing fear that their children, at a vital point in their academic and social lives, have tripped over some key developmental milestones and may never quite find their footing.

Experts say some of their worries are justified — up to a point. The pandemic has taken a major toll on many adolescents’ emotional well-being.

Yet as the nation begins to pivot from trauma to recovery, many mental-health experts and educators are trying to spread the message that parents, too, need a reset. If adults want to guide their children toward resilience, these experts say, then they need to get their own minds out of crisis mode.

Early adolescence is considered a critical period, a time of brain changes so rapid and far-reaching that they rival the plasticity and growth that take place in the newborn to 3-year-old phase.

These changes make children more capable of higher-level thinking and reasoning. They also make them crave social contact, attention and approval.

Remote learning and social distancing are in many ways the opposite of what children in this age group want and need.

It’s been hardest on middle schoolers,” said Phyllis Fagell, a therapist and school counselor who wrote the 2019 book “Middle School Matters.” “It is their job to pull away from parents, to use these years to really focus on figuring out where they are in the pecking order. And all of that hard work that has to happen in these years was just put on hold.”

Yet Ms. Fagell and many other experts in adolescent development were adamant that parents should not panic — and that the spread of the “lost year” narrative needed to stop.

Getting a full picture of what’s going on with middle schoolers, they agreed, requires holding two seemingly contradictory ideas simultaneously in mind: The past year has been terrible. And most middle schoolers will be fine.

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India Suffers a Coronavirus Second Wave, With Global Impact

NEW DELHI — When the coronavirus first struck India last year, the country enforced one of the world’s strictest national lockdowns. The warning was clear: A fast spread in a population of 1.3 billion would be devastating.

Though damaging and ultimately flawed, the lockdown and other efforts appeared to work. Infections dropped and deaths remained low. Officials and the public dropped their guard. Experts warned fruitlessly that the government’s haphazard approach would bring a crisis when a new wave appeared.

Now the crisis is here.

India on Friday reported a daily record of 131,878 new infections as Covid-19 races out of control. Deaths, while still relatively low, are rising. Vaccinations, a mammoth task in such a large nation, are dangerously behind schedule. Hospital beds are running short.

Parts of the country are reinforcing lockdowns. Scientists are rushing to track new strains, including the more hazardous variants found in Britain and South Africa, that may be hastening the spread. But the authorities have declared contact tracing in some places to be simply impossible.

now behind the United States and Brazil.) The economic blowback of the resulting lockdown was devastating.

But the numbers at the time actually understated the first wave, scientists now say, and deaths in India never matched levels of the United States or Britain. Leaders began acting as if the problem had been solved.

Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, boasted of a major stockpile of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which makes up the bulk of the country’s drive. The government even launched a “vaccine diplomacy” campaign that sent doses to other countries.

But the initial rollout within India was slowed by complacency and plagued with public skepticism, including questions about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and lack of disclosure about an Indian-developed dose. Now the vaccination program is not matching the spread. The Serum Institute has said that practically all of its daily production of about two million doses will over the next two months go to the government, delaying commitments to other countries.

Several Indian states now worry that their vaccines stocks will run out. Mumbai, India’s largest city, had shut more than half of its vaccination centers, local media reported on Friday. The central government’s health minister lashed out at the states, reassuring that there would be no shortage and that more supplies were in the pipeline.

hit the campaign trail for state elections. Prime Minister Modi has addressed more than 20 rallies, each with thousands of often-unmasked people.

On Wednesday, Delhi officials said that even a solo car driver would be punished for not wearing a mask properly. The same day, Amit Shah, the country’s de facto No. 2 leader, drove through a campaign crowd in the state of West Bengal, waving without a mask and throwing rose petals.

The government also gave the go ahead for a long Hindu religious festival called Kumbh Mela, which runs through the end of April. Between one million to five million people attend the festival each day in the city of Hardiwar, on the banks of the river Ganges in the state of Uttarakhand.

no one would face restrictions as “the faith in God will overcome the fear of Covid-19.” Days later, Mr. Rawat tested positive for Covid.

The positivity rate of random tests is rising at the festival, and more than 300 participants have tested positive, said Dr. Arjun Singh Senger, a health officer at the festival.

The sheer speed of new infections has surprised health officials, who wonder whether variants might be a factor. Answering that question will be difficult. India has put only about 1 percent of its cases through genome sequencing tests, according to Dr. Reddy, of the Public Health Foundation of India, but researchers require a minimum of 5 percent to determine what is circulating.

So far, the government has found variants from the U.K. and South Africa as well as a local mutation. Limited information suggests that more infectious variants are circulating in India, as well, Dr. Reddy said.

Even if the variants have not yet been a major part of the new wave of infections, they have cast a shadow over India’s crucial vaccination drive. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been rejected by South Africa ineffective against that variant.

“This time, the speed is much faster than the last time,” said Dr. Vinod K. Paul, the head of India’s Covid response task force. “The next four weeks are very, very crucial for us.”

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Covid-19 Live Updates: U.K. to Offer Alternatives to AstraZeneza Vaccine to Adults Under 30

finally over rare, but sometimes fatal, blood clots reported in some recipients.

Those concerns led several European countries to first restrict the use of AstraZeneca in older age groups, then suspend it over reports of blood clots, only to roll it out again last month after the European Medicines Agency issued a preliminary opinion that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

As doctors reported a higher incidence of serious blood clots in younger people, some countries decided to stop administering the shot to anyone younger than 55.

Europe’s concerns over the vaccine’s side effects are also likely to threaten global inoculation efforts, with much of the developing world depending on the AstraZeneca vaccine to tackle the pandemic. The shot is the cornerstone of Covax, a program designed to make vaccine access more equitable worldwide.

The vaccine appeared to be causing an immune reaction in which antibodies bind to platelets, activating them, German doctors and the European Medicines Agency have said. Those platelets, in turn, were causing the formation of dangerous clots in certain parts of the body, including in veins that drain blood from the brain, leading in some cases to a rare type of stroke.

Why the antibodies develop in these people is not known, doctors have said. Some component of the vaccine, or excessive immune reaction — or both — could be the cause, they said.

No pre-existing conditions are known to make patients more vulnerable to this clotting disorder after a vaccination, European regulators said.

A mass vaccination event for teachers in Carteret, N.J., this month. About eight million school employees had received at least one vaccine dose by the end of March.
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Nearly 80 percent of school staff and child care workers in the United States have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration has made an ambitious push to reopen schools and return to in-person instruction by the president’s 100th day in office. That goal has been tempered by dangerous virus variants, protests from teachers’ unions, and the fears and frustrations of students and parents.

The push to reopen schools has gathered momentum as evidence mounted that proper safety measures limited virus transmission in schools and coronavirus cases fell sharply from their January peak. Education officials and experts have cited the urgency of getting students back in classrooms before the academic year ends.

About eight million teachers, school staff and child care workers received their first vaccine dose by the end of March, according to the C.D.C., with about two million receiving their shot through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

President Biden announced the program in March, urging nationwide access to vaccines for school employees and child care workers. But a hodgepodge of eligibility guidelines followed, as some states chose not to deviate from their rollout plans. By the end of March, however, K-12 educators in all states had become eligible to receive the vaccine.

While the acceleration of vaccinations among educators and staff has reduced the resistance from teachers’ unions to reopening classrooms, school systems with powerful unions, especially on the West Coast, have been slower to revert to in-person instruction.

Union resistance has led a bipartisan group of governors in several states to prod, and sometimes force, school districts to open. The result has been a major increase in the number of students who now have the option of attending school in-person, or will soon.

According to a school reopening tracker created by the American Enterprise Institute, 7 percent of the more than 8,000 districts being tracked were fully remote on March 22, the lowest percentage since the tracker was started in November. Forty-one percent of districts were offering full-time in-person instruction, the highest percentage in that time. Those findings have been echoed by other surveys.

In February, the C.D.C. issued guidelines that said K-12 schools could reopen safely as long as they followed basic health protocols like masking or distancing.

More recently, it said that elementary students and some middle and high schoolers could be spaced three feet apart in classrooms, instead of six feet, as long as everyone was wearing a mask. Unions had used the six-foot guidance to oppose bringing children back for normal schedules.

“Our push to ensure that teachers, school staff, and child care workers were vaccinated during March has paid off and paved the way for safer in-person learning,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the center’s director, said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Mr. Biden touted the C.D.C.’s newly released benchmark while visiting a vaccination site in Alexandra, Va., on Tuesday.

“That is great progress protecting our educators and our essential workers,” Mr. Biden said of the new estimate. “And because our vaccine program is in overdrive, we are making it easier to get a vaccination shot.”

The American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second-largest teacher’s union, on Tuesday released a survey that reported over 80 percent of association members had been vaccinated or had made a vaccine appointment. About 85 percent of members said their school was “operating on at least a part-time basis,” according to the survey.

Randi Weingarten, the federation’s president, said in a statement on Tuesday that “A.F.T. members have embraced vaccines as vital to getting back in the classroom.”

“They want to return, the road map to reopening is robust, and if we instill trust and meet fear with facts we can finally end this national nightmare,” Ms. Weingarten said.

A guest showed her “Excelsior Pass,” with proof of vaccination, on a phone outside the The Shed, a performing and visual arts venue in New York.
Credit…Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Around the United States, businesses, schools and politicians are considering “vaccine passports” — digital proof of vaccination against the coronavirus — as a path to reviving the economy and getting Americans back to work and play.

New York has rolled out “Excelsior Pass,” billed by the state as “a free, fast and secure way to present digital proof of Covid-19 vaccination” in case reopening sports and entertainment venues require proof of attendees’ status.

Walmart is offering electronic verification apps to patients vaccinated in its stores so they “can easily access their vaccine status as needed,” the company said.

But the idea is raising charged legal and ethical questions: Can businesses require employees or customers to provide proof of vaccination against the coronavirus when the vaccine is ostensibly voluntary?

Can schools require that students prove they have been injected with what is still officially an experimental prophylaxis the same way they require long-approved vaccines for measles and polio? And finally, can governments mandate vaccinations — or stand in the way of businesses or educational institutions that demand proof?

Legal experts say the answer to all of these questions is generally yes, though in a society so divided, politicians are girding for a fight. Government entities like school boards and the Army can require vaccinations for entry, service and travel — practices that flow from a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that said states could require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox or pay a fine.

Backers of digital vaccination cards are pressing the Biden administration to become involved, at least by setting standards for privacy and for verifying the accuracy of the records.

The White House is clearly skittish.

“The government is not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday.

Republican critics say vaccine passports raise the specter of centralized databases of vaccinated people, which they view as a government intrusion on privacy.

“A vaccine passport — a unified, centralized system for providing or denying access to everyday activities like shopping and dining — would be a nightmare for civil liberties and privacy,” Justin Amash, a former Republican congressman who is now a libertarian, wrote on Twitter last week.

But, in fact, every state already has a database, or an “immunization registry.” And under “data use agreements,” the states are required to share their registries with the C.D.C., though the agency de-identifies the information and not all states have agreed to provide it.

global roundup

A vaccination center in Kathmandu, Nepal, last month.
Credit…Niranjan Shrestha/Associated Press

Three weeks after suspending its vaccination campaign, Nepal has started administering shots again thanks to a gift of doses from China.

Nepal, a poor Himalayan nation, had been depending on vaccines manufactured in neighboring India, but last month India began cutting vaccine exports as the country experienced a surge in coronavirus cases. Nepal’s vaccination effort ground to a halt, even as infections began to rise again.

Last week, Nepal’s other giant neighbor, China, stepped in with a donation of 800,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Sinopharm, a state-owned company.

The vaccines will be administered to essential workers, Nepali students preparing to travel to China to study and those living in districts along the Nepal-China border, health officials said. Taranath Pokhrel, a senior official in Nepal’s health department, said that the Chinese government asked Nepal to give priority to the students and to people involved in cross-border trade, presumably to reduce the risk of infected people crossing into China.

Thousands of Nepali students study at Chinese universities under Chinese government scholarships. China, to increase the appeal of its vaccines, has said that foreigners who are inoculated with Chinese-made vaccines may face fewer bureaucratic hurdles entering the country.

Nepal, a nation of 30 million people, has vaccinated more than 1.7 million and slowly begun reopening to visitors, including to a few hundred climbers attempting to scale Mount Everest. The country reported very few infections in January, but new cases have surpassed 300 in recent days, part of a worrying resurgence in new cases across South Asia. India, which shares a porous border with Nepal, recorded more than 115,000 new infections on Wednesday, by far its highest daily total since the pandemic began.

The future of Nepal’s vaccination campaign remains uncertain because the Chinese donation falls short of the two million vaccine doses Nepal was due to receive under an agreement with the Indian manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India. Nepal officials said that they had paid the company 80 percent of the contract price but received only half of the doses. Serum’s chief executive said this week that he hoped to restart exports by June if new infections in India subsided.

“Our entire diplomatic channels are mobilized to get vaccines, but none has assured us of providing vaccines when we tried to procure them,” Dr. Pokhrel said.

In other news from around the world:

With only months left in office, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has struggled to rally support for a national lockdown.
Credit…Hannibal Hanschke/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has called for a short and strict nationwide lockdown to bring down the number of new coronavirus infections in the country, according to her spokeswoman, but will meet with local officials next week to discuss potential regulations.

A year after the first lockdown was successful in tamping down cases, the country’s 16 governors are finding it harder than ever to agree on a unified plan to stem new infections. And with only months left in office, Ms. Merkel has found it increasingly difficult to rally support for a national lockdown as fatigue from prolonged restrictions looms large even as cases rise.

The governors and Ms. Merkel are scheduled to meet on Monday to hammer out new regulations.

While Armin Laschet, the governor of the country’s most populous state and a potential successor to Ms. Merkel, has made similar calls for a two- to three-week hard lockdown to bring down infections, other governors are pushing back. The governor of one small state even began a pilot program on Tuesday to reopen theaters, gyms and restaurant patios.

“A common nationwide approach would also be important here,” Ulrike Demmer, the deputy government spokeswoman, said during a daily news conference, referring to the confusing and often contradictory rules set by state governors. Ms. Demmer also pointed to the rising number of coronavirus patients in intensive care wards as a cause for concern.

According to Ms. Demmer, the goal is to get the infection rate below 100 new cases per 100,000 before the authorities should consider easing restrictions.

On Tuesday, the German health authorities recorded an average of 110 infections per 100,000 people over the previous 7 days, but warned that because fewer people were tested over the Easter holiday weekend, the number was likely to be much higher.

According to a New York Times database, Germany is averaging 15,562 new infections daily and since the pandemic began. More than 77,000 have died with the disease in the country since the pandemic began.

People accused of breaking coronavirus rules were made to exercise as punishment in Manila last month.
Credit…Lisa Marie David/Reuters

A 28-year-old man has died in the Philippines after the police forced him to do 300 squats as punishment after he was caught violating coronavirus lockdown rules.

The man, Darren Manaog Peñaredondo, was detained on Thursday in General Trias city, a Manila suburb, over a curfew violation. Officials have struggled to contain infections in the southeast Asian nation and have increasingly resorted to harsh tactics to enforce restrictions, rights groups say.

He was released the following day, but first was forced to complete 300 squats, his relatives said.

It is not the first time that the authorities have been accused of using aggressive tactics against civilians during the pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte told the police last year not to be afraid to shoot anyone who “causes commotion,” after 20 people protesting restrictions were arrested. Last year, a former soldier suffering from mental health issues was gunned down by the police as he tried to cross a coronavirus checkpoint.

Mr. Peñaredondo’s partner, Reichelyn Balce, said that when he returned home on Friday after being detained, he had shown signs of fatigue.

“He told me that he fell when doing the exercises,” she said. “He struggled to walk when he got home. When he went to relieve himself, he turned blue and convulsed.”

She said that Mr. Peñaredondo was revived but he later died.

Two police officers who imposed the harsh punishment have been suspended pending the results of an investigation into their actions, said Brig. Gen. Ildebrandi Usana, a national police spokesman.

The local police had initially denied the events, but two men who were detained with Mr. Peñaredondo signed a sworn statement about the ordeal.

Cristina Palabay, who leads a local rights group called Karapatan, said that the police punishment amounted to “a form of torture that is cruel and inhuman” and signaled that the local police had adopted a “strongman approach.”

Ms. Palabay’s group aids families of the thousands of citizens killed in the president’s aggressive war on drugs.

The country’s Commission on Human Rights was critical of what it called an “overreach of the enforcement of quarantine rules and regulations,” according to the body’s spokeswoman, Jacqueline Ann de Guia.

Ms. de Guia said that curfew violations called for community service or a fine, rather than harsh physical punishment.

Near Cora, Wyo., in March. In the throes of a pandemic that has made the indoors inherently dangerous, tens of thousands more Americans than usual have flocked outdoors.
Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Kenna Tanner and her team can list the cases from memory: There was the woman who got tired and did not feel like finishing her hike; the campers, in shorts during a blizzard; the base jumper, misjudging his leap from a treacherous granite cliff face; the ill-equipped snowmobiler, buried up to his neck in an avalanche.

All of them were pulled by Ms. Tanner and the Tip Top Search and Rescue crew from the rugged Wind River mountain range — the Winds, as the range is known locally — in the past year in a sprawling, remote pocket of western Wyoming. And all of them, their rescuers said, were wildly unprepared for the brutal backcountry in which they were traveling.

“It is super frustrating,” said Ms. Tanner, Tip Top’s director. “We just wish that people respected the risk.”

In the throes of a pandemic that has made the indoors inherently dangerous, tens of thousands more Americans than usual have flocked outdoors, fleeing crowded cities for national parks and the public lands around them. But as these hordes of inexperienced adventurers explore the treacherous terrain of the backcountry, many inevitably call for help. It has strained the patchwork, volunteer-based search-and-rescue system in America’s West.

Where places like Canada or Switzerland have professional, full-time teams that manage everything from lost tourists to fatal mountaineering accidents, most operations in the United States are handled by a loose network of volunteer organizations like Tip Top, which are overseen by local sheriffs.

For much of the country’s history, this patchwork system met demand. But that trend has shifted in the past decade — and rapidly, over the past year — as less experienced recreationalists push further into treacherous places.

No one expects the eventual end of the pandemic to stem the flood of newcomers to the Winds, which people grudgingly admit have been discovered. Property values continue to soar in Sublette County, and even this winter, locals say out-of-state plates were more common than Wyoming plates in trailhead parking lots.

“You can’t stop it,” said Chris Hayes, who works at an outdoor retailer in Pinedale and also runs a fishing guide service. “There’s no secret place anymore. They’re all gone.”

Credit…Moritz Wienert

Before the pandemic, I found comfort in the routine of my life and the rhythms of my family — what Nora Ephron once called the “peanut-butter-and-jellyness” of days with children. I liked the morning thunderdome of getting the children dressed and fed, dropping them at school and taking the 20-minute walk to the subway.

At this point my commute is the five feet from my bed to my desk, and I am somehow both tired and agitated when I start work each day. My kids never leave the house, except when we go to the same three parks in our neighborhood. Sometimes when I go running outside, I fantasize about just … not stopping, my eyes thirsty for some new horizon.

In other words, I’m so freaking bored.

Here’s how one boredom researcher — yes, there are boredom researchers — has defined the emotion. “‘Feeling unchallenged’ and perceiving one’s ‘activities as meaningless’ is central to boredom,” concluded a study by Wijnand Van Tilburg, an experimental social psychologist at the University of Essex in England.

Even in normal times, boredom is a very common emotion — a study of almost 4,000 American adults found that 63 percent felt bored at least once in a 10-day sampling period. The causes of boredom are multifaceted, but a lack of control over your situation is a common one. He added, “There’s research that shows when you’re limited in your control over the situation — that intensifies boredom.”

Knowing that many of us may not be able to have much control over our movements for at least the next few months, how do we try to alleviate our boredom? First, the researchers I spoke to said it’s important to acknowledge there’s no easy fix for our doldrums — so much of what is happening right now is beyond our control, and the vaccines are just beginning to be tested in children under 12, so we may not be able to make big moves just yet.

This weekend, we saw relatives I adore for an outdoor Easter egg hunt. Just 90 minutes of warm interaction with these beloved adults made me feel so happy and alive that I was smiling for the rest of the day.

As the weather gets warmer and more of my peers are inoculated, I am planning more get-togethers. Whenever I drop back into the doldrums, I will think about all the walks and dinners and hugs on the horizon.

Kate Whelley McCabe, a co-founder of Vermont Evaporator Company, which saw customer demand double during the pandemic, tapping trees in a neighbor’s yard near Montpelier, Vt.
Credit…Jay Ericson

Stress-baking and panic shopping. Vegetable regrowing and crafting. Now we can add another hobby to a year of quarantine trends: backyard maple sugaring.

Among the many indicators that it’s on the rise: a run on at-home evaporators and other syrup-making accouterments. A surge in traffic and subscriptions to syrup-making websites and trade publications. And, of course, lots of documentation on social media. (The Facebook group Backyard Maple Syrup Makers added some 5,000 members, almost doubling the its community, in the past year.)

Tapping maple trees and boiling the sap into syrup — known as sugaring — isn’t a new hobby. What’s unique about this year is the influx of suburban and urban backyard adventurers fueling these maple sugaring highs.

Claire and Thomas Gallagher, for example, tapped a tree behind their home in New Rochelle, N.Y., for the first time three weeks ago.

“It’s such a fun thing to do with the kids, it gets us outside, it’s educational,” Ms. Gallagher, 37, said. And with everyone at home all winter and probably the spring as well, the Gallaghers decided there would never be a better year to try it.

Because sugaring is a sticky business — and boiling sap indoors can mean resin all over the walls — many backyard amateurs turn to small-scale, hobby-size evaporators like the ones sold by Vermont Evaporator Company in Montpelier, Vt.

“When we started our company five years ago, our customers used to look just like us: rural homeowners with five to 10 acres of land,” said Kate Whelley McCabe, the chief executive. “Now we sell to people all over the country and to a growing number of suburban and urban customers.”

The governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, is a dedicated sugarer. His 8-year old son, Leo, is his tree tapping assistant, and his two teenagers, Edie and Calvin, “do the heavy lifting.”

Governor Sununu said that when the tree sap begins to flow, it’s the official signal that spring has arrived. “It’s been a long winter and a long year. The sun is coming up, the days are getting warmer, and when the sap ran this year, we knew we were really coming out of winter with a lot of optimism,” he said in an interview.

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A K-Shaped Recovery, This Time on a Global Scale

WASHINGTON — The global economy is rebounding from the coronavirus pandemic faster than previously expected, largely thanks to the strength of the United States. But the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that an uneven rollout of vaccines posed a threat to the recovery, as the fortunes of rich and poor countries diverge.

The global dynamic echoes the “K-shaped” recoveries that are playing out worldwide. While many wealthy nations are poised for a major economic expansion this year, other nations’ struggles could reverse decades of progress in fighting poverty. Top international economic officials warned this week that this divergence, which is being amplified by sluggish deployment of vaccines in developing countries, is a threat to stability and long-term growth.

“Economic fortunes within countries and across countries are diverging dangerously,” Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the I.M.F., said at a panel discussion on Tuesday during the annual spring meetings of the fund and the World Bank.

This week, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen emphasized that point, saying in a speech that the inability of low- and middle-income countries to invest in robust inoculation programs could result in “a deeper and longer-lasting crisis, with mounting problems of indebtedness, more entrenched poverty and growing inequality.”

upgrading its global growth forecast for the year thanks to vaccinations of hundreds of millions of people, efforts that are expected to help fuel a sharp economic rebound. It now expects the global economy to expand by 6 percent this year, up from its previous projection of 5.5 percent, after a contraction of 3.3 percent in 2020.

The wealthiest countries are leading the way out of the crisis, particularly the United States, whose economy is now projected to expand by 6.4 percent in 2021. The euro area is expected to expand by 4.4 percent and Japan is forecast to expand by 3.3 percent, according to the I.M.F.

Among emerging market and developing economies, China and India are expected to drive growth. China’s economy is projected to expand by 8.4 percent, offering its own significant boost to overall global growth, and India’s is expected to expand by 12.5 percent.

But within advanced economies, low-skilled workers have been hit the hardest and those who lost jobs could find it difficult to replace them. And low-income countries are facing bigger losses in economic output than advanced economies, reversing gains in poverty reduction and risking long-lasting pandemic-era scars.

Emerging market economies in many cases have fewer resources for fiscal stimulus, vaccine investments and labor force retraining — factors that put them at risk of falling behind and getting stuck as the world starts its rebound.

Researchers at the I.M.F. pointed out in a recent blog post that it was important that rates on U.S. debt are rising because of a strengthening economic outlook, one that will benefit many economies by stoking demand for their exports. Still, “countries that export less to the United States yet rely more on external borrowing could feel financial market stress.”

Most U.S. officials have focused on how stronger domestic growth could actually help the rest of the world as American consumers buy foreign goods and services. “This year the U.S. looks like it’s going to be a locomotive for the global economy,” Richard H. Clarida, the vice chair of the Fed, said during a recent speech.

Ms. Yellen made a similar argument on Tuesday during a panel discussion at the I.M.F., at which she urged countries not to let up on fiscal support.

“Stronger growth in the U.S. is going to spill over positively to the entire global outlook and we are going to be careful to learn the lessons of the financial crisis, which is ‘don’t withdraw support too quickly,’” she said.

There are risks that spillovers could work the other way — slower vaccination progress abroad could come to weigh on American and global improvement. While roughly 500 doses of the vaccine have been administered per 1,000 people in the United States, based on New York Times vaccination data, that number is about 1 per 1,000 in Mali and Afghanistan.

Economist Intelligence Unit.

“There’s a race right now between these variants of concern and vaccines,” she said during a webcast event Tuesday. She urged “global cooperation and attention” to how disparities in vaccine distribution affect inequality and economic recoveries.

The I.M.F. agrees. Vitor Gaspar, the fund’s director of fiscal affairs, said that advanced economies would continue to be at risk even if the virus were raging in developing countries that are not major economic powers, noting that the virus cannot be eradicated anywhere until it is eradicated everywhere. For that reason, he said, investing in vaccinations is critical.

“Global vaccination is probably the global public investment with the highest return ever considered,” Mr. Gaspar said in an interview. “Vaccination policy is economic policy.”

While global policy bodies are warning about diverging growth and public health outcomes, some Wall Street economists have taken a more optimistic tone.

“We think market participants underestimate the likely pace of improvement in both the public health situation and economic activity in the remainder of 2021,” Jan Hatzius at Goldman Sachs wrote in an April 5 research note.

Vaccinations are high or progressing in Canada, Australia, Britain and the euro area. In emerging markets, Mr. Hatzius wrote, Goldman economists expect 60 to 70 percent of the population to have “at least some immunity” by the end of the year when counting prior coronavirus infection and vaccine proliferation.

“The laggards are China and other Asian countries, although this is mainly because Asia has been so successful in virus control,” he wrote.

How fast global recoveries proceed could be critical to the policy outlook, both in government support spending and in central bank monetary help.

From the Fed to the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, monetary authorities have employed a mix of rock-bottom rates, huge bond purchases and other emergency settings to try to cushion the pandemic’s fallout.

Organizing bodies have echoed Ms. Yellen’s comment: They argue that it’s important to see the recovery through, rather than pulling back on economic help early.

Global policymakers “generally view the risks to financial stability associated with early withdrawal of support measures as currently greater than those associated with a late withdrawal,” Randal K. Quarles, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for supervision and head of the global Financial Stability Board, said in a letter released Tuesday.

The I.M.F. said on Tuesday that it was keeping a close eye on interest rates in the United States, which could pose financial risks if the Fed raises them unexpectedly. It also urged countries to maintain targeted fiscal support — and to be ready to provide more if future waves of the virus emerge.

“For all countries, we’re not out of the woods, and the pandemic is not over,” said Gita Gopinath, the I.M.F.’s chief economist.

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Global Brands Find It Hard to Untangle Themselves From Xinjiang Cotton

Faced with accusations that it was profiting from the forced labor of Uyghur people in the Chinese territory of Xinjiang, the H&M Group — the world’s second-largest clothing retailer — promised last year to stop buying cotton from the region.

But last month, H&M confronted a new outcry, this time from Chinese consumers who seized on the company’s renouncement of the cotton as an attack on China. Social media filled with angry demands for a boycott, urged on by the government. Global brands like H&M risked alienating a country of 1.4 billion people.

The furor underscored how international clothing brands relying on Chinese materials and factories now face the mother of all conundrums — a conflict vastly more complex than their now-familiar reputational crises over exploitative working conditions in poor countries.

ban on imports. Labor activists will charge them with complicity in the grotesque repression of the Uyghurs.

Myanmar and Bangladesh, where cheap costs of production reflect alarming safety conditions.

genocide. As many as a million Uyghurs have been herded into detention camps, and deployed as forced labor.

Uzbekistan.

As China has transformed itself from an impoverished country into the world’s second-largest economy, it has leaned on the textile and apparel industries. China has courted foreign companies with the promise of low-wage workers operating free from the intrusions of unions.

regional government said last year.

statement reported by Reuters.

That assertion flew in the face of a growing body of literature, including a recent statement from the United Nations Human Rights Council expressing “serious concerns” about reports of forced labor.

The Better Cotton Initiative declined a request for an interview to discuss how it had come to its conclusion.

“We are a not-for-profit organization with a small team,” the initiative’s communications manager, Joe Woodruff, said in an email.

The body’s membership includes some of the world’s largest, most profitable clothing manufacturers and retailers — among them Inditex, the Spanish conglomerate that owns Zara, and Nike, whose sales last year exceeded $37 billion.

Trump administration furthered the trend by pressuring American multinational companies to abandon China.

“All of the economic forces that pushed this production to China are really no longer at work,” said Pietra Rivoli, a trade expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

Still, China retains attributes not easily replicated — the world’s largest ports, plus a cluster of related industries, from chemicals to plastics.

Cambodia in response to its government’s harsh crackdown on dissent.

Some global brands are seeking Beijing’s permission to import more cotton into China from the United States and Australia. They could employ that cotton to make products destined for Europe and North America, while using the Xinjiang crop for the Chinese market.

Yet that approach may leave the apparel companies exposed to the same risks they face now.

“If the brand is labeled as ‘They are still using forced labor, but they are just using it for the Chinese market,’ is this going to suffice?” said Ms. Collinson, the industry lobbyist.

Last week, H&M issued a new communication, beseeching Chinese consumers to return. “We are working together with our colleagues in China to do everything we can to manage the current challenges,” said the statement, which did not mention Xinjiang. “China is a very important market to us.”

Those words appear to have satisfied no one — not the human rights organizations skeptical of claims that apparel companies have severed links to Xinjiang; not Chinese consumers angry over a perceived national indignity.

On Chinese social media, criticism of H&M remained fierce.

“For you, China is still an important market,” one post declared. “But for China, you are just an unnecessary brand.”

Joy Dong, Liu Yi and Chris Buckley contributed.

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Yellen Pushes for Global Minimum Tax Rate on Companies: Live Updates

The New York Times found. Some corporations are reopening offices in the spring, and many are saying they will remain flexible, staging returns over several months and planning to allow some workers to continue to work from home. As nerve-racking as it was last year to be abruptly torn from their desks, many people find the prospect of returning distressing.

Here is what some of the country’s biggest companies are telling their workers.

IBM, which employs about 346,000 people, hasn’t set a strict timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. It expects about 80 percent of its employees to work with some combination of remote and office schedules, depending largely on role.

The bank, which has more than 20,000 office employees in New York City, has told employees that the five-day office workweek is a relic. The bank is considering a rotational work model, meaning employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.

The consulting firm, which has about 284,000 employees, is set to open one office in each of its major cities in May, and all of its offices in September. Even when the offices are formally reopened, PwC will allow some workers, depending on their job, to work remotely at least part time.

Most of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees work at the retail giant’s stores, and a vast number have continued to go in to their workplace throughout the pandemic. It said on March 12 that it would start bringing workers back at its Bentonville, Ark., office campus no earlier than July. Its global technology employees will continue to work virtually “for the long term.”

At Wells Fargo, 60,000 employees have worked at bank branches and other facilities during the pandemic, but 200,000 more have worked remotely. The company told its staff in a memo last month that it had set a Sept. 6 return-to-office target and was “optimistic” that conditions surrounding Covid-19 vaccinations and case levels would allow it to keep it.

GameStop said it would sell additional stock, up to 3.5 million shares, to finance its move online retailing and to support its finances.
Credit…Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Shaundell Newsome of Small Business for America’s Future said changes were needed throughout the banking industry to improve outcomes for Black owners.
Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times

The government’s central small business relief effort, the Paycheck Protection Program, has made $734 billion in forgivable loans to nearly seven million businesses. But minority-owned businesses were disproportionately underserved by the program, a New York Times analysis found.

“The focus at the outset was on speed, and it came at the expense of equity,” said Ashley Harrington, the federal advocacy director at the Center for Responsible Lending.

The aid program’s rules were mostly written on the fly, and reaching harder-to-serve businesses was an afterthought. Structural barriers and complicated, shifting requirements contributed to a skewed outcome, The New York Times’s Stacy Cowley reports.

In the program’s final weeks — it is scheduled to stop taking applications on May 31 — President Biden’s administration has tried to alter its trajectory with rule changes intended to funnel more money toward businesses led by women and minorities. But those revisions have run into their own obstacles, including the speed with which they were rushed through. Lenders, caught off guard, have struggled to carry them out.

“Historically, access to capital has been the leading concern of women- and minority-owned businesses to survive, and during this pandemic it has been no different,” Jenell Ross, who owns an auto dealership, told a House committee.

The United States is particularly important to the world economy because it has long spent more than it sells.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

The United States and its record-setting stimulus spending could help haul a weakened Europe and struggling developing countries out of their own economic morass.

American buyers are spurring demand for German cars, Australian wine, Mexican auto parts and French fashions. And many Americans have spent their stimulus checks on video game consoles, exercise bicycles or other products made in China.

The United States’ comparatively fast recovery involved a little bit of luck — new variants of the virus have just begun to push domestic infections higher — and a large policy response, including more than $5 trillion in debt-fueled pandemic relief, The New York Times’s Jeanna Smialek and Jack Ewing report.

“When the U.S. economy is strong, that strength tends to support global activity as well,” said Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve.

But some hazards lurk. The slow pace of the European Union’s vaccination campaign will probably hurt its economy. Poorer and smaller countries, facing severely limited vaccine supplies and fewer resources to support government spending, are likely to struggle to stage an economic turnaround even if the U.S. recovery increases demand for their exports.

Chocolate is Britain’s second-largest food and drink export, after whiskey.
Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Small British chocolate makers emphasizing ethically sourced ingredients and bespoke batches became big sellers in Europe in recent years but have been nearly impossible to find there since January, David Segal reports for The New York Times.

“We have customers complain to us all the time, ‘Why can’t I buy my favorite British chocolate?’” said Hishem Ferjani, the founder of Choco Dealer in Bonn, Germany, which supplies grocery stores and sells through its own website. “We have store owners with empty shelves.”

“We have to explain, it’s not our fault, it’s not the fault of the producer. It’s Brexit,” he said.

Chocolate is Britain’s No. 2 food and drink export, after whiskey, according to the Food and Drink Federation. Chocolate exports to all countries hit $1.1 billion last year, and Europe accounts for about 70 percent of those sales. In January, exports of British chocolate to Europe fell 68 percent compared with the same period the year before.

The trade deal struck late last year with the European Union has not saved British companies from a maddening, unpredictable array of time-consuming, morale-sapping procedures and from stacks of paperwork that have turned exporting to the E.U. into a sort of black-box mystery. Goods go in and there is no telling when they will come out.

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Brexit is tormenting British chocolate makers.

Small British chocolate makers emphasizing ethically sourced ingredients and bespoke batches became big sellers in Europe in recent years but have been nearly impossible to find there since January, David Segal reports for The New York Times.

“We have customers complain to us all the time, ‘Why can’t I buy my favorite British chocolate?’” said Hishem Ferjani, the founder of Choco Dealer in Bonn, Germany, which supplies grocery stores and sells through its own website. “We have store owners with empty shelves.”

“We have to explain, it’s not our fault, it’s not the fault of the producer. It’s Brexit,” he said.

Chocolate is Britain’s No. 2 food and drink export, after whiskey, according to the Food and Drink Federation. Chocolate exports to all countries hit $1.1 billion last year, and Europe accounts for about 70 percent of those sales. In January, exports of British chocolate to Europe fell 68 percent compared with the same period the year before.

The trade deal struck late last year with the European Union has not saved British companies from a maddening, unpredictable array of time-consuming, morale-sapping procedures and from stacks of paperwork that have turned exporting to the E.U. into a sort of black-box mystery. Goods go in and there is no telling when they will come out.

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