The Hong Kong government said last month that it would allow hundreds of residents who have been stranded in Britain by virus-related travel restrictions to return on two special flights.
But when those residents went to book seats on flights, the website for Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flag carrier, crashed. The snafu on Thursday was the latest chapter in a bureaucratic saga that has left them feeling angry, confused and exasperated.
The Hong Kong government suspended flights from Britain in December as a coronavirus variant spread through that country. It also barred anyone who had spent more than two hours there or in other “extremely high-risk” places in the previous 21 days from boarding a direct flight to the Chinese territory.
Those measures, which remain in effect, also apply to inbound travelers who have recently been to Brazil, Ireland or South Africa. But last week Hong Kong said that it would arrange two special return flights from London on Cathay Pacific in late April. It cited Britain’s declining caseload and “satisfactory vaccination progress” as reasons for the policy shift.
reported last week that the travel ban had stranded more than 600 Hong Kong residents in Britain. Mr. Bux said on Friday that some of them had been unable to book seats on the special flights.
It was unclear whether additional flights would be offered, or why officials in Hong Kong, where the borders have been closed to nonresidents for more than a year, waited more than three months to schedule the two flights. A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department referred questions on Friday to the Food and Health Bureau, which declined to comment.
Mr. Bux said he could sympathize with the stranded travelers because he, too, had been stranded by the December ban while visiting family in Liverpool. He said he was among the 200 to 300 Hong Kong residents who had managed to make it home from Britain after spending a 21-day “wash out” period in a third country like Thailand, Egypt or the United Arab Emirates.
mandatory three-week hotel quarantine, one of the world’s longest. Some scientists have questioned whether that policy is too strict because the coronavirus is widely considered to have a 14-day incubation period.
“After my departure from the U.K., I needed 42 days to resume my normal life in Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s a really long period.”
My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? Kathy
Although there are some signs of life — Iceland is newly open to fully vaccinated travelers and Greece will reopen to vaccinated or virus-tested visitors next month — Europe, where case counts are rising in some parts and the vaccine rollout has been disappointingly slow, is still largely closed to Americans. Ireland is open to United States citizens with a combination of testing and quarantine, but Portugal and Italy, like most of the continent, for now remain off limits. Italy, in particular, was hard-hit by the virus in the early months of the pandemic; and in March, the spread of a contagious variant from Britain pushed the country back into another lockdown.
“This environment is so challenging because there is significant pressure for countries that rely on tourism to rebound, which counterbalances much slower vaccination rates in Europe,” said Fallon Lieberman, who runs the leisure-travel division of Skylark, a travel agency affiliated with the Virtuoso travel network. “So unfortunately, those two forces are at odds with one another.”
Your question, like many related to the pandemic, involves various degrees of risk. First, let’s look at the concrete risk: If you book now for late summer, how likely are you to lose money?
flexibility with seats beyond Basic Economy, and now, especially, it’s wise to book tickets that can be easily changed. Delta Air Lines has eliminated change and cancellation fees for all flights originating from North America, and Delta eCredits set to expire this year — including for new tickets purchased this year — can be used for travel through 2022. United Airlines has also permanently eliminated change fees.
Unlike a plane ticket, which can always be changed (either for free or for a fee), a nonrefundable hotel reservation is generally exactly that: a use-it-or-lose-it investment.
The good news: “Hotels in Europe — and around the world, really — are being quite flexible,” said Ms. Lieberman, who has helped hundreds of Skylark clients cancel and rebook last year’s felled Europe trips, many to this summer and beyond. “While this is a very challenging time, many suppliers are providing maximum flexibility.”
Cancellation policies vary by property, but many of the multinational companies have made it easy, and relatively risk-free, to plan ahead. Companies like Hilton and Four Seasons are allowing cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. Hyatt is allowing fee-free cancellations up to 24 hours in advance for arrivals through July 31 (and it’s always possible that date will be extended). For points nerds, most of the big hotel chains allow most award nights to be canceled scot-free, with the points redeposited, within a day or two of the expected check-in.
More complicated than physical refunds, though, is the larger, metaphysical risk: How likely is it that this trip is actually going to happen? What forces can help predict whether the Europe trips we book today will actually materialize in August and September?
France and Italy have just been locked down again, interest in Europe is rising, aided, no doubt, by signs that President Biden could lift the ban on European visitors to the United States as early as next month, news of the possibility of European health passes, rumors that Spain and Britain could both restart international tourism in mid May, and more.
At Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes and predicts flight and hotel prices, bookings for Europe-bound summer 2021 travel surged 68 percent week-over-week between the last week of February and the first week of March. Searches for round-trip flights to Europe departing this summer increased a whopping 86 percent in the 30 days following February 22.
According to TripAdvisor data of hotel searches from the United States for this summer, five of the 10 most-searched European destinations were in Greece, but Rome — and Paris, for that matter — were also on the list.
To make sense of how traveler zeal will jibe with the realities of the pandemic, analysts and travel industry experts are eyeing several factors, including flight schedules.
According to PlaneStats, the aviation-data portal from Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, the number of Europe-bound flights scheduled to depart the United States this month is around 26 percent of the number that departed the United States for Europe in April 2019. Next month compared to May 2019, that figure is looking even higher so far: 35 percent. (April and May 2020, by contrast, both clocked in at 5 percent.) That’s lower than normal, but it’s still a drastic uptick from any other point during the pandemic. Although many will be connecting flights (Americans can still transit through Europe) or culminate in destinations like London (Americans can visit England, though multiple testing and quarantines are required), schedules still remain a key indicator.
Khalid Usman, a partner and aviation expert at Oliver Wyman. “What airlines don’t want to do is put out schedules where people are not going to be traveling.”
Pandemic Navigator, which simulates day-by-day immunity growth. “That’s good news for the domestic market, but in the context of international travel, we do have to realize that it’s not just about one country — it’s a country at the other end as well.”
Factoring in the spotty vaccine rollout across the pond, Mr. Usman said it’s reasonable to assume that Europe’s herd immunity will lag several months behind the United States. Over the next several months, he added, European countries will follow in Iceland’s footsteps and open individually, complete with their own regulations about vaccinations, testing and quarantines. To spur travel across the continent this summer, the European Union is considering adopting a vaccine certificate for its own residents and their families.
“It’s not going to be a binary open-or-shut,” Mr. Usman said. “Countries are going to start getting more selective about who they’re going to start letting in.”
Italy’s numbers — plus new lockdowns and growing Covid variants — seem to be stifling optimism; Hopper flight searches from the United States to Italy have remained relatively flat.
For now, Ms. Lieberman, of Skylark, has adopted a “beyond the boot” mind-set: “Our theory is that if you’re willing to go beyond the boot — meaning, Italy — there will be fabulous, desirable summer destinations for you to take advantage of.”
Portugal surged in January but has recently eased lockdown measures as infection rates have slowed. The country is now aiming for a 70 percent vaccination rate this summer.
American interest in Portugal is spiking in response. In the first week of March, following an announcement that Portugal could welcome tourists from Britain as soon as mid-May, Hopper searches on flights from the United States to Lisbon rose 63 percent. (That’s not far behind Athens, for which travel searches shot up 75 percent in the same time period.)
will next month start nonstop service between Boston and Reykjavik — and resume its Iceland service from New York City and Minneapolis.
“Unless demand spikes rapidly enough to outpace the increase in supply, flash sales can be found as airlines attempt to entice travelers to return amid piecemeal easings of travel restrictions,” said Mr. Damodaran. Icelandair, for example, is running sales on flights and packages through April 13.
And with prices for summer flights to Europe still relatively low in general — down by more than 10 percent from 2019, according to Hopper — experts see little downside in penciling in a trip.
“If you’re willing to take some risk, plan early and lock in your preferred accommodations and ideal itineraries,” Ms. Lieberman said. “But of course we caution you to be prepared to have to move deposits and dates if it comes to that.”
LONDON — A bus hijacked, pelted with stones, then set on fire. Masked youths rioting, hurling missiles and homemade bombs. A press photographer attacked on the streets.
For almost a week, scenes of violence familiar from Northern Ireland’s brutal past have returned in a stark warning of the fragility of a peace process, crafted more than two decades ago, that is under growing political and sectarian strain.
Amid a contested fallout from Brexit, politicians have pointed to different causes for an explosion of anger from parts of the Protestant, so-called Unionist or Loyalist, community that is determined to keep its link to the rest of the United Kingdom.
But analysts agree that six consecutive nights of violence, during which 55 police officers have been injured and 10 arrests made, mark a worrisome trend.
Britain completed the final stages of Brexit on Jan. 1. That ended a system under which companies in Northern Ireland shared the same trade rules as those of Ireland, which remains part of the European Union.
During the interminable Brexit negotiations, much energy was devoted to preventing the need for checks on goods at Northern Ireland’s highly sensitive land border with Ireland.
Under an agreement in a protocol struck by Mr. Johnson, Northern Ireland was given a special economic status that leaves it straddling the United Kingdom and the European Union trade systems.
suspend the protocol by triggering an emergency mechanism in a dispute over vaccine supplies. Though the British government had also threatened to break the treaty over a separate issue — and the European Union reversed its decision within hours — that united Unionists in anger.
“Those few hours onJan. 29 changed everything,” said Professor Hayward, who added that the decision from Brussels encapsulated Unionist suspicions about the protocol and shifted senior politicians away from grudging acceptance of it to outright opposition.
With Unionist support for the protocol disappearing, faith in the police in question, and friction over Brexit between the British and Irish governments, calming the violence could prove hard.
“In the past these things have been mitigated by very careful, well-supported, actions by community workers on the ground, bolstered by the political environment and rhetoric and demonstrations of the success of peace at the very highest levels — including the British-Irish relationship,” said Professor Hayward.
“You look around now,” she added,“and think: all those things are really under pressure.”
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration unveiled a tax plan on Wednesdaythat would increase the corporate tax rate in the U.S. and limit the ability of American firms to avoid taxes by shifting profits overseas.
Much of the plan is aimed at reversing a deep reduction in corporate taxes under President Donald J. Trump. A 2017 tax bill slashed the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent and enacted a series of other provisions that the Biden administration says have encouraged firms to shift profits to lower-tax jurisdictions, like Ireland.
Some of the provisions in President Biden’s plan can be enacted by the Treasury Department, but many will require the approval of Congress. Already, Republicans have panned the proposals as putting the U.S. at a disadvantage, while some moderate Democrats have indicated they may also want to see some adjustments, particularly to the proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate.
Administration officials estimate the proposals will raise a total of $2.5 trillion in new tax revenue over a 15 year span. Analysts at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model put the estimate even higher, estimating a 10-year increase of $2.1 trillion, with about half the money coming from the plan’s various changes to the taxation of multinational corporations.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The administration sees raising the rate as a way to increase corporate tax receipts, which have plunged to match their lowest levels as a share of the economy since World War II.
Ensure big firms pay at least 15 percent in taxes
Many large companies pay far less than the current tax rate of 21 percent — and sometimes nothing. Tax code provisions allow firms to reduce their liability through deductions, exemptions, offshoring and other mechanisms.
The Biden plan seeks to put an end to big companies incurring zero federal tax liability and paying no or negative taxes to the U.S. government.
the so-called global intangible low-taxed income (or GILTI) tax to 21 percent, which would narrow the gap between what companies pay on overseas profits and what they pay on earned income in the U.S.
And it would calculate the GILTI tax on a per-country basis, which would have the effect of subjecting more income earned overseas to the tax than under the current system.
Punish U.S. companies that headquarter in low-tax countries
A provision in the plan known as SHIELD (Stopping Harmful Inversions and Ending Low-tax Developments) is an attempt to discourage American companies from moving their headquarters abroad for tax purposes, particularly through the practice known as “inversions,” where companies from different countries merge, creating a new foreign firm.
Under current law, companies with headquarters in Ireland can “strip” some of the profits earned by subsidiaries in the United States and send them back to the Ireland company as payment for things like the use of intellectual property, then deduct those payments from their American income taxes. The SHIELD plan would disallow those deductions for companies based in low-tax countries.
Push for a global agreement to end profit shifting
The Biden administration wants other countries to raise their corporate tax rates, too.
The tax plan emphasizes that the Treasury Department will continue to push for global coordination on an international tax rate that would apply to multinational corporations regardless of where they locate their headquarters. Such a global tax could help prevent the type of “race to the bottom” that has been underway, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said, referring to countries trying to outdo one another by lowering tax rates in order to attract business.
Republican critics of the Biden tax plan have argued that the administration’s focus on a global minimum tax is evidence that it realizes that raising the U.S. corporate tax rate unilaterally would make American businesses less competitive around the world.
Replace fossil fuel tax subsidies with clean-energy incentives
The president’s plan would strip away longstanding subsidies for oil, gas and other fossil fuels and replace them with incentives for clean energy. The provisions are part of Mr. Biden’s efforts to transition the U.S. to “100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity” by 2035.
The plan includes a tax incentive for long-distance transmission lines, would expand incentives for electricity storage projects and would extend other existing clean-energy tax credits.
A Treasury Department report estimated that eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel companies would increase government tax receipts by over $35 billion in the coming decade.
“The main impact would be on oil and gas company profits,” the report said. “Research suggests little impact on gasoline or energy prices for U.S. consumers and little impact on our energy security.”
Doing away with fossil fuel subsidies has been tried before, with little success given both industry and congressional opposition.
Beef up the Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service has struggled with budget cuts and slim resources for years. The Biden administration believes better funding for the tax collection agency is an investment that will more than pay for itself. The plan released on Wednesday includes proposals to bolster the I.R.S. budget so it can hire experts to pursue large corporations and ensure they are paying what they owe.
The Treasury Department, which oversees the I.R.S., noted in its report that the agency’s enforcement budget has fallen by 25 percent over the last decade and that it is poorly equipped to audit complex corporate filings. The agency is also unable to afford engaging in or sustaining multiyear litigation over complex tax disputes, Treasury said.
As a result of those constraints, the I.R.S. tends to focus on smaller targets while big companies and the wealthiest taxpayers are able to find ways to reduce their tax bills.
WASHINGTON — Large companies like Apple and Bristol Myers Squibb have long employed complicated maneuvers to reduce or eliminate their tax bills by shifting income on paper between countries. The strategy has enriched accountants and shareholders, while driving down corporate tax receipts for the federal government.
President Biden sees ending that practice as central to his $2 trillion infrastructure package, pushing changes to the tax code that his administration says will ensure American companies are contributing tax dollars to help invest in the country’s roads, bridges, water pipes and other parts of his economic agenda.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department released the details of Mr. Biden’s tax plan, which aims to raise as much as $2.5 trillion over 15 years to help finance the infrastructure proposal. That includes bumping the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, imposing a strict new minimum tax on global profits and levying harsh penalties on companies that try to move profits offshore.
The plan also aims to stop big companies that are profitable but have no federal income tax liability from paying no taxes to the Treasury Department by imposing a 15 percent tax on the profits they report to investors. Such a change would affect about 45 corporations, according to the Biden administration’s estimates, because it would be limited to companies earning $2 billion or more per year.
President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. Biden administration officials say that law increased the incentives for companies to shift profits to lower-tax countries, while reducing corporate tax receipts in the United States to match their lowest levels as a share of the economy since World War II.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, in rolling out the plan, said it would end a global “race to the bottom” of corporate taxation that has been destructive for the American economy and its workers.
“Our tax revenues are already at their lowest level in generations,” Ms. Yellen said. “If they continue to drop lower, we will have less money to invest in roads, bridges, broadband and R&D.”
The plan, while ambitious, will not be easy to enact.
Some of the proposals, like certain changes to how a global minimum tax is applied to corporate income, could possibly be put in place by the Treasury Department via regulation. But most will need the approval of Congress, including increasing the corporate tax rate. Given Democrats’ narrow majority in both the Senate and the House, that proposed rate could drop. Already, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a crucial swing vote, has said he would prefer a 25 percent corporate rate.
search of the lowest possible tax bill.
Companies also shift jobs and investments between countries, but often for different reasons. In many cases, they are following lower labor costs or seeking customers in new markets to expand their businesses. The Biden plan would create new tax incentives for companies to invest in production and research in the United States.
weakened by subsequent regulations issued by Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department.
Conservative tax experts, including several involved in writing the 2017 law, say they have seen no evidence of the law enticing companies to move jobs overseas. Mr. Biden has assembled a team of tax officials who contend the provisions have given companies new incentives to move investment and profits offshore.
Mr. Biden’s plan would raise the rate of Mr. Trump’s minimum tax and apply it more broadly to income that American companies earn overseas. Those efforts would try to make it less appealing for companies to book profits in lower-tax companies.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. proposal is an attempt to discourage American companies from moving their headquarters abroad for tax purposes, particularly through the practice known as “inversions,” where companies from different countries merge, creating a new foreign-located firm.
Under current law, companies with headquarters in Ireland can “strip” some of their profits earned by subsidiaries in the United States and send them back to the Ireland company as payments for things like the use of intellectual property, then deduct those payments from their American income taxes. The S.H.I.E.L.D. plan would disallow those deductions for companies based in low-tax countries.
Tax professionals say Mr. Biden’s proposed changes to that law could be difficult to administer. Business groups say they could hamper American companies as they compete on a global scale.
Republicans denounced the plan as bad for the United States economy, with lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee saying that “their massive tax hikes will be shouldered by American workers and small businesses.”
coupled with an effort through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to broker a global agreement on minimum corporate taxation, will start a worldwide revolution in how and where companies are taxed. That is in part because the Biden plans include measures meant to force other countries to go along with a new global minimum tax that Ms. Yellen announced support for on Monday.
Treasury Department officials estimate in their report that the proposed changes to the minimum tax, and the implementation of the S.H.I.E.L.D. plan, would raise an estimated $700 billion over 10 years on their own.
Business groups warn the administration’s efforts will hamstring American companies, and they have urged Mr. Biden to wait for the international negotiations to play out before following through with any changes.
Members of the Business Roundtable, which represents corporate chief executives in Washington, said this week that Mr. Biden’s minimum tax “threatens to subject the U.S. to a major competitive disadvantage.” They urged the administration to first secure a global agreement, adding that “any U.S. minimum tax should be aligned with that agreed upon global level.”
However, some companies expressed an openness on Wednesday to some of the changes.
John Zimmer, the president and a founder of Lyft, told CNN that he supported Mr. Biden’s proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate.
“I think it’s important to make investments again in the country and the economy,” Mr. Zimmer said. “And as the economy grows, so too does jobs and so too does people’s needs to get around.”
Among the iconic designs of Italy’s vibrant postwar period, few capture the essence of La Dolce Vita like Vespas and Lambrettas, the free-spirited motor scooters that brought mobility to the masses and became beloved across Italy, and subsequently, the world.
While the two companies still make scooters, those early models — whose whining two-stroke engines spew plumes of aromatic smoke — are by far the most sought by collectors, some commanding up to $30,000.
But just as vintage scooters are reaching a new peak of popularity, a wave of emissions regulations aimed at reducing pollution threatens their access to Europe’s city centers. Within every regulation, though, lies an opportunity, and one lifelong scooter enthusiast has seized it firmly by the tailpipe.
Niall McCart, an Irishman from the city of Armagh, got his first Vespa at 16. De rigueur for a youth swept up in Britain’s early-1980s Mod revival, the Vespa was eminently practical as well.
Retrospective Scooters, occupies a 3,500-square-foot warehouse in the East End town of Walthamstow.
As Mr. McCart’s business grew, so did restrictions on older vehicles. The European Union’s first Low Emission Zones were established in 1996. By 2018, there were over 260, and still rising.
London has one such zone, as well as an extra-stringent Ultra Low Emission Zone, in the city center. Introduced in April 2019, the more stringent zone will expand substantially this October. To drive inside it, owners of polluting scooters must pay a daily fee of 12.50 pounds (about $17). Failure to pay can result in a hefty fine.
In 2017, with the end of cheap and dirty scootering looming, Mr. McCart posed a question to a friend and fellow scooter enthusiast, John Chubb: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our old Vespas electric?”
Mr. Chubb recalled the moment vividly. “We were sitting in a tent in a music festival in Cornwall, and he was saying the future is electric. I said, ‘I reckon I could build one of those.’”
He could also bring a raft of technical competencies to the project. A retired Royal Navy commander with degrees in electrical engineering and rocket science, Mr. Chubb is also an expert in anti-ship missiles, a qualification whose benefit, though perhaps unquantifiable, couldn’t hurt.
Mr. McCart’s brief was explicit. The conversion “was not to interfere in any way with the original design and setup of the scooters,” he said. “You don’t do any cutting or welding or destruction of the original chassis.” And critically important for preserving a scooter’s value, the process had to be reversible.
An encounter with a Chinese manufacturer at a motorcycle show in Milan in 2017 proved instrumental.
“The Chinese have been riding electric scooters for 15 years-plus,” Mr. McCart said. “They’ve done it and made it and perfected it. They had it all laid out.”
Mr. Chubb, meanwhile, hobnobbed with the chief technical officer of QS Motor, a firm in Zhejiang Province that makes motors for electric scooters and e-bikes.
“We had a really good conversation,” Mr. Chubb said. “I’d done a whole load of first-principles calculations about the power of an electric motor and how that would work in an electric scooter. I saw all his equations, and he and I did it exactly the same way.
“Seeing that data was very interesting,” he continued, “because we knew exactly where the sweet spot was in terms of the specifications of what we wanted to run as a motor, and we could run it more or less to optimum efficiency.”
Mr. McCart and Mr. Chubb devised the basic plan: Pull the gas tank and put a lithium-ion battery in its place, and replace the scooter’s original swing arm (which supports the engine and rear wheel) with a custom-made swing arm that holds a wheel with a built-in hub motor.
Mr. Chubb set to work on the prototype, meeting periodically with Mr. McCart, who fine-tuned various components. In June 2018, Mr. McCart unveiled their creation — an electrified 1976 Vespa Primavera — at the Vespa World Days rally in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The initial reaction was skeptical. “These guys were purists,” Mr. McCart said. “They were against it when they seen it,” he recalled, “but as soon as they drove it to the other end of the car park and back again, they had the biggest grin on their face.”
One rider made a pivotal suggestion: “You’ve got to sell it as a kit.” Mr. McCart, who had planned to offer electric conversions only as a service, embraced the idea. “I thought, ‘He’s right. I’ve got to make it really simple.’ The next step was to try and make a plug-and-play kit.”
Three years later, Retrospective Scooters sells kits for five types of vintage Vespas and Lambrettas. Costing £3,445 (about $4,750), each includes a 64-volt, 28-amp-hour battery that can push a scooter to a top speed of 50 miles an hour and go 30 to 35 miles on a charge.
Certain scooters can accommodate two or three batteries. A Lambretta GP for instance, packed with three lithium-ion units, can go 120 miles between charges. Mr. McCart, though, thinks a single battery is sufficient.
“Let’s not forget what scooters were invented for — traveling in a 20-to-30-mile radius of where you lived,” he said.
To date, Mr. McCart has sold 60 kits — 24 in Britain (20 of them installed at his shop), and 36 to customers overseas, mostly, and somewhat surprisingly to Mr. McCart, in the United States.
“I expected more to go into Europe,” he said, “but there’s quite a lot of bureaucracy and official inspections of any vehicle alterations, so there’s really no incentive for Europeans to buy our kit with all that up against them.”
Last summer, Danny Montoya, the owner of a children’s woodworking studio in San Francisco, installed a kit in his 1973 Vespa Rally 180. Mr. Montoya had owned the scooter since 1999, but in recent years had grown uneasy with its pollution, not to mention the constant reek of petroleum.
A capable do-it-yourselfer, he initially considered cobbling together his own electric kit with information gleaned from internet message boards, but when he came across Mr. McCart’s, he said, he thought: “Whoa, this guy has actually done the work.” Although the price gave him pause, after corresponding with Mr. McCart, who promised to assist with any technical issues, Mr. Montoya said, “OK, this is legit.”
Mr. Montoya estimates he spent 20 to 30 hours on the project, the most complex part of which, he said, was ensuring that all of the electrical connections were correct. Mr. McCart acknowledges that at the time, in late 2020, the installation guide was rudimentary. Since then, he explained, the design of the kit and the instructions have been improved so that someone with basic mechanical skills should be able to complete the installation in about 16 hours.
These days, Mr. Montoya seeks any excuse to ride his electrified machine, which performs just as advertised, delivering 30 miles on a charge, even on San Francisco’s hills. Recalling his first ride, Mr. Montoya said: “It was very weird. A normal scooter is so loud, all you hear is the motor. This is so quiet, all you hear is the wind.”
On a recent afternoon, as Mr. Montoya did a few drive-bys, a reporter struggled to discern which was louder — the soft hum of the motor or the sound of the tire treads licking the pavement.
The new incarnation is so stealthy, in fact, Mr. Chubb finds that “when you live in a quiet village, people walk right in front of you.” He’s looking into noise generators that could produce anything from the thrum of a Harley-Davidson to the futuristic racket of a “Star Wars” Podracer.
Mr. McCart, who commutes every day on his electrified Vespa, takes a different approach to unwary pedestrians: “I shout at them. I say, ‘Oi!’”
Almost nine years ago, Bristol Myers Squibb filed paperwork in Ireland to create a new offshore subsidiary. By moving Bristol Myers’s profits through the subsidiary, the American drugmaker could substantially reduce its U.S. tax bill.
Years later, the Internal Revenue Service got wind of the arrangement, which it condemned as an “abusive” tax shelter. The move by Bristol Myers, the I.R.S. concluded, would cheat the United States out of about $1.4 billion in taxes.
That is a lot of money, even for a large company like Bristol Myers. But the dispute remained secret. The company, which denies wrongdoing, didn’t tell its investors that the U.S. government was claiming more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes. The I.R.S. didn’t make any public filings about it.
And then, ever so briefly last spring, the disputebecame public. It was an accident, and almost no one noticed. The episode provided a fleeting glimpse into something that is common but rarely seen up close: how multinational companies, with the help of elite law and accounting firms and with only belated scrutiny from the I.R.S., dodge billions of dollars in taxes.
infrastructure plan that the White House unveiled on Wednesday proposed increasing the minimum overseas tax on multinational corporations, which would reduce the appeal of such arrangements.)
For the three years leading up to 2012, Bristol Myers’s tax rate was about 24 percent. The U.S. corporate income tax rate at the time was 35 percent. (It is now 21 percent.)
The company wanted to pay even less.
In 2012, it turned to PwC, the accounting, consulting and advisory firm, and a major law firm, White & Case, for help getting an elaborate tax-avoidance strategy off the ground. PwC had previously been Bristol Myers’s auditor, but it was dismissed in 2006 after an accounting scandal forced Bristol Myers to pay $150 million to the U.S. government. Now PwC, with a long history of setting up Irish tax shelters for multinational companies, returned to Bristol Myers’s good graces.
sided with the agency after it challenged a similar maneuver by General Electric using an offshore subsidiary called Castle Harbour. The I.R.S. also contested comparable setups by Merck and Dow Chemical.
The Bristol Myers arrangement “appears to be essentially a copycat shelter,” said Karen Burke, a tax law professor at the University of Florida. Since the I.R.S. was already fighting similar high-profile transactions, she said, “Bristol Myers’s behavior seems particularly aggressive and risky.”
The next January, the company announced its 2012 results. Its tax rate had plunged from nearly 25 percent in 2011 to negative 7 percent.
On a call with investors, executives fielded repeated questions about the drop in its tax rate. “Presumably, all drug companies try to optimize their legal entities to take their tax rate as low as they can, yet your rate is markedly lower than any of the other companies,” said Tim Anderson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “So I’m wondering why your tax rate might be unique in that regard?”
Charlie Bancroft, the company’s chief financial officer, wouldn’t say.
The more than $1 billion in tax savings came at an opportune moment: Bristol Myers was in the midst of repurchasing $6 billion worth of its own shares, an effort to lift its stock price. By January 2013, it had spent $4.2 billion. The cash freed up by the tax maneuver was enough to cover most of the remainder.
Tax Notes, a widely read trade publication, had also posted the document. When the I.R.S. provided a clean version, Tax Notes took down the original.
An I.R.S. spokesman declined to comment.
Cara Griffith, the chief executive of Tax Analysts, the publisher of Tax Notes, said the publication erred “on the side of not publishing confidential taxpayer information that was accidentally released through an error in redaction, unless it reaches a very high threshold of newsworthiness.”
David Weisbach, a former Treasury Department official who helped write the regulations governing the tax-code provision that Bristol Myers is accused of violating, agreed. PwC and White & Case “are giving you 138 pages of legalese that doesn’t address the core issue in the transaction,” he said. “But you can show the I.R.S. you got this big fat opinion letter, so it must be fancy and good.”
The current status of the tax dispute is not clear. Similar disputes have spent years winding through the I.R.S.’s appeals process before leading to settlements. Companies often agree to pay a small fraction of what the I.R.S. claims was owed.
“There is a real chance that a matter like this could be settled for as little as 30 percent” of the amount in dispute, said Bryan Skarlatos, a tax lawyer at Kostelanetz & Fink.
In that case, the allegedly abusive tax shelter would have saved Bristol Myers nearly $1 billion.
“so attentive to the scientific literature” and for not publicly correcting the president as he made outlandish claims about unproven therapies, whose disclosures may have been the most compelling.
As of Sunday, more than 548,000 Americans have died from infection with the coronavirus. “I look at it this way,” she said. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.”
“All of the rest of them,” she said, referring to almost 450,000 deaths, “in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” had the administration acted more aggressively.
In what was in one of her first televised interviews since leaving the White House in January, she also described a “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult” phone call with Mr. Trump after she spoke out about the dangers of the virus last summer. “Everybody in the White House was upset with that interview,” she said.
After that, she decided to travel the country to talk to state and local leaders about masks and social distancing and other public health measures that the president didn’t want her to explain to the American public from the White House podium.
Dr. Gupta asked if she was being censored. “Clearly someone was blocking me from doing it,” she said. “My understanding was I could not be national because the president might see it.”
Several of the officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — who unlike the others is a career scientist and is now advising President Biden — blamed China, where the virus was first detected, for not being open enough with the United States. And several, including Dr. Redfield and Admiral Giroir, said early stumbles with testing — and the attitude within the White House that testing made the president look bad by driving up the number of case reports — were a serious problem in the administration’s response.
And the problems with testing went beyond simply Mr. Trump’s obsession with optics. Admiral Giroir said that the administration simply did not have as many tests as top officials claimed at the time.
“When we said there were millions of tests — there weren’t, right?” he said. “There were components of the test available but not the full deal.”
Chris Adams, 36, has spent the past year of the pandemic living with his grandparents in Wichita, Kan., and being “extremely strict” about social distancing. “I never went out,” he said.
But starting Monday, when all adults in Kansas become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, Mr. Adams plans to find a vaccination site where there is an available appointment. “What I’m looking forward to is seeing my friends again,” he said.
Kansas is one of six states — Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas are the others — that are expanding eligibility for the vaccine to all adults on Monday. Minnesota will follow on Tuesday, and Indiana and South Carolina on Wednesday.
Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas urged residents last week to seek out appointments, saying, “With the anticipated increase in supply from the federal government, we must get every dose of vaccine into arms quickly.”
Even as vaccine eligibility continues to expand across America — nearly all states have pledged to make every adult eligible by May 1 — the United States has also reported an increase in new cases over the past week. About 75,000 new cases were reported on Friday, a significant increase from the 60,000 added the Friday before.
States in the Northeast have accounted for about 30 percent of the nation’s new cases over the past two weeks, up from 20 percent in the first couple of weeks in February.
In New York, there has been an average of 8,426 new cases a day, an 18 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. In New Jersey over the past week, there have been an average of 4,249 new cases reported daily, a 21 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier. And on Friday, Vermont set a single-day case record with 283 new infections; it is the first state to set a case record since Jan. 18.
For many, the vaccine cannot come soon enough.
Nicole Drum, 42, a writer in the Kansas City, Kan., metro area, cried on Friday when she found out that she would be eligible to get the vaccine as early as Monday. She started calling pharmacies and looking online for available appointments “within minutes of the news breaking,” she said.
Ms. Drum called about 10 places without success. She had more luck on a county website, and booked an appointment for Wednesday.
She said she planned to wear a special T-shirt saying “I believe in science” to her appointment. “I got myself a fun I’m-getting-the-vaccine outfit,” she said, laughing.
She also plans to take her 4-year-old son with her, because she wants him to see “how research and science and people coming together can really help stem these kinds of things,” she said.
“I want him to know that there’s no need to be afraid all the time of big scary things, because there are always helpers trying to figure this out,” Ms. Drum said. “While the solution might be something that’s a jab in the arm that hurts a little bit, it’s worth it.”
The Biden administration has expressed concern over the Chinese government’s role in drafting a forthcoming World Health Organization report about the source of the coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken suggested that Beijing had too much influence over the report, which is being compiled for the global health agency by a team of international experts as well as by Chinese scientists. Several of the Chinese scientists hold official positions or work at government-run institutions.
“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mr. Blinken’s remarks come as the Chinese government works to take control of the narrative before the release of the report, which will explore several theories for how the virus initially spread to humans.
China has been criticized for withholding raw data and repeatedly delaying a visit by the team of W.H.O. experts. The government in January finally allowed the W.H.O. team to visit the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first coronavirus cases were detected in late 2019.
At a briefing with more than 100 foreign diplomats from 50 countries on Friday in Beijing, Chinese officials said the government had been transparent.
W.H.O. officials have acknowledged difficulties in compiling the report and say it will be released soon.
“It is, in a way, a painful process to get to the finishing line,” Peter K. Ben Embarek, a food safety scientist with the World Health Organization who is leading the team of experts, said at a news conference on Friday. “But the content is now complete.”
Britain, which has now given a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to more than 30 million people, began a gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions for most of its population on Monday.
People in England are now allowed to gather outdoors in groups of up to six, or two households, after the end of a stay-at-home order in force since early January.
Outdoor sports facilities, like tennis and basketball courts and swimming pools, are also opening in England. Nonessential retail and outdoor dining are set to return from April 12. Students returned to classes earlier this month. Elsewhere in Britain, Scotland and Wales have also begun easing stay-at-home orders, and Northern Ireland is set to review on coronavirus restrictions next month.
For many in Britain, the easing was a cautious optimistic note after months lockdown, the nation’s third. The current lockdown began in January, after a new variant of the coronavirus swept the country, with as many as 60,000 daily cases and 1,800 daily deaths at its winter peak. On Sunday, the country reported 3,862 cases and 19 deaths, according to a New York Times database. London has so far reported no deaths from the virus on Sunday, according to Public Health England. If no reports are added later — the figures are not yet finalized — it would be the capital’s first day without a virus death since September. Officials are hoping a slow lifting will largely remove restrictions on socializing in England by June 21.
Travel abroad for English residents, however, remains banned, with a task force reviewing the rule next month. Officials cautioned that people should still work from home where possible and minimize contact.
In other news from around the globe:
In Australia, the city of Brisbane announced a three-day lockdown after seven people were infected with the coronavirus, the country’s first citywide lockdown in more than a month. Starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, residents of the city, which is Australia’s third largest, will be allowed to leave their houses only for essential purposes such as buying groceries, exercising or seeking medical care, and masks will be mandatory in public. Tests showed the virus spreading in Brisbane is the highly contagious variant first detected in Britain, officials said.
Yan Zhuang contributed reporting.
Palakiko Chandler took their little cousins to Nanakuli Beach on Oahu last weekend and noticed something they hadn’t seen in a while: a parking lot full of rental cars. The tourists were back.
“It was just so packed,” said Mr. Chandler, 27 and a Native Hawaiian. “Me and my cousins were looking at each other like, should we just go home?” The youngest cousins needed several reminders to keep their distance from strangers for virus safety.
For much of the pandemic, Hawaii had some of the strictest rules for visitors in the United States, requiring a 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in the islands. The policy took a heavy economic toll on a state that depends heavily on tourism, but it was lauded for its success in limiting the impact of the virus for months.
Now, though, Hawaii has reopened for travelers: A negative test within 72 hours of arrival lets them skip the quarantine in most places. At least 28,000 people arrived in Hawaii on each of the last two Saturdays, according to state travel data —the most in a day since the pandemic began, and not far from typical prepandemic levels.
The influx has residents worried. Some have been posting on social media for months, pleading with mainlanders not to come, or if they do, to be mindful of the islands’ isolation and limited resources. The state has a total of 3,000 hospital beds for its population of 1.4 million, and has among the fewest I.C.U. beds per capita of any state; they were often mostly full even before the pandemic.
Hawaii’s precautions did not keep the virus out completely: The islands had a holiday surge, like the rest of the country, and parts of the state are struggling with outbreaks now. Daily new case reports have doubled since late February, with some recent clusters focused on tourism workers. Hospitalizations have increased 17 percent in the last two weeks.
“The looming concerning things are the variants,” said Dr. Damien Kapono Chong-Hanssen of the Kauai Community Health Center. “The California variant has been implicated in what’s happening in Maui right now. Maui is not looking better.”
Mainlanders are making the trip anyway. “Hawaii is again packed with tourists,” wrote the travel site The Points Guy. Favorite sites are sold out, check-in lines are long, and the lines for outbound flights are getting longer.
Tourists are crowding popular beaches without wearing masks or paying much attention to social distancing. Some visitors have gotten rowdy. A pair of arriving tourists were sent home after trying to pay a bribe to avoid the testing requirement.
The situation is worsening the irritation that many state residents feel toward vacationers. Now the tourists aren’t just crowding the island and driving up prices, they say, they are also heedlessly risking everyone’s health.
“Hawaiians and locals alike have always seen the disrespect that tourists bring to our islands,” Mr. Chandler said. “This is kind of the last straw. You’re coming to our home and you’re endangering us during a pandemic.”
The tension is especially prevalent among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who face greater risk for Covid-19 and higher rates of chronic disease than average.
“Local people are tired of being treated a certain type of way,” said Charles Kaua Taylor-Fulton, 20, who lives on Oahu. “When tourists come, they can be very rude or entitled. There’s just a sense of entitlement.”
Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum of the University of Hawaii at Manoa said the state’s case numbers are not exploding, at least not yet. But she said she would like to see travelers exhibit the same commitment to wearing masks that locals have. “It’s a matter of constantly educating the tourists,” she said.
Still, the high travel season is just getting started, and restrictions are continuing to ease. Bars have reopened in parts of the state and outdoor weddings are now allowed to welcome up to 100 guests.
“We can already see into the future of summer,” Mr. Chandler said, “and it’s going to be packed.”
A year after the coronavirus spurred an extraordinary exodus of workers from New York City office buildings, what had seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now becoming a permanent shift in how and where people work. Employers and employees have both embraced the advantages of remote work, including lower office costs and greater flexibility for employees, especially those with families.
Beyond New York, some of the country’s largest cities have yet to see a substantial return of employees, even where there have been less stringent lockdowns, and some companies have announced that they are not going to have all workers come back all the time.
In recent weeks, major corporations, including Ford in Michigan and Target in Minnesota, have said they are giving up significant office space, while Salesforce, whose headquarters occupies the tallest building in San Francisco, said only a small fraction of its employees would be in the office full time.
But no city in the United States, and perhaps the world, must reckon with this transformation more than New York, and in particular Manhattan, an island whose economy has been sustained, from the corner hot dog vendor to Broadway theaters, by more than 1.6 million daily commuters.
About 90 percent of Manhattan office workers are working remotely, a rate that has remained unchanged for months, according to a recent survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York City, which estimated that less than half of office workers would return by September.
Across Midtown and Lower Manhattan, the country’s two largest central business districts, there has never been a greater proportion of office space for lease — 16.4 percent, much higher than in past crises, including after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008.
As more companies push back dates for returning to offices and make at least some remote work a permanent policy, the consequences for New York could be far-reaching, not just for the city’s restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses, but for municipal finances, which depend heavily on commercial real estate.
Some of the largest and most enduring companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has more than 20,000 office employees in the city, have told their work forces that the five-day office workweek is a relic. The bank is considering a model in which employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.
Other large businesses, including the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the marketing group Omnicom Group and the advertising giant WPP, have searched for subtenants to take over significant chunks of their Manhattan offices.
The loss of workers has caused the market value of commercial properties that include office buildings to plunge nearly 16 percent, prompting a sharp decline in the tax revenue that pays for essential city services.
Johnson & Johnson said on Monday that it would supply its one-shot vaccine to African Union member states, as the continent experiences a slow rollout of vaccines, an uptick in cases and worries about new virus mutations.
The pharmaceutical company said that its unit, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, agreed a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, an African Union organization, to supply up to 220 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine beginning in the fall. The organization will also have the possibility of ordering an additional 180 million doses for a combined total of up to 400 million doses through 2022.
The company will supply most of the doses from a plant in South Africa, which is operated by Aspen Pharma. The African Export-Import Bank, a Pan-African bank headquartered in Cairo, will pay manufacturers $2 billion on behalf of member countries in the form of loans.
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who as the chair of the African Union set up the vaccine trust last year, is expected to tour the Aspen Pharma facilities in Port Elizabeth, on country’s southeast coast, on Monday.
“This agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a statement. “It is also a powerful demonstration of African unity and of what we can achieve through partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that puts people first.”
The announcement came as coronavirus cases surpassed 4.1 million in Africa, with more than 111,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concerns have been mounting about the emergence of variants on the continent, particularly in countries like South Africa, where a highly transmissible variant has driven up cases. Scientists also recently said they found a highly mutated variant of the coronavirus in travelers from Tanzania, the East African nation whose leaders have consistently brushed aside the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides dealing with other deadly outbreaks including Ebola, polio and measles, many nations in Africa are also dealing with vaccine inequity, as developed nations hoard doses and seek to inoculate their entire populations. So far, only 7.7 million vaccines have been administered on the continent, according to the World Health Organization, which last week warned of a slowdown in deliveries even as initial batches were exhausted.
Vaccines were yet to arrive in 10 African countries, the W.H.O. said, while many others continued to face logistical challenges in addition to vaccine hesitancy.
Nations including South Africa have called on governments and pharmaceutical companies to waive vaccine patents to get medicines to more people more quickly.
The Africa C.D.C. has said that a minimum 60 percent of the continent’s population — or 750 million people — must be vaccinated if the virus is to be curbed there. The deal with Johnson & Johnson “enables Africa to meet almost 50 percent of that target,” Dr. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa C.D.C., said in a statement.
“The key to this particular vaccine is that it is a single-shot vaccine, which makes it easier to roll out quickly and effectively, thus saving lives,” he added.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal on Monday received a donation of 800,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from China, which the authorities said would help them restart an inoculation drive that had been halted because of shipment delays in India.
Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, a spokesman for the ministry of health, said the vaccination campaign could resume in less than a week, “once we determine beneficiary age groups.”
China and India, both of which border Nepal, have been jockeying for influence over the Himalayan nation of 30 million people, most recently through vaccine diplomacy.
Nepal had planned its vaccination campaign around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. One million doses have been donated by the Indian government, and Nepal had bought an additional two million doses from the Serum Institute.
But half of the purchase from the Serum Institute has been delayed indefinitely, health officials in Nepal said, despite an agreement that it would arrive 15 days after the deal. India, which is supplying the AstraZeneca vaccine to more than 70 countries, has begun holding back nearly all of its exports as it tries to suppress a surge in coronavirus cases at home.
Officials in Nepal suspended vaccinations on March 17, citing the shortage of doses.
To fill the gap, they are now relying on a vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinopharm, which last month became the second approved for emergency use in Nepal after Beijing pledged to provide doses free.
Since its vaccination drive began in late January, Nepal has administered about 1.6 million doses, according to a New York Times database. Dr. Gautam said the 500,000 remaining AstraZeneca doses would be given to frontline health workers, and that there were none available for the rest of the population “at least for now.”
Nepal has recorded almost 277,000 infections and 3,027 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Although the country’s average daily new cases are a small fraction of what they were at their peak last fall, health officials fear a second wave as infections surge in neighboring India. On Monday, India reported 68,020 new infections, the highest one-day rise since October.
BUENOS AIRES — Argentina is delaying the administration of the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines for three months in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible get at least one dose amid a sluggish vaccination drive.
The move “seeks to vaccinate the largest number of people possible with the first dose to maximize the benefits of vaccination and diminish the impact of hospitalizations and mortality,” the government said in announcing the decision on Friday.
The country has been applying Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm and Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Since its vaccination campaign began in December, Argentina, a country of 45 million people, says it has administered a total of 3.55 million doses of vaccine, including 658,426 who have received the two doses called for in the protocols for all three vaccines.
delaying second doses, including Britain, which pursued a plan to separate doses by up to three months. And federal health authorities in the United States have indicated flexibility on expanding the gap between first and second doses to six weeks. But the vaccines in those cases are the same in both doses.
Sputnik, however, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health,uses a different adenovirus in each of its two doses to deliver bits of the coronavirus’s genetic code. Russia has said it will soon release a one-shot version of its vaccine — essentially using the first dose as the only dose, which it is calling “Sputnik Light.” It is not clear what benefit there would be to delaying a second dose of Sputnik, since there is no recommendation that the second version be administered as a single dose.
Argentina’s decision to delay second doses comes amid increasing concerns of the possibility of a new wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, fueled by the new variants of the virus that have engulfed several of Argentina’s neighbors, particularly Brazil, but also Chile and Paraguay.
Argentina is canceling all direct flights with Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting Saturday in an effort to block the new variants. It had already blocked flights from Britain and Ireland.
International travelers already face new restrictions in Argentina, including a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival and enforced quarantine in a hotel if it comes back positive.
LONDON — Britain’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines has revived the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Now, Mr. Johnson’s allies hope the stark disparity between Britain’s performance and the European Union’s will do something perhaps even more challenging: vindicate their larger Brexit project.
Pro-Brexit politicians and commentators are casting Britain’s vaccine deployment, which ranks among the fastest in the world, as an example of risk-taking and entrepreneurial pluck that comes from not being shackled to the collective decision-making of the 27 member states of the European Union.
With vaccination rates that are a fraction of Britain’s, threats of export bans on vaccines produced on the continent and churlish statements about British-made vaccines by leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France, the European Union has seemingly done all it can to make it look like Britain picked the right time to leave.
“It is the first serious test that the U.K. state has faced since Brexit,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent who studies the British right. “Boris Johnson is going to have a vaccine dividend, and that will give him a whole new narrative for the summer and beyond.”
the costs of Brexit since Britain severed itself from the European Union in January — damaging disruptions to cross-channel trade and businesses choking on reams of red tape, among other headaches. And it conveniently ignores the harrowing experience many Britons had with the virus before the first vaccine “jabs” arrived last December.
according to a new survey conducted by Ipsos MORI for the E.U.-U.K. Forum, an organization that promotes cross-Channel dialogue. Only 12 percent said they thought Britain had performed worse while 14 percent thought both had handled things equally well.
For all its early stumbles, said Kelly Beaver, managing director of Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI, “the British public feel that overall, the government has done well compared to its E.U. counterparts, no doubt a halo effect of the vaccination program that has, to date, been incredibly successful.”
Significantly, a slight plurality of those surveyed — 40 percent — said they thought Brexit had helped improve Britain’s handling of the pandemic, while 14 percent said it had made it worse, and 38 percent thought it had made no difference.
Overall, the survey shows that the strength of feeling over Brexit has faded somewhat although a majority expect it to increase food prices and make European vacations more difficult. And Britons remain sharply divided, not just over E.U. membership but also on other issues like crime, British values and political correctness.
Mr. Johnson’s vaccine bounce, analysts point out, could be fleeting if a new variant emerges or if the economy does not recover swiftly.
But Mr. Goodwin said one consequence of the vaccine success is that there are few signs of significant numbers of people rethinking the wisdom of Brexit or suffering the acute regret — or as he called it, “Bregret” — that some expected.
The British media has understandably given more coverage to the 28 million people who have been inoculated than to the post-Brexit trade disruptions that have afflicted some British food and seafood exports and left supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland empty.
The monthslong shutdown of much of Britain’s economy will also complicate the task of identifying the negative effects of Brexit, since they are likely to be lost in a sea of red ink. And long before the pandemic, economists predicted that Brexit’s biggest cost would be to dampen economic expansion, an effect that would compound almost imperceptibly over many years, rather than create a sudden shock.
In any event, the vaccine rollout has helped the government to hone a separate and distinct argument for Brexit, one that emphasizes responsibility and accountability over economic costs or benefits.
David Frost, a former diplomat who negotiated the Brexit trade agreement for Mr. Johnson and is now a cabinet minister, articulated this case earlier this month when he said Britain’s membership in the European Union had stifled its initiative, producing “a kind of institutional paralysis.”
Britain faced problems “which we seemed to find very difficult to summon up the will to resolve, and I do think E.U membership had a kind sapping quality to our ability to take decisions,” he said at the Policy Exchange, a research institute.
“Brexit doesn’t solve those problems,” Mr. Frost added, “but it does give us means to solve them, to move on, to get a grip but also to reform our attitudes and become a country that can deal with problems again.”
Britain, officials point out, made risky bets on multiple vaccine candidates and aggressively locked up supplies in advance — characteristics, they say, that were conspicuously lacking in the European Union’s plodding, lockstep, risk-averse approach.
But critics argue that Britain could have done much of what it did as an active member of the European Union. The British medical regulator always had the right to approve vaccines, on an emergency basis, faster than the rest of the bloc — as it did last December — and the government always had the freedom to buy doses separately from the bloc, as some other E.U. countries have since done.
The strengths of Britain’s rollout, these critics said, are rooted in its robust scientific establishment, which developed the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine, and its widely revered National Health Service, which has delivered the doses. Neither of those were strengthened by leaving the European Union.
Britain cut its own deal with AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, which is at the heart of its clash with the European Union, which was slower to make such purchases. Brussels has accused the company of giving Britain preferential treatment at the expense of the bloc.
European leaders will be weighing a plan this week to halt vaccine exports temporarily as a way to demand reciprocity with Britain and other countries, and that could leave Britain — and Mr. Johnson — badly exposed. The country relies heavily on vaccines manufactured in factories in Belgium and other European countries to keep the pace of its inoculations going.
“What Brexit changes is Britain’s ability to protect the overseas parts of its supply chains,” said Mark Malloch Brown, a diplomat and former Labour government minister who chaired an anti-Brexit group, Best for Britain. “The crisis, looked at from the other end, exposes Britain’s vulnerability.”
Britain’s reliance on the European Union goes beyond a steady supply of vaccines. It is by far Britain’s largest trading partner, and the two sides have close links in security and law enforcement. While Mr. Johnson himself has avoided using overtly provocative language against Brussels, he has overseen a rapid deterioration in relations since Britain officially cast off on Jan. 1.
“I’m worried that they’re getting so carried away by the evidence that Brexit was a good thing, that they’re going to carry on dissing Europe,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. “Then the next time we need them for something, it’s going to backfire on us.”