More stories

  • in

    How Asia, Once a Vaccination Laggard, Is Revving Up Inoculations

    Several countries are now on track to surpass the United States in fully vaccinating their populations, lifting hopes of a more permanent return to normality.SINGAPORE — As the United States and Europe ramped up their Covid-19 vaccination programs, the Asia-Pacific region, once lauded for its pandemic response, struggled to get them off the ground. Now, many of those laggards are speeding ahead, lifting hopes of a return to normality in nations resigned to repeated lockdowns and onerous restrictions.The turnabout is as much a testament to the region’s success in securing supplies and working out the kinks in their programs as it is to vaccine hesitancy and political opposition in the United States.South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have even pulled ahead of the United States in the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people — a pace that seemed unthinkable in the spring. Several have surpassed the United States in fully vaccinating their populations or are on track to do so, limiting the perniciousness of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.In South Korea, the authorities said vaccines had helped keep most people out of the hospital. About 0.6 percent of fully vaccinated people who contracted Covid had severe illness and about 0.1 percent died, according to data collected by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency from May to August.In Japan, serious cases have fallen by half over the last month, to a little over 1,000 a day. Hospitalizations have plummeted from a high of just over 230,000 in late August to around 31,000 on Tuesday.“It’s almost like the tortoise and the hare,” said Jerome Kim, director general of the International Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Seoul and focused on vaccine research for the developing world. “Asia was always going to use vaccines when they became available.”Pfizer vaccines arriving in South Korea in July. When the country opened vaccinations to people in their 50s, roughly 10 million simultaneously logged on to a government website to sign up for shots.Ahn Young-Joon/Associated PressRisks remain for the region. Most of the countries do not manufacture their own vaccines and could face supply problems if their governments approve boosters.In Southeast Asia, the rollout has been slow and uneven, dragging down economic prospects there. The Asian Development Bank recently lowered its 2021 growth outlook for developing Asia to 7.1 percent from 7.3 percent, in part over vaccination issues.But for much of the region, the shift has been striking, success that is rooted in its different worldviews and governance structures.In a contrast with the United States, vaccines were never a polarizing issue in Asia-Pacific.Although each country has had to contend with its own anti-vaccine movements, they have been relatively small. They have never benefited from an ecosystem — sympathetic media, advocacy groups and politicians — that has allowed misinformation to influence the populace.Overall, most Asians have trusted their governments to do the right thing, and they were willing to put the needs of the community over their individual freedoms.Reuben Ng, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy who has studied vaccine hesitancy globally for the past decade, said that pre-Covid, the discussion around immunization had always been mixed in Asia because of some skepticism about the safety.But Mr. Ng and his team, who have been analyzing media reports, have found that the region now holds mostly positive views on vaccines.An overcrowded hospital in Surabaya, Indonesia, in July, when the country was dealing with a sudden increase in Covid cases.Trisnadi/Associated PressThere is widespread belief in Asia that vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic. This month, when a vaccination center in Tokyo offered 200 walk-in shots for young people, hopefuls queued from the early morning hours, and the line extended for blocks.In South Korea, when the authorities opened vaccinations to people in their 50s, roughly 10 million simultaneously logged on to a government website to sign up for shots. The system, which was designed to process up to 300,000 requests at a time, temporarily crashed.People in poorer nations whose lives were upended by extended lockdowns felt they had no choice but to get vaccinated. Indonesia and the Philippines are home to thousands of daily-wage workers who cannot rely on unemployment benefits to survive.Arisman, 35, a motorcycle taxi driver in Jakarta, Indonesia, said he got his second shot of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine in July because his job involved contact with many people.“If I get sick, I don’t get money,” said Arisman, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. “If I don’t work, I don’t get money.”The lack of social safety nets in many Asian countries motivated many governments to roll out the vaccines quickly, said Tikki Pangestu, a co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Immunization Coalition, a group that assesses Covid-19 vaccine preparedness. “At the end of the day, if they don’t do it, they’re going to end up with social unrest, which is the last thing they want,” he added.A farmer in rural Sabak Bernam, Malaysia, getting vaccinated in July. The lack of social safety nets in many Asian countries motivated many governments to roll out the vaccines quickly.Vincent Thian/Associated PressWhen the United States and European nations were rushing to vaccinate their people late last year, many Asian countries felt they had the luxury of time. They had kept the coronavirus under control by masking, testing and keeping their borders shut. Many nations wanted to wait until the clinical trials were completed before they placed orders.Then came the Delta variant. Despite keeping their countries largely sealed off, the virus found its way in. And when it did, it spread quickly. In the summer, South Korea battled its worst wave of infections; hospitals in Indonesia ran out of oxygen and beds; and in Thailand, health care workers had to turn away patients.With cases surging, countries quickly shifted their vaccination approach.Sydney, Australia, announced a lockdown in June after an unvaccinated limousine driver caught the Delta variant from an American aircrew. Then, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had previously said vaccination “was not a race,” called in July on Australians to “go for gold” in the country’s inoculation drive.He moved to overcome a supply shortage, compounded by the slow regulatory approval. In August, Australia bought one million Pfizer doses from Poland; this month, Mr. Morrison announced a purchase of a million Moderna shots from Europe.When the Delta outbreak emerged, fewer than 25 percent of Australians over the age of 16 had received a single shot. In the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, 86 percent of the adult population has now received a first dose, and 62 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. The country expects to fully inoculate 80 percent of its population over the age of 16 by early November.“There was great community leadership — there were people from across the political divide who came out to support vaccination,” said Greg Dore, an infectious-disease expert at the University of New South Wales. “It really helped us turn around a level of hesitancy that was there.”Many governments have used incentives to encourage inoculations.In South Korea, the authorities eased restrictions in August on private gatherings for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to meet in larger groups while maintaining stricter curbs for others. Singapore, which has fully vaccinated 82 percent of its population, previously announced similar measures.Researchers there have also analyzed the pockets of people who refuse to be inoculated and are trying to persuade them.Dr. Ng from the National University of Singapore and his team recently found out that a group of seniors who lived alone were worried about possible adverse effects from the vaccine, fearing they could die in solitude. The volunteers promised they would visit after the vaccinations, a strategy that worked.“This targeted approach does make a difference, because at the end of the day, the mass communications campaign can only take you so far,” Dr. Ng said.Rangers in the Thai Army built bamboo beds for hospitals in the southern province of Narathiwat last week.Madaree Tohlala/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesOnce countries were able to order vaccines, many had to scramble to set up the infrastructures needed to immunize the masses and quell public anger over the initially slow rollouts.Miharu Kuzuhara, 26, a graphic illustrator in Tokyo, got her Pfizer shots in July and August but was frustrated that she had to wait that long. “We were losing to our other Asian neighbors, like Taiwan and South Korea,” Ms. Kuzuhara said. “I had this feeling of disappointment, like Japan is really the worst.”The Japanese government dispatched the country’s military to run vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka and authorized companies to give shots to their employees. Local governments offered payments to doctors and nurses to administer the shots during their days off.The share of people inoculated against Covid-19 in Japan, at 69.6 percent, recently overtook that of the United States. In some rural areas, vaccination rates are already close to 100 percent. “Normally, people are hesitant, they’re not very enthusiastic about vaccines,” said Dr. Takashi Nakano, a professor of infectious diseases at Kawasaki Medical School. But “there was strong political commitment, a real feeling in the nation that because this is an infectious disease, we need to take steps to prevent it.”Reporting was contributed by More

  • in

    Biden’s New Vaccine Push Is a Fight for the U.S. Economy

    The effort reflects the continuing and evolving threat the coronavirus pandemic poses to the economic recovery.WASHINGTON — President Biden’s aggressive move to expand the number of vaccinated Americans and halt the spread of the Delta variant is not just an effort to save lives. It is also an attempt to counter the continuing and evolving threat that the virus poses to the economy.Delta’s rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus. That has created another problem: a drag on the economic recovery. Real-time gauges of restaurant visits, airline travel and other services show consumers pulled back on some face-to-face spending in recent weeks.After weeks of playing down the threat that a new wave of infections posed to the recovery, the president and his team blamed Delta for slowing job growth in August. “We’re in a tough stretch,” he conceded on Thursday, after heralding the economic progress made under his administration so far this year, “and it could last for a while.”The virus threatens the recovery even though consumers and business owners are not retrenching the way they did when the coronavirus began to spread in the United States in the spring of 2020. Far fewer states and cities have imposed restrictions on business activity than in previous waves, and administration officials vowed on Thursday that the nation would not return to “lockdowns or shutdowns.”But a surge in deaths crippled consumer confidence in August and portends a possible chill in fall spending as people again opt for limited in-person commerce. The unchecked spread of the virus has also contributed to a rapid drop in the president’s approval ratings — even among Democrats.The explosion of new cases and deaths also appears to have deterred many would-be workers from accepting open jobs in businesses across the country, economists say. That comes as businesses and consumers are complaining about a labor shortage and as administration officials pin their hopes on rising wages to power consumer spending in place of fading government support for distressed families.The plan Mr. Biden announced on Thursday would mandate vaccinations for federal employees and contractors and for millions of health care workers, along with new Labor Department rules requiring vaccines or weekly tests for employees at companies with more than 100 employees. It would push for more testing, offer more aid to small businesses, call on schools to adopt vaccine requirements and provide easy access to booster shots for eligible Americans. The president estimated the requirements would affect 100 million Americans, or about two-thirds of all workers.“We have the tools to combat the virus,” he said, “if we can come together and use those tools.”Mr. Biden faces political risks from his actions, which drew swift backlash from many conservative lawmakers who accused him of violating the Constitution and abusing his powers.But administration officials have always viewed vaccinating more Americans as the primary strategy for reviving the recovery.“This is an economic downturn that has been spawned from a public health crisis,” Cecilia Rouse, the chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said last month in an interview. “So we will get back to economic health when we get past the virus, when we return to public health as well.”That is likely true even in places that already have high inoculation rates. Mr. Biden’s inability thus far to break through vaccine hesitancy, particularly in conservative areas, has also become a psychological spending drag on those in highly vaccinated areas. That is because vaccinated Americans appear more likely to pull back on travel, dining out and other activity out of fear of the virus.“People who vaccinate themselves very early are people who are already very careful,” said Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, a University of Pennsylvania economist who has studied the interplay between the pandemic and the economy. “People who do not vaccinate themselves are less careful. So there is a multiplier effect” when it comes to those kinds of decisions.The economic effect from the virus varies by region, and it has changed in key ways over the course of the pandemic. In some heavily vaccinated parts of the country — including liberal states packed with Mr. Biden’s supporters — virus-wary Americans have pulled back on economic activity, even though infection rates in their areas are low. In some less-vaccinated states like Texas that have experienced a large Delta wave, data suggest rising hospitalization and death rates are not driving down activity as much as they did in previous waves.“It appears the latest Covid surge has been less impactful on the economy than previous surges in Texas,” said Laila Assanie, a senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which surveys employers in the state each month about their activity during the pandemic.Business owners, Ms. Assanie said, “said they were better prepared this time around.”The threat of the Delta variant has caused consumers to pull back on some face-to-face spending.Brittainy Newman for The New York TimesRespondents to the survey said consumer spending had not fallen off as much this summer, compared with the initial spread of the coronavirus in March 2020 or a renewed spike last winter, even as case and hospitalization rates neared their previous peak from January. But many employers reported staffing pressures from workers falling ill with the virus. The share of businesses reporting that concerns about the pandemic were an impediment to hiring workers tripled from July to August.Data from Homebase, which provides time-management software to small businesses, show that employment in entertainment, dining and other coronavirus-sensitive sectors has fallen in recent weeks as the Delta variant has spread. But the decline is smaller than during the spike in cases last winter, suggesting that economic activity has become less sensitive to the pandemic over time. Other measures likewise show that economic activity has slowed but not collapsed as cases have risen..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}That trend has helped bolster overall consumer spending and hiring in the short term and helped keep the economy on track for its fastest annual growth in a quarter century. But there is a risk that it will be undercut by a continued pandemic dampening of labor force participation. Economists who have tracked the issue say that even if consumers have grown more accustomed to shopping or dining out as cases rise, there is little sign that would-be workers, even vaccinated ones, have become more accepting of the risks of returning to service jobs as the pandemic rages.“It’s becoming increasingly clear that employers are eager to hire,” said Andrew Atkeson, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles who has released several papers on the economics of the pandemic. “The problem is not that people aren’t spending. It’s that people are still reluctant to go back to work”The Delta wave also appears to be sidelining some workers by disrupting child care and, in some cases, schools — forcing parents to take time off or to delay returning to jobs.Some forecasters believe the combination of rising vaccination rates and a growing share of Americans who have already contracted the virus will soon arrest the Delta wave and set the economy back on track for rapid growth, with small-business hiring and restaurant visits rebounding as soon as the end of this month. “Now is the time to start thinking about the post-Delta world,” Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note this month.Other economists see the possibility that a continued Delta wave — or a surge from another variant in the months to come — will substantially slow the recovery, because potential workers in particular remain sensitive to the spread of the virus.“That’s a very real danger,” said Austan Goolsbee, a former head of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama whose research earlier in the pandemic showed fear, not government restrictions, was the driving force behind lost economic activity from the virus.“At the same time,” Mr. Goolsbee said, “it also shows promise: the fact that when we get control of the spread of the virus, or even stabilize the spread of the virus, the economy wants to come back.”The greatest lift to the country, and likely to Mr. Biden’s popularity, from finally curbing the virus would not be regained business sales or jobs created. It would be stemming a death toll that has climbed to about 650,000 since the pandemic began.“I always tell undergraduates, when they take economics with me, that economics is not about optimizing output,” said Mr. Fernández-Villaverde, the University of Pennsylvania economist. “It’s about optimizing welfare. And if you’re dead, you’re not getting a lot of welfare.”Ben Casselman More

  • in

    India’s Economic Figures Belie Covid-19’s Toll

    Strong results compared with last year’s performance mask lingering weaknesses that could hold back needed job creation.NEW DELHI — The coronavirus continues to batter India’s damaged economy, putting growing pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to nurture a nascent recovery and get the country back to work.The coronavirus, which has struck in two waves, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and at times has brought cities to a halt. Infections and deaths have eased, and the country is returning to work. Economists predict that growth could surge in the second half of the year on paper.Still, the damage could take years to undo. Economic output was 9.2 percent lower for the April-through-June period this year than what it was for the same period in 2019, according to India Ratings, a credit ratings agency.The coronavirus has essentially robbed India of much of the momentum it needed to provide jobs for its young and fast-growing work force. It has also exacerbated longer-term problems that were already dragging down growth, such as high debt, a lack of competitiveness with other countries and policy missteps.Economists are particularly concerned about the slow rate of vaccinations and the possibility of a third wave of the coronavirus, which could prove to be disastrous for any economic recovery.“Vaccination progress remains slow,” with just 11 percent of the population fully inoculated so far, Priyanka Kishore, the head of India and Southeast Asia at Oxford Economics, said in a research briefing last week. The firm lowered its growth rate for 2021 to 8.8 percent, from 9.1 percent.Even growth of 8.8 percent would be a strong number in better times. Compared with the prior year, India’s economy grew 20.1 percent April through June, according to estimates released Tuesday evening by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation.But those comparisons benefit from comparison with India’s dismal performance last year. The economy shrank 7.3 percent last year, when the government shut down the economy to stop a first wave of the coronavirus. That led to big job losses, now among the biggest hurdles holding back growth, experts say.The coronavirus continues to batter India’s damaged economy, putting growing pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Money Sharma/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesReal household incomes have fallen further this year, said Mahesh Vyas, the chief executive of the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy. “Till this is not repaired,” he said, “the Indian economy can’t bounce back.”At least 3.2 million Indians lost stable, well-paying salaried jobs in July alone, Mr. Vyas estimated. Small traders and daily wage laborers suffered bigger job losses during the lockdowns than others, though they were able to go back to work once the restrictions were lifted, Mr. Vyas said in a report this month.“Salaried jobs are not similarly elastic,” he said. “It is difficult to retrieve a lost salaried job.”About 10 million people have lost such jobs since the beginning of the pandemic, Mr. Vyas said.Mr. Modi’s government moved this month to rekindle the economy by selling stakes worth close to $81 billion in state-owned assets like airports, railway stations and stadiums. But economists largely see the policy as a move to generate cash in the short term. It remains to be seen if it will lead to more investment, they say.“The whole idea is that the government will borrow this money from the domestic market,” said Devendra Kumar Pant, the chief economist at India Ratings. “But what happens if this project goes to a domestic player and he is having to borrow in the domestic market? Your credit demand domestically won’t change.”Dr. Pant added that questions remained about how willing private players would be to maintain those assets long term and how the monetization policy would ultimately affect prices for consumers..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}“In India, things will decay for the worse rather than improve,” he said, adding that the costs to users of highways and other infrastructure could go up.During the second wave in May, Mr. Modi resisted calls by many epidemiologists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to reinstitute a nationwide lockdown.At a vaccination site in India in June. Economists are particularly concerned about the slow rate of vaccinations and the possibility of a third wave of the coronavirus.Saumya Khandelwal for The New York TimesThe lockdowns in 2021 were nowhere near as severe as the nationwide curbs last year, which pushed millions of people out of cities and into rural areas, often on foot because rail and other transportation had been suspended.Throughout the second wave, core infrastructure projects across the country, which employ millions of domestic migrant workers, were exempted from restrictions. More than 15,000 miles of Indian highway projects, along with rail and city metro improvements, continued.On Tuesday, Dr. Pant said India’s growth estimates of 20.1 percent for the April-through-June period were nothing but an “illusion.” Growth contracted so sharply around the same period last year, by a record 24 percent, that even double-digit gains this year would leave the economy behind where it was two years ago.Economists say India needs to spend, even splurge, to unlock the full potential of its huge low-skilled work force. “There is a need for very simple primary health facilities, primary services to deliver nutrition to children,” Mr. Vyas said. “All these are highly labor intensive jobs, and these are government services largely.”One of the reasons Indian governments typically have not spent in those areas, Mr. Vyas said, is that it has been considered “not a sexy thing to do.” Another is the governments’ “dogmatic fixation” with keeping fiscal deficits in control, he said. The government simply can’t rely on private sector alone for creating jobs, Mr. Vyas said.The “only solution,” he said, is for the government to spend and spur private investment. “You have a de-motivated private sector because there isn’t enough demand. That’s what’s holding India back.” More

  • in

    Delta’s Extra $200 Insurance Fee Shows Vaccine Dilemma for Employers

    Charging unvaccinated workers more for health coverage may seem more appealing than a mandate but could be harder to carry out.For weeks, big employers like Citigroup, Google and the Walt Disney Company have been warming to the idea of requiring coronavirus vaccines for employees. Now that one vaccine has received full federal approval, President Biden wants more to follow suit.Delta Air Lines has chosen a very different tack — one that might seem to provide employees more choice but could be much harder to carry out. The company on Wednesday became the first large U.S. employer to embrace an idea that has been widely discussed but is mired in legal uncertainty: charging unvaccinated employees more for health insurance.Starting Nov. 1, Delta employees who have not received the vaccine will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the company’s health plan. It is part of a series of requirements that unvaccinated workers will face in the months to come, the airline’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said in a memo to staff.“We’ve always known that vaccinations are the most effective tool to keep our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate.”Every Delta employee who has been hospitalized because of the coronavirus in recent weeks was not yet fully vaccinated, with hospital stays costing the company an average of about $50,000. Like most large employers, Delta insures its own work force, meaning it pays health costs directly and hires an insurance company to administer its plans.Corporate executives have wrestled with how to restore some normalcy to their operations, including by letting workers return to offices. They are trying to achieve several goals that can at times come into conflict: keeping employees safe, retaining staff opposed to vaccines at a time of tremendous turnover, and showing customers that they are taking the pandemic seriously while not alienating others put off by masks and other restrictions.Several companies, particularly those in health care, have made vaccination a condition of employment. Under a recent Biden administration policy, any nursing home that receives federal funds will be required to mandate vaccines for workers.Nearly 14 percent of U.S. employers now require, or plan to require, staff to be vaccinated in order to work at a company site, according to a survey this month from Mercer, a benefits consulting firm. In a May survey, just 3 percent of employers planned to require vaccinations.Insurance surcharges may appeal to companies that are seeking a less coercive means to increase vaccination rates, said Wade Symons, a partner at Mercer. He has had conversations with about 50 large companies that are considering imposing such fees, he added.“They still want to have the appearance of a choice,” Mr. Symons said.The businesses, he said, tend to be in industries that involve a lot of in-person work: manufacturing, hospitality, financial services, retail and transportation. Many have already tried incentives like cash bonuses or raffles for large prizes but still have vaccine holdouts.Delta said 75 percent of its staff and more than 80 percent of its pilots and flight attendants were vaccinated. But when CNN asked Mr. Bastian on Wednesday why the airline hadn’t simply mandated vaccines, he framed the issue as one of corporate culture.“Every company has to make its own decision for its culture, its people, what works according to its values,” he said. “I think these added voluntary steps, short of mandating a vaccine, are going to get us as close to 100 percent as we can.”Legally speaking, insurance surcharges are more complicated than simple employment mandates, which are widely considered legally sound. Federal law bars employers and insurers from charging higher prices to people with pre-existing health conditions. But the vaccine surcharges are being structured as employer “wellness” incentive programs, which are permitted under the Affordable Care Act. Such programs must be voluntary but can involve rewards or penalties as large as 30 percent of an employee’s health insurance premium.(Insurance plans bought on the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act and government programs like Medicaid and Medicare are forbidden to impose such surcharges.)Starting Nov. 1, unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees will be charged more to stay on the company health plan.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesUnder federal law, employers must provide accommodations for workers who cannot receive a vaccine for health reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs. A recent lawsuit successfully challenged wellness programs with large financial penalties, arguing that the provision violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.“This is not rocket science, but it is not easy,” said Rob Duston, a lawyer with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Washington, D.C., whose focus includes employment and disability issues.“You are dealing with the overlap of at least three different laws,” he added, referring to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Affordable Care Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s wellness plan and Covid-19 guidelines. The companies will have to abide by the Americans With Disabilities Act and health privacy laws, too.Wellness programs have become widespread in large corporations even though studies show that they have very little impact on employee health. In some cases, they have tended to nudge workers who are facing penalties to drop their workplace coverage.“It seems like a more complicated way to do it,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has studied such plans extensively and recently wrote a paper on vaccine mandate options. “In the middle of a pandemic, you want people to have health insurance. Why are you making it more likely they’re going to drop their health insurance?”But vaccination may prove different from other health behaviors that employers are seeking to change. Unlike weight loss or smoking cessation, vaccination does not require a long-term behavior change..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Jeff Levin-Scherz, a population health leader at the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, said he had his doubts.“Premium surcharges might make intuitive sense, but based on their structure they are unlikely to lead to a large increase in vaccination rates,” Mr. Levin-Scherz said. “The surcharge approach has no impact on employees who waive coverage, and the penalties will be disproportionately imposed on lower-wage workers.”At Delta, the surcharge is one of several new requirements for unvaccinated workers. Starting immediately, those employees will have to wear masks indoors. In about two weeks, they will be subjected to weekly coronavirus tests. Then, on Sept. 30, unvaccinated employees will lose protections intended to cover pay for work missed while having to quarantine.The airline, which is based in Atlanta, its biggest hub, has a lot of employees in a state with a relatively low vaccination rate. Just over half of Georgia’s adult population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Delta’s decision not to require the vaccine may also help it to avoid criticism from Georgia’s conservative lawmakers, who have punished it in the past. In 2018, the state legislature voted to repeal a tax break on jet fuel after Delta ended a discount for members of the National Rifle Association, but the governor later ordered state officials to stop collecting the tax, effectively restoring the break. Lawmakers threatened to start collecting it again this year after Delta opposed new voting restrictions in the state.“It’s not an idle threat,” said Charles Bullock III, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia. “Doing this is probably more in keeping with where the Republican leadership would be,” he said of Delta’s approach on vaccination.American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, both based in Texas, have also not required vaccines. But United Airlines, which is based in Chicago, said this month that it would require vaccines, starting on Sept. 27.United’s chief executive, Scott Kirby, has lamented the dozens of letters he has had to write to families of employees who died from the virus. “We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter,” he and Brett Hart, United’s president, told employees this month.One industry that has achieved high employee vaccination rates is Nevada’s casinos. State regulators allowed casinos to operate at full capacity once at least 80 percent of employees had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccination, a threshold some big properties achieved. Last week, MGM Resorts went further and said Covid vaccination would be a condition of employment for all salaried employees and new hires.“Vaccination is clearly the most effective tool in battling the pandemic, and it is one of our top priorities,” said Brian Ahern, a spokesman for MGM.Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents many casino workers, supports the mandate. “We would support stricter mandates, as the vaccine is the only way we can get through this pandemic,” Bethany Khan, director of communications and digital strategy for the union, said in an email.Peter Eavis More

  • in

    In This Remote American Outpost, Pandemic Recovery Is a Faraway Dream

    Tourism-dependent Guam has done almost everything it can to restart its economy. Its Asian neighbors may have to bounce back first.TAMUNING, Guam — Perched steps away from the prismatic seas off Guam’s western shore, a water sports shop sat shuttered on a recent weekend morning, its rack of neon kayaks and fleet of Jet Skis collecting fallen leaves.Down an oceanside road, in the tourist district of Tumon, the gift shop at the Hyatt Regency displayed its beach floaties and fidget spinners in total darkness. Nearby, a shopping plaza adorned with miniaturized street lamps had only one guest: a stray dog sunbathing in the tropical heat. Worn posters on its walls advertised a TV series that premiered last year.“The hustle and bustle here has just evaporated,” said Madelaine Cosico, the Hyatt’s director of sales and marketing.While much of the United States has returned to something resembling life before the coronavirus, the tiny American territory of Guam in the Western Pacific is stuck in time. A year and a half into the pandemic, the island’s tourism-dependent economy remains paralyzed, and officials say a full recovery is probably years away.The South Korean and Japanese visitors who once thronged Guam for its year-round sun and luxury boutiques are long gone, and with their home countries now in the throes of their worst Covid outbreaks, they aren’t coming back anytime soon. The island’s economy shrank by up to 18.9 percent in 2020, and would have contracted by as much as 49 percent without federal pandemic aid, according to estimates by economists at the University of Guam.The Hyatt Regency in Guam has let go about 100 full- and part-time employees.Anthony Henri Oftana for The New York TimesRecovery, the island’s leaders believe, starts with vaccination. Its population of 170,000 met the government’s goal of an 80 percent vaccination rate among adults by July, the same month it waived quarantine requirements for foreign tourists. It has also kept mask mandates, and compliance is nearly universal. Most businesses ask customers to record their contact information, and even small hotel elevators have markings on the floor for social distancing.The government has also poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a program that aims to entice tourists with the promise of not just a vacation, but also vaccination. The program, called Air V&V, offers visitors their choice of any of the C.D.C.-approved vaccines for $100 or less per dose.By the end of August, at least 2,100 vaccine tourists will have arrived on chartered planes, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau, in addition to a relatively small number of others on regular flights. But that’s little consolation on an island that recorded 1.7 million arrivals the year before the pandemic began.“It’s not even a drop in the bucket,” said Bob Odell, the owner of a water sports shop called Guam Ocean Adventures. “I don’t think anybody here is faring well.”The island had hoped to draw people from Japan and South Korea, where the vaccination campaigns have lagged, but infrequent flights and strict quarantine requirements back home have kept people away.“That’s an impediment to really growing this,” said Gerry Perez, the visitors bureau’s vice president. “We’ve got a program of organizers who are trying to put butts on the seats of planes.”Tourists during the sunnier days of 2017.Nancy Borowick for The New York TimesAll of those arriving on chartered flights have been from Taiwan, where vaccines have been hard to come by and where travel agencies were quick to capitalize on the offer.One Taiwanese visitor, Yulin Lin, was hiding from the sun under a bright orange gazebo one recent day, watching as her teenage daughters took selfies before stepping into a translucent lagoon. Strapped into diving gear, they were headed for sea life that has overtaken underwater craters named after World War II bombs.Ms. Lin took her family to Guam to get the Pfizer vaccine before the school year started, spending thousands on a travel package that included a stay at the all-inclusive Pacific Islands Club. When she returns home, she will have to spend at least another $2,000, she said, on government-mandated quarantine in a hotel.“I think it’s good for them to be outdoors again. They’re not just locked away in the house in the city,” Ms. Lin said of her daughters. “I expected a lot of things to be closed down, so we’ll have to come back here again.”Across the island, only a few businesses said they had noticed the small bump in tourists. Many are instead relying on steady shipments of U.S. service members arriving for short-term assignments. Others said it simply cost too much to reopen for such a small clientele.At the Hyatt Regency, where the vast lobby bistro has only a few small tables in use and the nightclub has been chained up for months, roughly 100 full- and part-time staff members have been let go during the pandemic.Most of Guam’s luxury boutiques have been closed for months.Anthony Henri Oftana for The New York TimesSeveral gas stations have shortened their operating hours, and some car rental agencies have either sold off their inventories or begun leasing vehicles to local residents at a reduced rate. Independent taxi drivers have decided to find other work, and the local ride-share app, Stroll Guam, frequently tells users that it is out of drivers..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}About 60 percent of the island’s revenue came from tourism as of 2019, and Guam has lost $200,000 in revenue per hour from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan since the pandemic began, said Mr. Perez, the tourism official.“We believe we will recover, but we won’t recover very quickly. Not for at least maybe two or possibly three years,” he said. “If the gods are with us, we should be able to bring in 80,000 visitors for the next fiscal year.” That would be less than 5 percent of Guam’s usual annual influx.Vaccination — of both the local population and any visitors who need it — is a first step.Standing in the basement of the Pacific Islands Club one recent day, Kai Akimoto guided a group of Taiwanese tourists to a line of black tables, where nurses waited to give them their shots. He has worked six or seven days a week for months now, he said, coordinating vaccine outreach programs for the American Medical Center, a local clinic.Guam once welcomed 1.7 million visitors a year. That number has fallen to a tiny trickle.Anthony Henri Oftana for The New York Times“We’re a community that is not so apprehensive about getting the vaccine. We don’t have as many people who have qualms about it here,” Mr. Akimoto said. “Their qualm is that Guam is still closed. And if this is the ticket to getting back to work and restimulating the economy, then they want people to get the shot.”Down the street, the once-popular Guam Reef Hotel tended to a small group of customers, its lobby and infinity pool nearly empty on a weekend.Jason LaMattery, the hotel’s customer service coordinator, said that the number of guests had dropped by about 98 percent between early 2020 and early 2021. In addition to military visitors, the hotel has had a small number of vaccination tourists.“Things are starting to look up,” he said. “We are slowly recovering from a terrible situation. But are we going to get 100, 200 people from this? No, I don’t think so.” More

  • in

    China’s Vaccine Diplomacy Stumbles in Southeast Asia

    Several Southeast Asian nations are raising doubts about the efficacy of China’s vaccines. The Biden administration has recently offered to provide shots, “no strings attached.”SINGAPORE — The arrival of the Chinese vaccines was supposed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in Southeast Asia.Instead, countries across the region are quickly turning elsewhere to look for shots.Residents in Thailand vaccinated with one dose of China’s Sinovac are now given the AstraZeneca shot three to four weeks later. In Indonesia, officials are administering the Moderna vaccine as a booster to health care workers who had received two doses of Sinovac.Malaysia’s health minister said the country would stop using Sinovac once its supply ran out. Even Cambodia, one of China’s strongest allies, has started using AstraZeneca as a booster for its frontline workers who had taken the Chinese vaccines.Few places benefited from China’s vaccine diplomacy as much as Southeast Asia, a region of more than 650 million that has struggled to secure doses from Western drugmakers. Several of these countries have recorded some of the fastest-growing number of cases in the world, underscoring the desperate need for inoculations.China, eager to build good will, stepped in, promising to provide more than 255 million doses, according to Bridge Consulting, a Beijing-based research company.Half a year in, however, that campaign has lost some of its luster. Officials in several countries have raised doubts about the efficacy of Chinese vaccines, especially against the more transmissible Delta variant. Indonesia, which was early to accept Chinese shots, was recently the epicenter of the virus. Others have complained about the conditions that accompanied Chinese donations or sales.The setback to China’s vaccine campaign has created a diplomatic opening for the United States when relations between the two countries are increasingly fraught, in part because of the coronavirus. China has criticized the American handling of the crisis at home and even claimed, with no evidence, that the pandemic originated in a military lab at Fort Detrick, Md., not in Wuhan, where the first cases emerged in late 2019.As more countries turn away from Chinese shots, vaccine aid from the United States offers an opportunity to restore relations in a region that American officials have mostly ignored for years while China extended its influence. The Biden administration has dispatched a crowd of senior officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who is scheduled to arrive on Sunday to visit Singapore and Vietnam. It has also, at last, made its own vaccine pledges to Southeast Asia, emphasizing that the American contribution of roughly 23 million shots as of this week comes with “no strings attached,” an implicit reference to China.Anti-China sentiment runs high in Vietnam, but the country accepted a donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm in June, causing a backlash among citizens who said they did not trust the quality of Chinese shots.Linh Pham/Getty ImagesSeveral countries in the region have been eager to receive the more effective, Western doses. Although they remain far outnumbered by Chinese shots, they present an attractive alternative. China’s “early head-start advantage has lost its magic already,” said Hoang Thi Ha, a researcher with the Asean Studies center of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.For most of the year, many developing countries in Southeast Asia did not have much of a choice when it came to vaccines. They struggled to acquire doses, many of which were being made by richer nations that have been accused of hoarding them.China sought to fill those needs. The country’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, traveled through the region in January, promising to help fight the pandemic. In April, he declared that Southeast Asia was a priority for Beijing. About a third of the 33 million doses that China has distributed free worldwide were sent to the region, according to the figures provided by Bridge Consulting.Much of Beijing’s focus has been directed at the more populous countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and its longstanding allies like Cambodia and Laos.Indonesia was China’s biggest customer in the region, buying 125 million doses from Sinovac. The Philippines obtained 25 million Sinovac shots after the president, Rodrigo Duterte, said he had turned to Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, for help. Cambodia received more than 2.2 million of China’s Sinopharm doses. It has inoculated roughly 41 percent of its population, achieving the second-highest vaccination rate in the region, after Singapore.Then, signs started emerging that the Chinese vaccines were not as effective as hoped. Indonesia found that 10 percent of its health care workers had become infected with Covid-19 as of July, despite being fully vaccinated with the Sinovac shot, according to the Indonesian Hospital Association.In July, a virologist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok said a study of people who had received two doses of the Sinovac vaccine showed that their level of antibodies, 70 percent, was “barely efficacious” against the Alpha variant of the coronavirus, first detected in Britain, or against the Delta variant, first detected in India.The governments in both Indonesia and Thailand decided that they had to make a switch to other vaccines, like those provided by the United States, Britain and Russia.“Now that they have more choices, they can make other decisions,” said Nadège Rolland, senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research in Washington. “I don’t think it’s politically motivated. I think it’s pragmatic.”Yaowares Wasuwat, a noodle seller in Thailand’s Bangsaen Chonburi Province, said that she hoped to get the AstraZeneca vaccine for her second shot after being inoculated with Sinovac, but that she would take whatever was available.“I have nothing to lose,” she said. “The economy is so bad, we are gasping for air. It’s like dying while living, so just take whatever protection we can.”Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. secretary of defense, met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila in July. The United States said it would deliver millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines to the country.Malacanang Presidential Photo/via ReutersChina’s early moves in the region stand in marked contrast with the United States, which was slow to provide assistance..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-16ed7iq{width:100%;display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;-webkit-box-pack:center;-webkit-justify-content:center;-ms-flex-pack:center;justify-content:center;padding:10px 0;background-color:white;}.css-pmm6ed{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-align-items:center;-webkit-box-align:center;-ms-flex-align:center;align-items:center;}.css-pmm6ed > :not(:first-child){margin-left:5px;}.css-5gimkt{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:0.8125rem;font-weight:700;-webkit-letter-spacing:0.03em;-moz-letter-spacing:0.03em;-ms-letter-spacing:0.03em;letter-spacing:0.03em;text-transform:uppercase;color:#333;}.css-5gimkt:after{content:’Collapse’;}.css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;-webkit-transform:rotate(180deg);-ms-transform:rotate(180deg);transform:rotate(180deg);}.css-eb027h{max-height:5000px;-webkit-transition:max-height 0.5s ease;transition:max-height 0.5s ease;}.css-6mllg9{-webkit-transition:all 0.5s ease;transition:all 0.5s ease;position:relative;opacity:0;}.css-6mllg9:before{content:”;background-image:linear-gradient(180deg,transparent,#ffffff);background-image:-webkit-linear-gradient(270deg,rgba(255,255,255,0),#ffffff);height:80px;width:100%;position:absolute;bottom:0px;pointer-events:none;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}The calculus has now changed under President Biden. Both Lloyd J. Austin III, the American secretary of defense, and Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, had meetings with top officials in Southeast Asia in recent weeks. They noted the donations of roughly 20 million shots.After Mr. Austin visited the Philippines, Manila restored a defense agreement that had been stuck in limbo for more than a year after Mr. Duterte threatened to terminate it. The agreement, which would continue to allow American troops and equipment to be moved in and out of the Philippines, could thwart China’s goal to push the American military out of the region.Part of the reason for Mr. Duterte’s turnaround: the delivery of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.Still, some Southeast Asian analysts have misgivings about Washington’s belated vaccine diplomacy.“The fact remains that the U.S. was really slow off the bat,” said Elina Noor, director of political-security affairs at the Asia Society Policy Institute. “And given that rich countries were hoarding vaccines when they became available, I think that sour taste still lingers.”China continues to be seen to be a reliable supplier for the vaccines it has produced. It has delivered 86 percent of the doses that it has promised to sell. And there remain concerns that the American companies have been slow to make deliveries. For those reasons, most Southeast Asian countries have not openly criticized China — and have not abandoned Chinese vaccines.Anti-China sentiment runs high in Vietnam, but the country accepted a donation of 500,000 doses of Sinopharm in June, causing a backlash among citizens who said they did not trust the quality of Chinese shots.“Even right in the middle of this emergency, I have no reason to trade my life or my family’s for a Chinese vaccine,” said Nguyen Hoang Vy, a manager for health care operations at a hospital in the city of Ho Chi Minh.It later emerged that the donated Sinopharm shots were meant for priority groups outlined by Beijing, deepening the cynicism toward China.“There are always some conditions attached,” said Huong Le Thu, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute who specializes in Southeast Asia, referring to China’s vaccine deals.Vietnam continues to battle an outbreak, and vaccines remain in short supply. Despite the earlier public anger, a private Vietnamese company acquired five million doses of Sinopharm for distribution, which local authorities began to administer this month.Muktita Suhartono More

  • in

    Europe’s Pandemic Aid Is Winding Down. Is Now the Best Time?

    Governments want vaccinations and a business rebound to carry the economy now, but cutting aid too quickly could create economic aftershocks.PARIS — After almost 18 months of relying on expensive emergency aid programs to support their economies through the pandemic, governments across Europe are scaling back some of these measures, counting on burgeoning economic growth and the power of vaccines to carry the load from here.But the insurgent spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has thrown a new variable into that calculation, prompting concerns about whether this is the time for scheduled rollbacks in financial assistance.The tension can be seen in France, where the number of virus cases has increased more than 200 percent from the average two weeks ago, prompting President Emmanuel Macron to try to push the French into getting vaccinated by threatening to make it harder to shop, dine or work if they don’t.At the same time, some pandemic aid in France — including generous state funding that prevented mass layoffs by subsidizing wages, and relief for some businesses struggling to pay their bills — is being reduced.A government panel recently urged “the greatest caution” about winding down emergency aid even further at the end of the summer.The eurozone economy has finally exited a double-dip recession, data last week showed, reversing the region’s worst downturn since World War II. European Union governments, which have spent nearly 2 trillion euros in pandemic aid and stimulus, have released nearly all businesses from lockdown restrictions, and the bloc is on target to fully vaccinate 70 percent of adults by autumn to help cement the rebound.But the obstacles to a full recovery in Europe remain large, prompting worries about terminating aid that has been extended repeatedly to limit unemployment and bankruptcies.“Governments have provided very generous support through the pandemic with positive results,” said Bert Colijn, senior eurozone economist at ING. “Cutting the aid short too quickly could create an aftershock that would have negative economic effects after they’ve done so much.”In Britain, the government has halted grants for businesses reopening after Covid-19 lockdowns, and will end a special unemployment benefit top-up by October. At least half of the 19 countries that use the euro have already sharply curtailed pandemic aid, and governments from Spain to Sweden plan to phase out billions of euros’ worth of subsidies more aggressively in autumn and through the end of the year.Germany recently allowed the expiration of a rule excusing firms from declaring bankruptcy if they can’t pay their bills. Debt repayment holidays for companies that took cheap government-backed loans will soon wind down in most eurozone economies.And after repeated extensions, state-backed job retention schemes, which have cost European Union countries over €540 billion, are set to end in September in Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland, and become less generous in neighboring countries in all but the hard-hit tourism and hospitality sectors.Aid programs that helped cushion income losses for 60 million people at the height of the crisis continue to pay for millions of workers on standby. Businesses and the self-employed have access to billions in low-interest loans, state-funded grants and tax holidays.Meanwhile, employees have begun returning to offices, shops and factory floors. Global automakers are working to adapt to supply-chain issues. Small retailers are offering click-and-collect sales, and cafes are providing takeout service.Governments are betting that the growth momentum will be enough to wean their economies off life support.“We can’t use public money to make up for losses in the private sector forever,” said Guntram Wolff, the director of Bruegel, an economic research institution based in Brussels. “That’s why we need to find a strategy for exiting.”Governments are looking to reallocate more spending toward areas of the economy that promise future growth.“It’s crucial to shift spending towards sectors that will outlast the pandemic,” said Denis Ferrand, the director of Rexecode, a French economic research organization. “We need to accelerate a transformation in digitalization, energy and the environment.”But swaths of workers risk losing their jobs when the income support is withdrawn, especially in the hospitality and travel industries, which continue to operate at up to 70 percent below prepandemic levels. The transition is likely to be painful for many.Diners in London last week. The Bank of England expects about a quarter of a million people to lose their jobs when Britain’s furlough program ends next month.Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIn Britain, a furlough program that has saved 12 million jobs since the start of the pandemic today keeps fewer than two million workers on standby support. But after the scheme ends in September, around a quarter of a million people are likely to lose their jobs, the Bank of England has forecast.“A significant fraction of people coming off furlough and not being rehired will find themselves facing very large drops of income,” said Tom Waters, a senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.Small businesses that wouldn’t have made it through the crisis without government assistance are now calculating how to stay on their feet without it..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-w739ur{margin:0 auto 5px;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-w739ur{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-w739ur{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-9s9ecg{margin-bottom:15px;}.css-uf1ume{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-box-pack:justify;-webkit-justify-content:space-between;-ms-flex-pack:justify;justify-content:space-between;}.css-wxi1cx{display:-webkit-box;display:-webkit-flex;display:-ms-flexbox;display:flex;-webkit-flex-direction:column;-ms-flex-direction:column;flex-direction:column;-webkit-align-self:flex-end;-ms-flex-item-align:end;align-self:flex-end;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Fabien Meaudre, who runs an artisanal soap boutique in central Paris, got over €10,000 in grants and a state-backed loan that allowed him to stay afloat during and after the three national lockdowns imposed in France since the pandemic hit.Now that his store is reopened, business is starting to get back to normal. “But there are no tourists, and it’s very calm,” he said.“We are very grateful for the aid we received,” Mr. Meaudre added. “But we know we will have to pay this money back.”Mr. Macron, who promised to steer Europe’s second-largest economy through Covid “no matter the cost,” is leading other countries in trying to push for a tipping point where the lockdowns that required massive government support become less and less necessary.But the Delta variant is upending even the most carefully calibrated efforts to keep economies open.In the Netherlands, where half the population is fully inoculated, the government recently reinstated some Covid restrictions days after lifting them, after Delta cases spiked.Spain and Portugal have been reeling from hotel cancellations as the variant spread in vacation hot spots that desperately need an economic boost. The Greek party island of Mykonos even banned music temporarily to stop large gatherings, sending tourists fleeing and creating fresh misery for businesses counting on a recovery.Moviegoers in France must present a “health pass” to enter the theater, which an industry group says has reduced the number of moviegoers.Rafael Yaghobzadeh/Associated PressAnd in France, trade organizations representing cinemas and sports venues are worried that Mr. Macron’s new requirement that people carry a so-called health pass — proving vaccination, a negative test or a recent Covid recovery — to get into crowded spaces is already killing a budding recovery.Some big movie halls lost up to 90 percent of customers from one day to the next when the health pass requirement went into effect this week, said Marc-Olivier Sebbag, a representative for the National Federation of French Cinemas. “It’s a catastrophe,” he said.Such precariousness helps explain why some officials are wary of letting the support expire entirely, and economists say governments are likely to have to keep spending, albeit at lower levels, well beyond when they had hoped to wind down.Withdrawing aid is “totally justified if there’s a rapid recovery,” Benoît Coeuré, a former European Central Bank governor and head of the French government panel assessing pandemic spending, told journalists last week.“But there is still uncertainty, and if the rebound doesn’t come or if it’s weaker than expected,” he said, “we’ll need to pace the removal of support.”Jack Ewing More

  • in

    Companies Begin to Mandate Covid Vaccines for Employees

    Tyson and Microsoft were the latest to require employees to be vaccinated. Other major employers have tried less sweeping approaches.Some of the nation’s largest employers, for months reluctant to wade into the fraught issue of whether Covid-19 vaccinations should be mandatory for workers, have in recent days been compelled to act as infections have surged again.On Tuesday, Tyson Foods told its 120,000 workers in offices, slaughterhouses and poultry plants across the country that they would need to be vaccinated by Nov. 1 as a “condition of employment.” And Microsoft, which employs roughly 100,000 people in the United States, said it would require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and guests to gain access to its offices.Last week, Google said it would require employees who returned to the company’s offices to be vaccinated, while Disney announced a mandate for all salaried and nonunion hourly workers who work on site.Other companies, including Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, and Lyft and Uber, have taken a less forceful approach, mandating vaccines for white-collar workers but not for millions of frontline workers. Those moves essentially set up a divide between the employees who work in offices and employees who deal directly with the public and, collectively, have been more reluctant to get the shots.“We did not take this decision lightly,” Tyson’s chief executive, Donnie King, wrote in a memo to employees announcing the company’s full mandate. “We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated — today, under half of our team members are.”The moves brought praise from the White House.“I want to thank Walmart, Google, Netflix, Disney, Tyson Foods for their recent actions requiring vaccination for employees,” President Biden said in a press briefing on Tuesday. “Look, I know this isn’t easy — but I will have their backs.”“Others have declined to step up,” he said. “I find it disappointing.”Indeed, most other big employers have so far avoided mandates entirely. Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the country, has not announced any plans to require immunizations, nor has Apple or many of the biggest banks.“We are strongly working to get our employees vaccinated,” Amazon’s chief financial officer, Brian Olsavsky, said in a call with reporters last week, “and we hope everyone else gets vaccinated and this goes away.”Amazon has encouraged employees to get vaccinated but says it has no plans to mandate that they do.Ruth Fremson/The New York TimesThe coronavirus, however, shows no signs of going away. With vaccination rates stagnating in many parts of the country and the Delta variant surging, a new wave of infections is forcing businesses to act.“The rise of the Delta variant is on people’s minds,” said Douglas Brayley, an employment lawyer at Ropes & Gray. “I think they are looking around and seeing a greater number of employers start to mandate, and so they’re wondering whether they should reconsider as well.”But vaccine hesitancy remains an entrenched and emotionally charged issue inside many American workplaces.Many companies, already facing staffing shortages, are worried that requiring vaccines could give employees another reason to quit. At the same time, companies are struggling for new ways to encourage workers to get vaccinated after efforts like offering cash bonuses did not boost immunization rates quickly enough.Much of the remaining hesitancy to vaccines appears to be rooted in a complex mix of politics, cultural beliefs and misinformation that no cash payment or gift certificate from an employer can overcome.“The reason many workers are refusing the vaccine has been for political and ideological reasons,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents workers in food factories in the Midwest, where vaccination rates are relatively low. “In places where we have the largest number of Trump supporters is where we are seeing a large number of vaccine resisters.”But many unions are wary of mandates for a different set of reasons that are not primarily political. They say many of their members are worried about potential health side effects or bristle at the idea of an employer’s interfering in what they regard as a personal health decision.Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing 1.3 million employees in grocery chains such as Kroger and at large meatpacking plants, said he would not support employer mandates until the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the vaccine, which is being administered on an emergency basis.“You can’t just say, ‘Accept the mandate or hit the door,’” Mr. Perrone said in an interview on Monday.After Tyson announced its vaccine mandate on Tuesday, Mr. Perrone issued a statement that the union “will be meeting with Tyson in the coming weeks to discuss this vaccine mandate and to ensure that the rights of these workers are protected and this policy is fairly implemented.”Tyson Foods will give its frontline employees until Nov. 1 to be fully inoculated.John Konstantaras/Associated PressAsked whether he supported vaccine mandates, Mr. Appelbaum said, “I am not prepared to answer that yet.” But he did say that companies needed to closely negotiate the terms of any such requirements with workers and that they also needed to expand benefits, such as paid sick time, for workers during the pandemic.Together, Mr. Perrone’s and Mr. Appelbaum’s unions represent more than 30,000 workers in Tyson plants, which complicates the meat company’s plans for a mandate.Tyson and others in the meatpacking industry were criticized during the pandemic’s early stages for not doing enough to protect workers as several meat plants became virus hot spots. Now, it is requiring its leadership team to be vaccinated by Sept. 24 and the rest of its office workers by Oct. 1. Frontline employees have until Nov. 1 to be fully inoculated, extra time the company is providing because there are “significantly more frontline team members than office workers who still need to be vaccinated,” a Tyson spokesman said.Throughout the pandemic, companies have treaded carefully in carrying out public health measures while trying to avoid harm to their businesses.Last year, when major retailers began requiring customers to wear masks, they quietly told their employees not to enforce the rule if a customer was adamant about not wearing one.Companies like Walmart have tried a similarly tentative approach with vaccine requirements.Walmart announced last week that it was requiring the roughly 17,000 workers in its Arkansas headquarters to be vaccinated but not those in stores and distribution centers, who make up the bulk of its 1.6 million U.S. employees.In a statement, the retailer said the limited mandate would send a message to all workers that they should get vaccinated.“We’re asking our leaders, which already have a higher vaccination rate, to make their example clear,” the company said. “We’re hoping that will influence even more of our frontline associates to become vaccinated.”Workers at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco must be vaccinated, but its drivers do not have to be.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesUber and Lyft told their corporate employees last week that they would need to show proof they had been inoculated before returning to company offices.Requiring vaccinations “is the most effective way to create a safe environment and give our team members peace of mind as we return to the office,” said Ashley Adams, a spokeswoman for Lyft.But those mandates did not extend to the workers the companies contract with to drive millions of customers to and from their destinations. The drivers are being encouraged to be vaccinated, but neither Lyft or Uber has plans to require them.Public health experts warn that limited mandates may reinforce the gaping divide between the nation’s high- and low-wage workers without furthering the public health goal of substantially increasing vaccination rates.They also say it’s naïve to think that workers who resisted vaccines for ideological reasons would suddenly change their mind after seeing a company’s higher-paid executives receive the shots.“Ultimately we want to ensure that they really have the broadest reach,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the vice dean for population health and health equity at the University of California, San Francisco, said of company directives. “Failing to do that, I think, will only cause others to be more suspicious of these types of mandates.”Legally, companies are likely to be on solid ground if they mandate vaccines. Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said employers could require immunization, though companies that do could still face lawsuits.George W. Ingham, a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells, said companies with mandates would potentially have to make difficult decisions.“They are going to have to fire high performers and low performers who refuse vaccines,” he said. “They have to be consistent.” Reasons an employee could be exempted include religious beliefs or a disability, though the process of sorting those out on an individual basis promises to be an arduous one.Companies may also have to contend with pushback from state governments. Ten states have passed legislation limiting the ability to require vaccines for students, employees or the public, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.Disney is among the few big companies pursuing a broad vaccine mandate for their work forces, even in the face of pushback from some employees.Roughly 38,000 workers at Walt Disney World in Florida are unionized. The company’s vaccine mandate does not apply to them.Todd Anderson for The New York TimesIn addition to mandating vaccines for nonunion workers who are on-site, Disney said all new hires — union and nonunion — would be required to be fully vaccinated before starting their jobs. Nonunion hourly workers include theme park guest-relations staff, in-park photographers, executive assistants and some seasonal theme park employees.It was the furthest that Disney could go without a sign-off from the dozen unions that represent the bulk of its employees. Walt Disney World in Florida, for instance, has more than 65,000 workers; roughly 38,000 are union members.Disney is now seeking union approval for the mandate both in Florida and in California, where tens of thousands of workers at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim are unionized. Most of the leaders of Disney’s unions appear to be in favor of a mandate — as long as accommodations can be worked out for those refusing the vaccine for medical, religious or other acceptable reasons.“Vaccinations are safe and effective and the best line of defense to protect workers, frontline or otherwise,” Eric Clinton, the president of UNITE HERE Local 362, which represents roughly 8,000 attraction workers and custodians at Disney World, said in a phone interview.Mr. Clinton declined to comment on any pushback from his membership, but another union leader at Disney World, speaking on the condition of anonymity so he could speak candidly, said “a fair number” of his members were up in arms over Disney-mandated vaccinations, citing personal choice and fear of the vaccine.“The company has probably done a calculation and decided that some people will unfortunately quit rather than protect themselves, and so be it,” the person said.Lananh Nguyen More