That change comes two months after the agency eased its initial testing guidance. In May, the CDC said vaccinated people face very little risk of serious illness and don’t need to be tested in most cases, even if exposed to someone who was sick. The thinking was that vaccinated people also weren’t likely to spread it to others.
But the agency says it’s reversing that guidance because of the more contagious delta variant, which now accounts for most COVID-19 infections.
The COVID-19 vaccines are still very good at protecting people from getting seriously ill, but the CDC says new data shows vaccinated people infected with the delta variant could spread it to others.
Doctors, nurses and other health care workers should consult with their employers, some of whom may require routine testing for their staff. People working in prisons and homeless shelters are also generally subject to stepped-up testing requirements.
U.S. citizens returning from abroad still have to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flights home, regardless of their vaccination status. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should still isolate for 10 days, the CDC says.
For decades, the Darién Gap, a roadless, lawless stretch of jungle linking South America to the north, was considered so dangerous that only a few thousand people a year were daring, or desperate, enough to try to cross it.
But the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic in South America was such that in the first nine months of this year, Panamanian officials say, an estimated 95,000 migrants, most of whom are Haitian, attempted the passage on their way to the United States.
They made the journey in shorts and flip-flops, their possessions stuffed in plastic bags, their babies in arms and their children by the hand. It’s uncertain how many made it — and how many didn’t. And yet tens of thousands more are gathered in Colombia, eager for their turn to try.
The migrants’ willingness to try to breach the notoriously dangerous land bridge connecting Colombia and Panama — long a deterrent to walking north — presents not only a looming humanitarian disaster among those making the trek, experts said, but also a potential immigration challenge for President Joe Biden in the months to come.
The thousands of Haitians who crossed the border into Texas last month, jolting the town of Del Rio and thrusting the Biden administration into a crisis, were just the leading edge of a much larger movement of migrants heading for the jungle and then the United States. People who had fled their troubled Caribbean nation for places as far south as Chile and Brazil began moving north months ago, hoping they would be welcomed by the Biden administration.
“We very well could be on the precipice of a historic displacement of people in the Americas toward the United States,” said Dan Restrepo, the former national security adviser for Latin America under President Barack Obama. “When one of the most impenetrable stretches of jungle in the world is no longer stopping people, it underscores that political borders, however enforced, won’t either.”
The Darién, also known as the Isthmus of Panama, is a narrow swath of land piding the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Parts are so inaccessible that when engineers built the Pan-American Highway in the 1930s, linking Alaska to Argentina, only one section was left unfinished. That piece — 66 roadless miles of turbulent rivers, rugged mountains and venomous snakes — became known as the Darién Gap. Today, the journey through the gap is made more perilous by a criminal group and human traffickers who control the region, often extorting and sometimes sexually assaulting migrants.
Now, Necoclí, a small Colombian tourist town just at the mouth of the passage, has become a staging ground for migrants hoping to cross. Thousands of families bide their time in hostels, or in tents along the beach. Hungry and running out of money, all are waiting for their turn to be ferried by boat to the edge of the forest.
“I’m afraid,” said Ruth Alix, 30, who was traveling with her husband, their daughter, Farline, 3, and their son, Vladensky, 6 months.
The number of migrants who have made the journey so far this year is more than triple the previous annual record set in 2016. At one time, Cubans made up the majority of migrants walking through the gap. Now, nearly all of the migrants are Haitians who settled in South America during better economic times, but who were among the first to lose jobs and homes when the pandemic hit.
Haitians, trying to get to the U.S. border, near Bajo Chiquito, Panama, Sept. 29, 2021, after successfully crossing the Darién Gap, a vast wilderness on the country’s border with Colombia.
As many as 1,000 migrants cross into Panama through Darién every day, said Panama’s foreign minister, Erika Mouynes, an influx that has pushed border infrastructure to the brink. Her government has tried to provide food and medical care to those who survive the jungle passage, she said, but officials cannot keep up with demand.
“We’ve surpassed completely our capacity to support them,” she said, adding that she was “raising the alarm” about the need for a regional response to the crisis.
“There are many more still coming,” she said. “Please listen to us.”
Each group that leaves is quickly replaced by another 1,000 or more migrants, creating a bottleneck that has transformed Necoclí. Sewers overflow in the street. Water has stopped flowing from some taps. Markets now sell kits made for crossing the Darién; they include boots, knives and baby slings.
They know the journey ahead is dangerous, they said. They had heard the stories of drownings and fatal falls.
At least 50 bodies have been found in the Darién this year alone, though estimates of the true number of dead are at least four times as high, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Sexual assault is also a risk: Doctors Without Borders has documented 245 cases in the Darién in the past five months, though the group believes the real number is far higher.
Alix, the mother of Farline and Vladensky, said that her family had fled Haiti for French Guiana, on the northern coast of South America, but found only poverty. Returning to Haiti was not an option, she said. The country is in tatters after a presidential assassination and an earthquake, its economy faltering and its streets haunted by gangs.
The only choice, Alix said, was the road north.
“We take this risk because we have children,” said Vladimy Damier, 29, Alix’s husband.
Many knew that the Biden administration had been deporting back to Haiti those who’d managed to make it into the United States — but they were still willing to try.
Henderson Eclesias, 42, also from Haiti, had been living in Brazil with his wife and 3-year-old daughter when the pandemic hit. In May, he lost his job, he said. By August, he and his family were on their way to the United States.
“I hope they change the way they are acting,” he said of the Americans. “Our lives depend on that.”
In recent years, a growing number of migrants had begun to brave the corridor, a journey that can take a week or more on foot. But after the pandemic, which hit South America particularly hard, that surge has become a flood of desperate families. At least 1 in 5 of those who crossed this year were children, Panamanian officials said.
As the number of migrants arriving at the U.S. border grew, the Biden administration retreated from a more open approach to migration embraced in the president’s first days in office to a tougher stance with a singular goal: deterring people from even attempting to enter the United States.
“If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned,” the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said in September. “Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s lives.”
But the warning is unlikely to turn back the tens of thousands of Haitians who are already on the road.
On a recent day, there were about 20,000 migrants in Necoclí, in Colombia. And there are up to 30,000 Haitian migrants already in Mexico, according to a senior official in the Mexican foreign ministry who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“They’ve already started the journey, they’ve already started to think about the U.S.,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute. “It’s not that easy to turn that off.”
On a recent morning, Alix and Damier woke their children before dawn in the small home they’d been sharing with a dozen other migrants. Their turn had come to board the boat that would take them to the edge of the jungle.
In the darkness, Alix threw her backpack over her shoulders and strapped Vladensky to her chest. In one hand she carried a pot of spaghetti, meant to sustain them while it lasted. Her other hand reached out to her toddler, Farline.
On the beach the family joined a crowd of others. A dockworker handed a large life vest to Alix. She draped it over Farline’s small body and climbed into the boat. Aboard: 47 adults, 13 children, seven infants, all migrants.
“Goodbye!” yelled a man from the boat company. “Have a good trip!”
Government officials are largely absent from the Darién. The area is controlled by a criminal group known as the Clan del Golfo, whose members view migrants much as they view drugs: goods they can tax and control.
Once the migrants step off the boats, they are met by smugglers — typically poor men in the area who offer to take them into the jungle, starting at $250 a person. For an extra $10 they will carry a backpack. For another $30, a child.
Farline and her family spent the night in a tent at the edge of the jungle. In the morning, they set out before sunrise, alongside hundreds of others.
Soon, a vast plain became a towering forest. Farline clambered between trees, following her parents. Vladensky slept on his mother’s chest. Other children cried, the first to show signs of exhaustion.
As the group crossed river after river, tired adults began to abandon their bags. They clambered up and then down a steep, muddy slope, only to stare up at the next one. Faces that were hopeful, even excited, that morning went slack with exhaustion.
A woman in a leopard-print dress fainted. A crowd formed. A man gave her water. Then they all rose, picked up their bags and began to walk.
Today, after all, was just day one in the Darién, and they had a long journey ahead.
Maharashtra‘s move to block General Motors (GM) from shutting a plant and exiting the country defies the state’s business friendly image and sends a “concerning message” to potential future investors, the US automaker has said.
GM’s comments came after authorities in Maharashtra earlier this week rejected the automaker’s application to cease operations at its plant in the western state amid protests by workers who demanded GM continue production or keep them on the payroll indefinitely, according to local media.
The decision runs counter to Maharashtra’s business-friendly reputation, a GM spokesman said in a statement. “It sends a concerning message to any potential future investors who want to bring jobs and investment to the state.”
GM stopped selling cars in India, the world’s second most populous nation, at the end of 2017 after years of low sales. It sold one of its two factories in the country to China’s SAIC Motor Corp and continued to build vehicles for export at its second plant until Dec. 24.
In January 2020, it agreed to sell its second factory in the state’s Talegaon district to Chinese automaker Great Wall Motor Co, but tensions between India and China have delayed completion of that deal.
GM said it planned to seek a reversal of the state’s order as soon as possible.
“Effectively, the state’s decision amounts to a requirement that GM either produce vehicles for which there are no customer orders, or pay workers indefinitely for doing no work. We reject both suggestions,” the spokesman said, adding production would not resume.
GM is offering higher than the statutory severance pay to its roughly 1,500 workers at the plant, amounting to nearly two years of salary and is willing to negotiate further, said a source with knowledge of the matter.
WASHINGTON: Toyota Motor Corp will settle a Justice Department civil probe into its delayed filing of emissions-related defect reports for $180 million, sources briefed on the matter said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan is set to announce the settlement later on Thursday, the sources said, that will include a consent decree. Toyota first disclosed in 2016 it was under investigation for the delayed reports to the Environmental Protection Agency. Toyota and the Justice Department did not immediately comment.
Weeks after declaring stoppage of vehicle production in India, American auto major Ford on Friday announced a leadership change in its operations in the country with Anurag Mehrotra, currently President and Managing Director of Ford India, set to leave the company by the end of the month.
Post announcement of transformation of its business in India, Balasundaram Radhakrishnan (Bala), who is currently Director, Manufacturing, Ford India Pvt Ltd (FIPL) has been appointed to the role of transformation officer of the company, a spokesperson of FIPL said in a statement.
“Bala will oversee and drive the transformation efforts associated with the restructuring,” the spokesperson said adding the company was committed to supporting customers and partners in India.
After nearly three decades of struggling to make a mark in India, Ford Motor Co on September 9 announced that it would stop vehicle production at its two plants in the country and will sell only imported vehicles going ahead as part of a restructuring exercise.
The company, which invested about USD 2.5 billion at its Chennai (Tamil Nadu) and Sanand (Gujarat) plants, has incurred losses of over USD 2 billion in India. Its decision will impact over 4,000 employees and 150 dealer principals who operate over 300 outlets.
Ford India will wind down vehicle assembly in Sanand by the fourth quarter of 2021 and vehicle and engine manufacturing in Chennai by the second quarter of 2022.
It will, however, continue to manufacture engines from its Sanand plant which will be exported to the company’s global operations.
With shutting down of the manufacturing operations, the automaker will stop selling vehicles such as the EcoSport, Figo, Endeavour, Freestyle and Aspire, which are produced from these plants.
The company had said that it would focus on growing its Ford Business Solutions capabilities and team in the country, as well as engineering and engine manufacturing for export.
With more than 11,000 team members currently in India, Ford Business Solutions plans to expand to provide more opportunities for software developers, data scientists, R&D engineers, and finance and accounting professionals, in support of the Ford+ plan to transform and modernise Ford globally, it added.
More than 500 employees at the Sanand Engine plant, which produces engines for export for the best-selling Ranger pickup truck, and about 100 employees supporting parts distribution and customer service, also will continue to support Ford’s business in India, the company had said.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.5% last month after increasing 1.2% in September. Personal income fell 0.7%, reversing a 0.7% gain in September. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending rising 0.4% and income unchanged in October.
AMSTERDAM: Dutch health technology company Philips said on Friday it had agreed to buy U.S. cardiac diagnostics and monitoring firm BioTelemetry in a deal valuing the firm at $2.8 billion.
Philips said it would pay $72 per outstanding BioTelemetry share in cash, in an offer supported by the U.S. company’s board at a 16.5% premium to the stock’s closing price on Thursday.
“The acquisition of BioTelemetry fits perfectly with our strategy to be a leading provider of patient care management solutions for the hospital and the home”, Philips Chief Executive Frans van Houten said.
BioTelemetry, which has around 1,900 employees, primarily focuses on the diagnosis and remote monitoring of heart rhythm disorders, a business that represented 85% of its $439 million sales last year.
Philips said the company was expected to deliver double-digit growth and improve its adjusted earnings before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) margin to more than 20% by 2025. It said the acquisition would have a positive effect on its own sales growth and profit margin from next year.
Once a sprawling conglomerate, Philips has become purely focused on healthcare after spinning off its lighting and consumer electronics pisions in recent years.
Lowe‘s Cos Inc said on Thursday it plans to hire more than 50,000 workers across its U.S. stores in the spring as the retailer races to meet pandemic-fueled demand for home improvement products.
The company also said it would pay frontline workers about $80 million in additional discretionary bonuses, taking its total COVID-19 financial commitment to employees and communities to nearly $1.3 billion.
Demand for home improvement goods has surged since the start of the pandemic as homeowners, with limited options for travel or leisure activities, spend more of their discretionary income on minor remodeling and repair work.
Spring is the busiest time of the year for retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot Inc as people catch up on gardening and other home improvement jobs after frigid winter months.
Lowe’s said it has hired more than 90,000 workers for permanent roles over the past year.
will supply up to half a million extra doses of its experimental antibody-based COVID-19 combination therapy to the United States, in a bright spot for the company after more governments suspended use of its vaccine over safety fears.
The antibody therapy, which has yet to be approved by U.S. regulators, is designed to treat the disease rather than prevent it like the vaccine, which several countries have stopped using while reports of blood clots in some people are investigated.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said on Tuesday the $205 million U.S. extension for 500,000 antibody doses builds on a contract agreed with government agencies in October for initial supplies of 200,000 doses of the antibody cocktail, AZD7442.
The treatment is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies, London-listed AstraZeneca said, adding that the new agreement is contingent on an emergency use approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“The US Government’s support is critical in helping accelerate the development of AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said.
The total value of the deal now stands at $726 million for up to 700,000 doses. AZD7442 is being evaluated in late-stage trials, the company said, adding that it currently does not expect any changes to its 2021 forecasts due to the deal.
While AstraZeneca has undergone a rollercoaster ride with its COVID-19 vaccine, it has been working on developing new treatments and repurposing its existing drugs to prevent and treat coronavirus infections.
Monoclonal antibodies, such as the ones being used in AZD7442, are synthetically manufactured copies of the human body’s natural infection-fighting proteins, and are already being used to treat some types of cancers.
A series of issues have bogged down the drugmaker’s vaccine rollout: including pauses in trials, questions over the most effective dosing, and supply problems. Share gains from optimism around the cheap and easy-to-ship shot have also been decimated.
On Tuesday, the stock was up 1.5% at 7,090 pence in early trading. At its peak in July last year, the company hit 10,120 pence.
A measure of U.S.services industry activity surged to a record high amid robust growth in new orders, in the latest indication of a roaring economy that is being boosted by increased vaccinations and massive fiscal stimulus.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Monday its non-manufacturing activity index rebounded to a reading of 63.7 last month also lifted by warmer weather. That was the highest in the survey’s history and followed 55.3 in February.
A reading above 50 indicates growth in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index rising to 59.0 in March.
The survey added to a raft of reports from manufacturing to consumer confidence and employment in suggesting that the vastly improved public health situation and the White House’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic rescue package were providing a powerful tailwind to the economy.
The ISM reported last week that its measure of national manufacturing activity soared to its highest level in more than 37 years in March. Nonfarm payrolls jumped by 916,000 jobs in March, the most in seven months, the government said on Friday.
The ISM survey’s measure of new orders for the services industry rebounded to an all-time high of 67.2 in March from a nine-month low of 51.9 in February.
But businesses continued to face supply constraints, which are raising costs for them. The survey’s measure of prices paid by services industries jumped to 74 last month, the highest reading since July 2008, from 71.8 in February.
The surge in these price measures have added to concerns of higher inflation this year. But some economists say they are not reliable predictors of future inflation. Price pressures are seen driven by the generous fiscal stimulus and extremely accommodative monetary policy.
The ISM survey’s measure of services industry employment shot up to 57.2 last month, the highest reading since May 2019, from 52.7 in February. That confirmed the sharp acceleration in private services industry employment in March.