Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

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Fierce debate over the enforcement of vaccination and lock-in rules – past and present – intensified this week. And we’m not just talking about the world’s number one male tennis player. . . or the British Prime Minister .

There is also a mixed bag of data on the economic impact of the latest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite deep uncertainty about the predicted path of the Omicron variant in several geographical areas in the coming weeks, some countries have indicated a relaxation of restrictions – which implies a degree of confidence that the worst may be over in the short term.

France has provided a return to Covid allies cordial agreement since it chose to lift most of it restrictions on vaccinated travelers of the UK, paving the way for tourists to return from today.

England agreed with the US in the decision to cut the minimum period of self-isolation for Covid up to five days, after pressure from business groups over the effect of staff absences.

Meanwhile, the devastated British governments in Scotland and Wales, which imposed stricter local rules than England, such as restricting opportunities and socializing in response to Omicron, announced policy relaxations that would resume large-scale attendance at sporting events despite continued high volumes of infection .

Other controversies are looming, regardless of the pace of any easing of temporary restrictions designed to keep Omicron transfer at manageable levels.

As many countries rush to increase the deployment of vaccines to prevent their health systems from being temporarily overwhelmed, long-term efforts to impose mandatory vaccinations on large sections of workers and consumers continue to be challenged.

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate to target large companies impose “vaccine or test” mandate on their employees, although it maintained a separate rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

In Germany, despite outspoken opposition from some resorts to recently tightened restrictions and vaccination requirements, policymakers are taking a cautious approach. The country today reported a new record high in daily Covid-19 infections, with its health minister, Karl Lauterbach, warning that it is too early to consider lifting restrictions.

Similarly, Hong Kong has indicated that it has “no definite timeline” for lifting restrictions at international borders this year, according to a top official. This position persists despite the heavy toll that the city’s zero-Covid policy has taken on as a transportation and financial hub, as Primrose Riordan and Chan Ho-him explain.

Latest news

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Must know: the economy

It’s time for some people to tighten their belts: the downturn in monetary policy in the pandemic era has pushed global levels of negative yield debt down to $ 10tn for the first time since April 2020, writes Kate Duguid and Tommy Stubbington.

They explain that government bond prices around the world have been falling since the beginning of this year, as investors continue to position themselves for central banks to deliver round interest rate hikes and end large-scale asset purchases in an effort to curb rising inflation.

Line chart of market value ($ tn) showing negative return shrinking debt

Bond yields, which rise as prices fall, have jumped to their highest level since before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in many markets.

Is this a sign of a return – eventually – to some sort of norm in bond markets – whatever the new normal is?

Latest for UK / Europe

The British economy above its pre-pandemic level for the first time in November, supported by rising momentum in all industries before the Omicron coronavirus variant hit the country.

Line chart of GDP index (Feb. 2020 = 100) showing that the British economy grew above its pre-pandemic level in November

It was less good news for the German economy, which grew by 2.7 per cent last year but remained well below pre-pandemic levels after growth in the fourth quarter slowed sharply due to the coronavirus crisis and supply chain bottlenecks.

House prices in the eurozone fell at the fastest rate on record in the third term. Health warning, so to speak: the data do not reflect any of the effects of the return to lock-in restrictions in many European areas since December.

Line chart (index, 2015 = 100) showing that house prices in the eurozone and the EU rose during the pandemic

Worldwide latest

Japanese wholesale prices jumped 8.5 percent in Decembercompared to the year before, after November’s rise of 9.2 percent – the highest in 41 years. The pressure of rising energy prices due to the global economic recovery of Covid-19 has lifted the prices of everything from electricity to steel to food.

The Bank of Korea today increased its benchmark interest rate e to its pre-pandemic level to curb rising inflation and household debt. The decision echoes moves by other central banks – like the US – to roll back emergency stimulus measures amid rising consumer prices.

Must know: business

Rapidly rising wages caused by a war for talented staff gave rise to unexpected boom for UK recruiters commissioned to find workers for companies across the UK.

Line chart of volumes of online job advertisements (Feb. 2020 = 100) showing that jobs in the UK increased sharply during the pandemic

In the US, Delta Air Lines announced yesterday that it will share profits with staff for the first time since the start of the pandemic after a sharp recovery in profits in the second half of last year.

Science finishing

A new early warning system is able to predicts the coronavirus variants with the highest riskmerely from their genetic code, which alerts health authorities and vaccine developers to the potential risks months before they spread, according to a study.

The breakthrough system uses an artificial intelligence-based program, developed by BioNTech, the German biotechnology group behind the leading Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, and North African AI start-up InstaDeep.

Bar graph showing how AI tool will help detect the worrying coronavirus variants

Tim Harford, the FT’s secret economist, analyzes what causes three different reactions to the Omicron variant and how it affects our behavior: optimism, pessimism and fatalism.

The real toll of the antivax movement : FT columnist Simon Kuper explains that anti-vaxxers, by rejecting modern medicine, recreated previous eras “when humans died like flies”.

Back to the future: Paul Kreitman argues why 19th century quarantine protocols were fairer and better coordinated as those in place today – and details why sanitary cord travel bubbles could provide a model for future Covid-19 travel rules.

Covid cases and vaccinations

Get the latest global picture with us vaccine tracker

And finally. . .

Is old age the last acceptable prejudice?FT Contributing Editor Lucy Kellaway, co-founder of the charity Learn nowfor older workers who want to start a second career in the classroom, ask others to call it quits.

Man working at a keyboard in a warehouse

Discrimination often goes under the radar, with workers fearing that reporting will affect their careers © Getty

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