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U.S. Supreme Court blocks federal vaccine mandate for large businesses

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he U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Joe Biden administration’s rule requiring employees at large U.S. businesses to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to frequent testing, but it allowed the administration’s vaccine mandate for health care workers receiving funds from the federal government to go ahead.

The high court ruled 6-3 to block the vaccine-or-test mandate for private employers, with its conservative majority basing their ruling on the argument that the White House has overstepped its authority by imposing the rule devised by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on businesses with 100 or more employees, since Congress has not given OSHA the power to enact such a rule. The mandate would have affected more than 80 million people.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” read the unsigned majority opinion.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” it said.

The court’s three liberal justices dissented from the ruling. “When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions,” they wrote in the dissenting opinion.

“Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”

Biden, in a statement issued in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, called on states and businesses step up “and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”

“The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” he said.

Biden announced the rules in September as a way to combat the pandemic resurgence, only to see his measures meet with strong opposition from — and a slew of lawsuits filed by – Republican-led states. Some business groups, meanwhile, argued that the expansive requirements would cause employees to leave their jobs at a time when businesses are already suffering labor shortages.

Separately, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to let the administration’s vaccine mandate for most health care workers take effect. That mandate will apply to over 17 million health care workers across around 76,000 facilities that participate in the federally-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The court argued that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra had the authority to enact the vaccine requirement because he’s empowered to enact rules “in the interest of the health and safety,” and that the mandate was not “arbitrary and capricious.”

Vaccine requirements, the justices said in an unsigned opinion, are “common” for health care workers, noting this is “perhaps why health care workers and public health organizations overwhelmingly support the Secretary’s rule.”

“The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have,” the justices wrote, adding “the latter principle governs” the health care cases.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the ruling, along with three other conservative justices who concurred with him.

The private employer mandate took effect on Jan. 4 and started being enforced on Jan. 10 – with the testing requirements not enforced until Feb. 9. Federal health officials have said health care workers will be required to receive a first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine dose by Jan. 27 and be fully compliant with the policy by Feb. 28.

 

Source: Xinhua News Agency.

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England lifts COVID-19 pandemic restriction-Omicron marks end of the pandemic.

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England has lifted its restrictions implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at a press conference at Downing Street, Health Secretary Sajid Javad stated that the England will be lifting the restrictions implemented in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but the legal requirement to self-isolate if tested positive for the virus will continue.

While Health Secretary Sajid Javad stated that it was a major milestone, he also stated that “It’s not the end of the road and we shouldn’t see this as the finish line because we cannot eradicate this virus and its future variants. Instead we must learn to live with Covid in the same way we have to live with flu”.

This has also meant that the work-from-home guidance would be ending with the majority of the nation’s workforce reverting to pre-pandemic work schedules. Additionally, students will also be no longer required to wear masks at schools.

Moreover, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also confirmed that the Government plans to end the legal requirement for positive cases to isolate by late March, but may move the date forward.

The U.S. has also hinted that the pandemic may be heading towards an end. Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci has stated that the Omicron variant may mark the end of the pandemic.

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New Japanese Ambassador Takeuchi Midori presents her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

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The new Japanese ambassador to the Maldives, Takeuchi Midori has presented her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Ambassador Takeuchi Midori presented her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at a special ceremony held earlier today at the President’s Office.

Speaking at the ceremony President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih noted on the Ambassador Takeuchi Midori’s predecessor Keiko Yanai’s work in enhancing bilateral relations between the two nations. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih expressed hope in continuing to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations under Ambassador Takeuchi Midori tenure.

Ambassador Takeuchi Midori also spoke at the ceremony, noting that this year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Maldives and Japan. She expressed hope that the two nations would work together on regional and global issues.

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China’s homemade C919 passenger plane to be delivered this year

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China’s self-developed C919 large passenger aircraft will be delivered within this year, The Paper reported on Wednesday, citing its developer.

Wu Yongliang, deputy general manager of the Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), said the pandemic’s impact on the C919 project has been controllable, and the work is progressing in an orderly manner.

American aerospace manufacturer Boeing and France-based Airbus have long been the so-called duopoly in the commercial airline market worth trillions of U.S. dollars.

The C919, as part of China’s goal to develop homemade civil airplanes, is trying to rival with medium-range aircraft from the two global giants, such as Airbus’s A320 and Boeing’s 737 MAX.

C919 has 158 to 168 seats, a standard range of 4,075 kilometers and a maximum range of 5,555 kilometers. It had its successful maiden flight in 2017.

China Eastern Airlines, one of the country’s largest airlines also headquartered in Shanghai, signed a contract to buy five C919 jetliners from COMAC in March 2021.

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