COVID-19 infection rates across the EU have been rising over the past five weeks, which is why the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warns that transmission of COVID-19 is still widespread in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA). Eighteen countries in the EU/EEA had reported increasing case notification rates and/or test positivity. Case rates in older age groups had increased in six countries, 13 countries reported increasing hospital or ICU admissions and/or occupancy due to COVID-19 and 12 countries reported increasing death rates. The latest full surveillance report explains the trends and latest changes across the region. Hospital and/or ICU occupancy and/or new admissions due to COVID-19 were high or had increased compared with the previous week in 26 countries, while mortality rates increased in 11 countries.
On April 1, the World Health Organization criticized the EU's vaccine rollout, calling it "unacceptably slow" in part due to drug companies under-delivering on scheduled shipments. The region has vaccinated only 10% of its population with one shot in a two-dose regimen, and this has many concerned given the spike or surge occurring. As of April 2, there were 27 countries in Europe in a partial or full nationwide lockdown, with 21 imposing nighttime curfews.
In case you missed it, here are some of the latest locational considerations that global mobility programs should be aware of:
- Portugal: Euronews reports that Portugal tightened border restrictions with other EU member states as they battle a third wave. Inbounds coming from EU countries where the incidence rate is over 500 cases per 100,000 population can only enter for essential business and must quarantine for 14 days. Currently, this covers 11 EU country members: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cypress, Slovenia, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland and Sweden. All passengers (land or air) must present a negative PCR test carried out within the 72 hours prior to arrival or must take one upon arrival at the airport and at their own expense. Flights from Brazil and the UK are still suspended, except for repatriation flights. (EuroNews)
- Italy: Erickson Immigration reports that the Health Ministry has announced a mandatory five-day quarantine for anyone arriving or returning from trips to other European Union countries. Travel restrictions also include taking a COVID-19 test before departure and when the quarantine period ends. (EIG)
- Canada: Mike Deane from All Points shared their latest Relo-lert on the continued mess that is the Canadian government's quarantine hotel program. Things have improved, but more improvements are necessary. While Canada may have fared better than the U.S. to this point, it is still reporting over 4,000 cases per day. Ontario has seen a jump in ICU admissions that forced the province to issue an “emergency brake” shutdown beginning over Easter weekend. Here’s generally what you can and can’t do under Ontario’s “emergency brake” shutdown level of restrictions. (Ontario.ca)
- Chile: Chile is postponing its elections for five weeks due to a surge in cases. BAL reported in a recent update that Chile will close its borders for 30 days effective April 5 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The closure will apply to non-resident foreign nationals traveling to Chile. Chilean and foreign nationals will be prohibited from leaving the country during the 30-day period, with narrow exceptions. (BAL) For greater context, read this Reuters article.
- Panama: Also reported by BAL, new travel requirements are in effect which require proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen swab test within 48 hours before arriving in Panama. Anyone traveling from South America must take an additional swab test at their own expense at the airport upon arrival in Panama. Those who test negative must complete a five-day quarantine at home or at a quarantine hotel. On the fifth day, these travelers must take another swab test. If the results are negative, the quarantine ends. If testing positive, the traveler must complete a 14 day quarantine at specific quarantine hotels. (BAL)
- Spain: Per GardaWorld, authorities in Spain have extended the nation's ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the EU and Schengen Area until at least April 30. Under this directive, most international travelers arriving from outside the EEA — except for those from Australia, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Thailand — remain prohibited from entering Spain. Exceptions are in place for EEA nationals or residents, healthcare workers and freight transport workers, as well as other essential workers, students and those traveling for urgent family reasons. This measure was previously slated to expire March 31. (GardaWorld)
- The Philippines: A recent spike in infections (15,310 new cases on April 2) has prompted the Philippines to add nighttime curfews (6 p.m. to 5 a.m.). Heading into Easter, religious gatherings were banned. (Aljazeera)
- India: The country has been breaking daily case records each day having just added 115,736 new coronavirus infections, eclipsing the previous peak of 103,558 just two days earlier. Bloomberg reports that experts attribute the resurgence in infections to residents flouting health and safety rules after a re-opening was permitted, while some officials inconclusively blame a new infectious strain of the coronavirus. PMR shares the various state government restrictions, curfews and lockdowns across India. Maharashtra has implemented strict rules impacting key cities of Mumbai and Pune. (PMR)
As we all consider the near future, it might be worth reading this article from Fast Company: "See How COVID's UK Variant Took Over The World." As of February, 96% of COVID-19 cases in England were the B.1.1.7 variant, and it had spread to 59 countries around the world. It reminds us that we still have a ways to go and that the vaccines are critical to moving beyond this situation. This article from The Guardian helps to explain the importance of the global race against the "variants of concern."
Due to recent surges in COVID-19 case numbers, many EU countries have implemented new quarantine and testing requirements for entry from fellow EU member states as well as non-EU countries. Given recent vaccination efforts, the EU Commission has recently proposed the implementation of a “Green Certificate” to facilitate travel within the EU. The certificate would serve as evidence that a traveler has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19. Green Certificates would be available in both digital or paper formats, and the Commission proposes them as a temporary measure to ease travel and trade within the EU.