According to CNN, America's daily COVID-19 cases and deaths are now about one fifth of what they were during their winter peaks. As much of the United States seems to be moving in the right direction where things are getting better — or just not worse — other locations are continuing to struggle. Oregon and Michigan have been reporting surges where new contagious variants are at play, and of course India and much of South America continue to see horrendous outbreaks. At the same time, vaccinations have slowed and there is some concern that variants will find the opportunity to mutate. Some look at what is happening in Minnesota and Pennsylvania as examples where there are relatively high vaccination numbers but infections are rising. Let's take a quick look at what is happening around the world and let you consider how it might impact your global mobility programs:
- India: As of May 4, there is a travel ban in effect restricting travelers from India. The ban does not have an expiration date and does not apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents and their spouses. Individuals who are exempt from the travel ban would still need to meet other U.S. requirements for international travelers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently requires that all U.S.-bound air travelers have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before arrival, regardless of vaccination status. Travelers are then required to take another test three to five days following their arrival in the U.S. and to self-quarantine. Other countries that have done similar include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. (Mint) Even eight lions have tested positive at a zoo in Hyderabad. For more info on restrictions and lockdowns, try this from CNN. (CNN)
- South America: As reported by The Guardian this past week, South America, home to 5.5% of the world’s population, suffered nearly 32% of all reported COVID-19 deaths. In particular, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia registered their highest daily death tolls yet that many associate to the P1 variant and a lack of political leadership and stability. Peru is about to elect their fourth president since the pandemic started! All of these countries are set at a Level 4 Travel Advisory by the U.S. with caution not to travel (The Guardian). We have also been advised by our supplier partners in Colombia that due to civil unrest and protests, access to major cities throughout the country has been blocked. Protesters opposed to tax reform have taken to the streets beginning April 28; however, the situation has escalated, and it has become dangerous for our supplier partners to work safely. (Arpin)
- Hong Kong: Besides recently announcing a quarantine-free "travel bubble" with Singapore that starts May 26, according to this article in Time Magazine, "Bars and nightclubs across Hong Kong were allowed to resume business on April 29 as part of new rules that relaxed pandemic restrictions across the city. Among the regulations is a 'vaccine bubble' — in which food and beverage establishments are allowed to host large groups and stay open until 2 a.m. for the first time in months, as long as all staff and customers can provide proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and use the government’s contact-tracing app." (Time) Also, effective May 7, Ireland and the UK have been categorized in Group A2 (very high-risk), so Hong Kong residents may board flights to Hong Kong from Ireland and the United Kingdom, but must present negative test results within 72 hours of the flight and present confirmation of reservation at a quarantine hotel for 21 days.
- United States: While some states are banning vaccine passports, last month New York rolled out its version of a vaccine passport, becoming the first state to do so; its Excelsior Pass app can be used for access to places like Madison Square Garden. Here is a list (as of April 22) of 14 states that have either pledged to support vaccine passports or have expressed their opposition. Then, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are scheduled on May 19 to allow businesses to reopen completely. This means that restaurants, offices, retail stores, theaters, museums, barber shops, amusement parks, and gyms and fitness centers will all be allowed to operate at full capacity for the first time since restrictions were adopted last year. (Washington Post, New York Times)
- Canada: According to CERC, Canada recently announced significant changes to Canada’s immigration programs, that will take effect May 6, 2021 and will run until November 5, 2021. Under a new temporary accelerated pathway, Canada will grant permanent residence status to over 90,000 essential services workers and international graduate students. CERC and Fragomen will be hosting a webinar for all the details.
- European Union: The EU has recommended to member countries that travelers who have been fully vaccinated be allowed to visit. Under the new proposal, visitors would be able to enter the European Union if they received the last recommended dose of an authorized vaccine at least 14 days before arrival. (New York Times)
- Germany: According to EuroNews, officials in Bavaria have cancelled Oktoberfest for the second straight year out of concern over bringing visitors from around the world there in the midst of a global pandemic. It usually attracts nearly 6 million visitors and was scheduled from Sept. 18 through Oct. 3. Germany is still currently in the middle of a lockdown where there is a ban on large gatherings and curfews in place. As Germany struggles with this third wave, it is expected to keep the lockdown throughout May and into June. (EuroNews)
Let's end with some good news. There is a new Global Task Force on Pandemic Response just announced that is working to provide India with:
- 1,000 Medtronic ventilators as soon as possible
- 25,000 oxygen concentrators to be delivered before the end of May
- a network of human resource leaders who can provide guidance and support to employees in India
This is a public-private partnership that has launched as a unified platform to support businesses assisting in the effort to fight COVID-19 where there is the highest need around the world. Per their website, "The Global Task Force will also serve as an ongoing point of contact between the business community and U.S. government in coordinating emergency pandemic assistance overseas."
The White House, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced Friday that it would begin restricting travel from India to the United States next week, a major new test of the Biden administration’s pandemic response. The decision was one of the most significant steps yet taken by the White House in response to the crush of new infections in India, where over 3,000 people are dying each day as citizens gasp for air on the streets. The country recorded almost 400,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday alone.