As pandemic restrictions ease further in the U.S. and many Americans feel its end is close, COVID-19 continues to infect and kill people all over the world, and is actually peaking in some locations. You can explore the hottest spots on this New York Times map of the global outbreak. However, if vaccination levels across the world continue to rise, we may start to witness the transition of this still lingering pandemic disease to an endemic disease. Let's take a quick scan around the world to keep your mobility program updated on what is happening and where.
- Argentina: While the highest daily average of infection hit on May 22, Argentina is still combatting heavy infection rates and deaths as it continues to be mired in the worst surge to date. The New York Times reported that last week, President Alberto Fernández called this Argentina’s “worst moment in the pandemic” and announced stringent lockdown measures. The lockdown included a suspension of all non-essential, in-person activities – from church services to schooling to social gatherings – and a curfew lasting from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Buenos Aires has been one of the hardest hit locations. This second wave has caused the Copa America soccer tournament (which starts June 13) to move to Brazil.
- Paraguay: Having spent the last two months in strict lockdown, as of Sunday, May 30, Paraguay had the highest per capita death rate over the previous seven days and hit peak infections on May 26. According to BBC news, a steady rise in cases in recent weeks has brought the country's health system to the brink of collapse. Additionally, the rollout of vaccines has been slow and there is fierce criticism and protesting against the government with claims of widespread corruption. In response, the president fired the health minister and previously blamed Brazil for failing to contain the virus.
- Colombia: This hot spot has had the average number of new infections reported continue to increase for seven straight days as of May 30 and infections have reached a new peak. The country has had protests and a hospital collapse, and is dealing with the worst stretch yet of infections during this third wave. The protests were said to have made quarantine restrictions almost unenforceable and have led to the increased surge. At the same time, after 14 months, Colombia and Venezuela announced a gradual opening of land and river crossings.
- Peru: Per Reuters, Peru now has the world's highest COVID-19 death rate per capita (500 deaths per 100,000 people) as it revised its reporting numbers for its official tally. The number of reported deaths tripled in the process. Peru will be one of many countries forced to re-evaluate the true impact of the pandemic. The virus is spreading faster in South America than on any other continent, according to official data, with five nations among the top 10 globally for new cases reported per person.
- Malaysia: Announced last Friday, a nationwide lockdown is in effect through June 14 as a result of the country setting new daily records for the number of infections. According to The Straights Times, the full movement control order (FMCO) was imposed to flatten the infection curve after record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases last week. The lockdown will restrict the movement of people and shut down most businesses. According to the government, mortuaries are overflowing and the scene is apocalyptic. Malaysia is being impacted by highly contagious variants that have been detected in India and South Africa. According to Bloomberg, the health ministry “has warned of possible situations where doctors will have to make difficult choices to prioritize ICU beds for patients with higher recovery potential than those with lower recovery potential.”
- Vietnam: Since late April and into May, Vietnam has been reporting sharp increases in infection rates. As of May 31, Ho Chi Minh City has social distancing protocols in place for the next two weeks and has closed shops, restaurants and religious activities. Public gatherings of more than 10 people is also now banned. Authorities are concerned that a very dangerous and highly infectious new variant is on the loose. Officials now plan to test as many as 100,000 people each day, focusing on groups considered to be high risk.
- Japan: The country continues to deploy emergency measures in Tokyo and other regions in an attempt to minimize the latest wave of infections that has people worried with less than two months to go before the Olympics. The Japanese government said Tuesday it will impose a six-day quarantine period on travelers who have recently been to Vietnam and Malaysia as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the highly-contagious Indian coronavirus variant. Japan is also pushing forward on vaccination efforts and will start giving shots at workplaces and universities as of June 21. On Wednesday, June 2, the European Union governments agreed to include Japan on the select list of countries from where non-essential travel can originate.
- Singapore: There is good news in Singapore as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong continues to see cases falling and is calling for an easing of restrictions after June 13, assuming no further outbreaks or super spreaders emerge. He also announced new self-administered test kits will be available at pharmacies soon. This is part of a strategy there to test faster and more frequently to quickly detect and then isolate infections. The plan also includes beginning to vaccinate students, which just started on June 1.
- European Union: After two months of prep work and running a trial period, seven European countries have begun issuing digital COVID-19 certificates for travel. Known as the digital green certificate (aka EU Digital COVID Certificate), the program is now in place and working in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland. As reported by TechCrunch, the idea behind the digital certificate is to offer a single system for securely verifying EU citizens’ COVID-19 status — whether someone is vaccinated, or if they've received a recent negative test or proof of recovery from the virus — as they cross borders within the bloc to help facilitate safer travel. The European Commission, the bloc’s administrative branch, said the system would be used in all 27 EU countries as of July 1. See more on this from our friends at EIG Law.
Lastly, the World Health Organization (WHO) shared it will be moving forward with using Greek letters rather than the current process of naming variants after the location that the variant originated from, as this has been seen as "stigmatizing and discriminatory." The new labels (i.e. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.) will help make them simple and easy to say and remember. Here is the list and details related to the "variants of concern" and "variants of interest."
BUENOS AIRES — South America’s largest soccer tournament is scheduled to start in just over two weeks, but with one of the planned host countries, Colombia, removed because of ongoing political protests, and the remaining host, Argentina, mired in its worst coronavirus surge to date, it is unclear where the competition will take place. As vaccinations mount in wealthy countries and their populations envision a return to normalcy, in much of South America the pandemic continues to exact a brutal toll — and now, with the commotion over the location of the most storied soccer championship in the region, it may stand between the region’s soccer-mad population and one of its most reliable sources of joy.