Covid-19's Delta and Lambda variants continue to challenge us to adapt, create new solutions, and at times dig down for patience and resolve. I keep reading articles that speak to how the "next normal" is prompting new ideas, new expectations, and new ways of working. While there are currently so many uncertainties about transitioning back into the office and about what the future workplace looks like, an increasing number of companies are hiring fast and furious and relocating both existing employees and new hires. The "Great Resignation" or "Great Reset" seems to be leading to relocation activity dramatically picking up domestically in the U.S. and a few other locations that have been able to take advantage of vaccinating larger portions of their population, however many places continue to struggle due to surges and corresponding restrictions. Mobility teams need to remain aware of how Covid-19 infections are impacting talent mobility and in this post we offer some recent updates in case you missed it:

  1. United Kingdom: Here comes Freedom Day?! While the UK works to move past the loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 tournament, Covid restrictions are set to ease on July 19 despite recent surges in infections. One rule however, of needing to isolate if infected for 10 days after testing positive, will remain in effect.  Some things are still being suggested to remain in place, For example, the public will still be “expected” to wear masks and urged to work from home after July 19. On another positive note, fully-vaccinated Brits will be able to travel to amber list countries without the need to quarantine or take a test on day eight of their return and because of this about a quarter of travelers (23%) booked an overseas holiday this summer. 
  2. Japan: State of emergency declared due to a spike in Covid-19 cases and Olympic organizers have barred nearly all spectators from events. The state of emergency will last throughout the Olympics and it's the fourth time that Tokyo has been put under a state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic. Quasi-emergency measures under the special measures law remain in effect until at least Aug. 22 for prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka and Saitama. On Monday, July 12, Japan announced plans to issue vaccine passports starting July 26 to allow people inoculated against COVID-19 to travel internationally and it will be free of charge.
  3. Australia: Sydney is under a stay-at-home lockdown until July 17 and authorities are threatening it could very likely be extended. The variant has forced officials to move faster and harder with restrictions than before. There is a reduced quota for international arrivals that will last through the end of the year and possibly longer depending on vaccination success.
  4. South-East Asia: Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam: Per The Economist, "South-East Asia is swimming in covid-19. For much of last year, it had far fewer cases than Europe and North America. But low rates of vaccination, limited testing, and the arrival of new, more transmissible variants means Covid is surging throughout the region. Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are breaking their own records for daily cases every day. Malaysia has the highest caseload in the region relative to its population." Indonesia is imposing emergency restrictions on islands beyond Java and Bali, the epicenter of its current coronavirus wave. Indonesia has reported more than 30,000 infections on a daily basis since July 6 and set a new record of infections for one day on July 13. It has also reported the highest COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia. Japan is donating 1 million doses of vaccine to Indonesia, along with another million to Taiwan and Vietnam.
  5. Africa: The continent is coming off its worst week of the pandemic with increased infections and ongoing lack of vaccinations and many fear the worst is yet to come with a fast-moving third wave. According to The Washington Post, some of the most severe outbreaks are unfolding in countries in southern and eastern Africa, including Namibia, Uganda and Zambia. South Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit nation, recently reported the highest numbers of new infections and deaths, registering a 46 percent increase in fatalities from the virus in the week to July 4. 
  6. France: A record number of French people are booking appointments to be vaccinated as the country rolls out a slew of new restrictions on people that are not vaccinated next month. A “health pass” will also be needed to attend a festival, a theatre show or a cinema screening as part of the government’s strategy to tackle the surging number of new cases linked to the Delta variant. The country is going to start charging for Covid testing in September, which should also motivate vaccinations. Transferees arriving from “green list” countries such as the United States and the European Union that have been fully vaccinated are not subject to any health checks but children of 12 years and older must present a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours before travel. A full list of countries on the “green”, “orange” and "red" lists can be found here.
  7. United States: Infection rates are surging in 45 states and younger people seem to be getting infected, but certainly the most impacted group are those that are not vaccinated. In 34 states, new cases this past week are at least 50% higher than new cases the previous week. One fact I was startled by was that more than 99% of all Covid-19 deaths in June were among unvaccinated people. More than half of the counties in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana have low vaccination rates and had elevated levels of Covid cases. Maybe the most impacted state would be Missouri where a federal surge team was deployed to help stop the spread.

While mandates related to Covid-19 vaccines continue to be debated, more companies are moving ahead or considering moving forward with requiring employees to get vaccinated. Many hospitals, healthcare workers, and senior care facilities (per Bloomberg) have moved to mandates, with many more likely to follow suit. With the delta variant on the rise and concern that cold weather will bring more outbreaks, former New York City associate health commissioner Mark Barnes expects vaccine mandates to spread among office and production workers as well. They are already common at universities. “We’re going to see more vaccine mandates by large organizations of all kinds as the months go by,” he said.

As for what mobility programs should do, we surveyed asking should employees being supported with global mobility benefits that are relocating or going on assignment be required to get a Covid-19 vaccination and the response was:

  • 46% - No, it should not be required, it should be a personal choice
  • 15% - It should be encouraged, but not be required
  • 38% - Yes, it should be mandatory

Comments ranged from:

"No it should not be required, it should be a personal choice - If people are concerned, they can and should vaccinate themselves, and then it shouldn't matter what other people decide to do."

To:

"Yes, it should be mandatory - We need to do our due diligence to help eradicate this virus. Small pox doesn’t exist because those either were vaccinated or died."

Lastly, one CNN medical expert leaves us with this though:

"Get vaccinated, or actually follow through on safety precautions like masking and social distancing."