In case you missed it, (honestly, how could you?) the Delta variant has wreaked havoc on return-to-office plans, and many have pushed the idea of re-opening out to October or longer just in time for celebrating more creative fun masks for Halloween. It is extremely challenging to make plans very far out into the future. In preparing for re-entry, two pieces of advice offered in a recent post from our CEO, Susan Benevides, are to leverage a short-term planning strategy and be prepared to shift on the fly. Check out that post here: "Short-term planning remains your best bet for reentry strategy." 

Now, let's catch up with locations around the world that might have an impact on you effectively managing your global mobility programs. Just 12 months ago, the APAC region's ability to contain the virus was the envy of many countries as the U.S. and Europe were struggling to handle the virus. Now with the super-transmissible Delta variant and low vaccination rates, the region is experiencing lockdowns and restrictions.

  1. Vietnam: Hanoi has extended restrictions until Aug. 22 due to new clusters of infections. A stay-at-home order and a halting of all non-essential activities will continue because infections have tripled. While numbers are still not high by many standards, fears of low vaccination and crazy transmissibility are prompting strict rules and fuel a desire to stamp out these rises. According to Reuters: "Nationwide, about a third of Vietnam's 63 cities and provinces are under strict coronavirus curbs as the country struggles to get on top of its worst outbreak so far."
  2. Thailand: Cases are soaring in Thailand, setting records for infection volumes. The country is running short on hospital beds and containment measures are tightening and being extended, likely to the end of August. Restrictions include curbs on travel, mall closures and curfews covering 29 provinces classified as “dark red zones.” There have been numerous protests of the government's handling of the virus.
  3. China: China may be dealing with it's biggest challenge yet. Recently it has imposed lockdowns and is testing and tracing aggressively to fight a new outbreak with a larger spread given that it is now in 15 of 31 provinces. China reported on Wednesday the most new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases since January as some cities stepped up restrictions, cut flights and increased testing to get to grips with an outbreak driven mainly by the Delta variant. Some people in Nanjing have been tested four times in the last three weeks. China's response has been quick and strict. Per the New York Times, "In Wuhan, the authorities on Tuesday started testing all 12 million residents after only three cases of the Delta variant were discovered. The cities of Sanmenxia and Zhuhai have also begun mass testing. In Beijing, where there are five infections, train service from 23 cities has been canceled."
  4. Singapore: The good news here is that Singapore is lifting some COVID-19 curbs and restrictions on the entry of foreign workers due to vaccination levels nearing 70%. Many of Singapore's foreign workers have been unable to re-enter the city state due to border restrictions, in place since last year, but the government has resumed entry approvals for vaccinated work visa holders and their dependents with travel history to higher risk countries as of Aug. 10.
  5. Australia: As of Aug. 6, about 60% of Australia is in a hard lockdown. This includes Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Sydney has seen record levels of infections and has extended lockdown restrictions with fears of the Delta variant creating a greater outbreak. According to Reuters, "Australia has also enacted tough border controls requiring residents to apply for exemptions to leave and incoming overseas travellers, capped at around 3,000 a week, must go through a two-week mandatory quarantine." The country tightened the rules further as of Aug. 11 by removing an automatic exemption for citizens and permanent residents living outside of Australia to leave. Now all citizens and permanent residents living outside the country must apply for permission to exit after visiting Australia.
  6. Switzerland: Switzerland and the European Union announced this month that they would recognize each other’s COVID-19 vaccination certificates in a move that will ease travel procedures between Switzerland and EU countries. Now travelers with a Swiss COVID certificate can travel within the EU without undergoing quarantine or testing requirements. According to BAL, three types of COVID certificates are available depending on whether a person has been vaccinated, recovered from the illness, or received a negative test result. The application process varies depending on these three situations. See details here.
  7. France: As of Aug. 9, a "passe sanitaire" (health pass) is now required for dining in cafes and restaurants, attending fairs, trade shows and conferences, and staying at hotels and holiday resorts. Proof of having completed a vaccination program, a negative PCR or antigen test in the last 48 hours, or a COVID-19 recovery certificate less than six months old all qualify as documentation. It applies to all adults and, as of Sept. 30, will also apply to minors age 12 and above. These rules apply until Nov. 15.
  8. United Kingdom: The UK government posted some updates this past week. As of Aug. 8, fully vaccinated "amber" rules now apply to France, which means fully vaccinated French visitors no longer need to quarantine. Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway have been added to the government’s "green" list for travel. India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will also be moved from the red to the amber list. Georgia, Mexico, La Reunion and Mayotte were added to the red list to safeguard domestic vaccine rollout. There are now 36 countries on the UK's green travel list.
  9. Canada: On Aug. 9, Canada reopened to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and travelers from other foreign countries can start to visit beginning Sept. 7. These travelers, whether driving across the border or flying, will still have to take a test within 72 hours of departure and on arrival. A strike by border officials threatened to complicate the reopening, but the dispute was resolved on Aug. 6.
  10. United States: On June 18, the United States was added to the EU's approved list of countries. That allowed American citizens, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to enter, although not all EU countries had the exact same requirements. Now, due to increasing infections in the U.S. (recently reaching a six-month high), discussions are occurring to reconsider the June decision, especially for those not vaccinated. Americans can currently visit 110 countries and territories — here’s the complete list. But for the first time since February, the United States is averaging more than 100,000 new cases a day. In Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana, hospitalizations are roughly equal to their previous peak from last summer. For inbound travel, the U.S. will keep existing COVID-19 travel bans in place due to the Delta variant. Additional talent challenges on the green card front create the risk of nearly 100,000 applications expiring due to a backlog.

We have written about vaccine mandates and many are seeing an increasing number of them coming for government workers and healthcare professionals. Even some private companies (Delta Airlines, Equinox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Saks, Tyson, Walgreens, Walmart and Walt Disney Co., to name a few notable ones) are starting to require vaccines for staff to return to the office. Dr. Fauci believes that an FDA approval of vaccines (hopefully in the month of August) will boost vaccination rates and move more companies towards a vaccine mandate. Would an FDA approval make you more comfortable with getting the vaccination? Would an FDA approval support a mandate for those employees participating in global mobility programs to get vaccinated?