You have probably noticed that every two weeks, we throw you one of these "ICYMI..." posts where we scan the world to find the latest on how the pandemic is impacting global mobility programs. 

Am I getting bored of these? Well, no, not really bored, but I would much prefer to be able to share more positives than negatives! And there have been some relatively positive tidbits the last couple of weeks from improved vaccination rates in many countries, to FDA approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, to Dr. Anthony Fauci saying if most eligible people get vaccinated, the U.S. could have control of COVID-19 by this coming spring. Additional FDA approvals for Moderna and J&J may also be just around the corner as are approved treatments for those who do get ill (think antibody cocktails). At the same time, more people have been hospitalized (100,000 as of Aug 29) in the U.S., the highest number since January. It has gotten to the point where the EU has recommended travel restrictions for unvaccinated U.S. visitors.

Are you getting bored of these? Well, no matter how you answered, here's hoping you find some value or something of interest somewhere in these bi-weekly updates. There's so much happening as you look around, so here's a few things for your consideration:

  1. United States: Big country, crazy surges. Florida, particularly the northeast portion of the state where Jacksonville is being referred to as "the hot zone," is seeing infections and hospitalizations above any point during this pandemic. As one doctor there stated: “The ICUs are brimming. They’re running out of ventilators. People are dying. It’s so preventable.” Hawaii too has seen a huge spike in new cases to the point where visitors are being advised by the governor to change plans and not come to the islands for now. Large gatherings on the island of Oahu will be suspended for four weeks starting Aug. 25. Honolulu currently has over 9,000 active cases of COVID-19, an all-time high. Oregon is also facing its worst outbreak yet and has returned to strict mandates. Then, as shared by Fragomen, CBP border restrictions permitting only essential travel to the United States across Canadian and Mexican land borders will be extended through Sept. 21. The restrictions do not affect air travel. FYI that in a recent 14 day period, cases are up 36%, hospitalizations are up to 43% and deaths are up 95% in the U.S. Consider what is being contemplated as it relates to booster vaccinations
  2. Southeast Asia: As shared by ReliefWeb, Southeast Asia is battling the world’s highest COVID-19 death toll driven by the Delta variant and unequal global distribution of vaccines. Hospitals remain overwhelmed by record surges across Southeast Asia, from Vietnam to Malaysia and Myanmar, as fears mount of greater suffering and loss of life with COVID-19 spreading from cities to rural and regional areas. In the last two weeks, Southeast Asia has recorded 38,522 deaths from COVID-19, nearly twice as many as North America, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 data dashboard. Many of these countries remain at further risk due to low vaccination rates: Malaysia has fully vaccinated 34% of its population against COVID-19, Indonesia and Philippines are close to 11% and Vietnam less than 2%.  Additionally, intermittent government and embassy closures across Asia-Pacific are causing significant processing delays in document procurement and legalization applications.
  3. New Zealand:  Recording 42 cases in 24 hours has caused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce that the COVID Alert Level 4 will remain in place across New Zealand until 11.59 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 27, and until 11.59 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, for Auckland. The lockdown requires residents to stay at home except for essential activities like grocery shopping. 
  4. Japan: Per BAL, the Japanese government recently expanded and extended the state of emergency for many of the country’s prefectures, including Chiba, Kanagawa, Okinawa, Osaka, Saitama and Tokyo until at least Sept. 12. All individuals arriving to Japan, regardless of nationality or departure location, must present a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure and undergo a 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival. See this link for greater details on entry restrictions.
  5. Singapore: All employers are encouraged to adopt the VoRT regime - “Vaccinate or Regular Test” (VoRT)! The local government has announced guidelines that starting Oct. 1, employees in selected sectors would be required to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Employers should take steps to prepare their workforce early in the lead up to the VoRT regime implementation. 
  6. Iran: Deaths and hospitalizations in Iran are on the rise, as the country is experiencing a “fifth wave” in the pandemic with a daily death toll of at least 655. Vaccines are in short supply, as many blame the government for mismanaging the situation. Newly elected president Ebrahim Raisi is facing a disastrous situation with the health care system on the verge of collapse.
  7. Brazil: Sao Paulo seemed on the verge of requiring vaccination passports for restaurants, bars, shopping centers and other businesses but ended up only making it "recommended," not mandatory. It will now require vaccination passports only for sports, fairs and congresses. Last week, the city announced it had vaccinated 100% of adults with at least one dose and kicked off the vaccination of teenagers. This comes just five months after it was setting daily records of deaths.

Globally, cases were up 3% and deaths were up 2% over the last two weeks. The five countries with the most new cases: Iran (36,419), the UK (32,253), the U.S. (30,810), Japan (25,492) and India (25,420).

For those trying hard to keep track of destinations where you have to be vaccinated in order to travel, check out this information from The Points Guy. They take a look at the Caribbean, Europe, North America and Oceania. One more great resource to add into your "favorites" or even download the app on your phone is Trip.com, where you can dig into travel bans and restrictions around the world. Lastly, public health experts continue to believe that Covid cases are relatively uncommon among people who are vaccinated, and rarely result in severe illness or hospitalizations so...