There have been a number of pandemic-related happenings (changes and updates) over the last few weeks since our last ICYMI post. To name a few, we have seen:
- Vaccine mandates,
- Booster shot discussions,
- Jabs for 12+,
- Many changes related to travel,
- Mask requirements,
- 43% of the world has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; however, only 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose
COVID-19 has now killed as many people in the United States as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic did. This NPR article shares that COVID-19 could have been far less lethal in the U.S. if more people had chosen to get vaccinated faster. Dr. Jeremy Brown, director at the National Institutes of Health, feels that "we still have an opportunity to turn it around. We often lose sight of how lucky we are to take these things for granted." I like his optimism and hope people take advantage of the tools that we have right now that will help us to move past this pandemic.
But here we are and here's what is happening around the world to keep you and your mobility program updated:
- Singapore: Despite more than 80% of the population being vaccinated, Singapore’s health ministry reported 910 new COVID-19 cases on Sept. 16, the highest since May of last year. A recent rise in cases after relaxation of some COVID-19 measures has prompted Singapore to pause on further reopening. However, very few patients are getting seriously ill and only four people have died in the past 28 days, all of whom were unvaccinated.
- Hong Kong: The zero-COVID strategy is relying on the world's most stringent self-funded 21 day quarantines for international travelers at government-approved facilities. This has effectively cut-off the territory but has been successful given there have been no local cases in the last few months. Testing while in quarantine is an additional element in the current strategy. The only way to adjust the strategy will be to increase vaccination rates, which are around 65%. For more on Hong Kong's approach, try The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region COVID website, "Together, We Fight the Virus."
- Vietnam: Recent lockdowns have many manufacturers struggling. Some production has been reassigned to China to make up for the losses in Vietnam, but that has been limited because factories in China are almost at full capacity. Hanoi has indicated that it will further ease its coronavirus restrictions starting this week, per Reuters.
- United States: The EU has seen the current U.S. restrictions as outdated and unwarranted, as the U.S. has been maintaining an entry ban against all EU countries for more than 17 months. But that looks like it will change starting in November. The EU Ambassador to the U.S. tweeted, “Travel ban lifted! Vaccinated, pre-flight tested Europeans will again be able to travel to the US from November, just as vaccinated Americans are today allowed to travel to the EU.” And it is not just EU countries, as there are 33 countries in all covered by the decision, which include China, Brazil and India. Travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding planes bound for the U.S. USA Today is reporting that a negative COVID-19 test taken three days prior to departure will also be required. Unvaccinated Americans flying back to the U.S. will also be subject to stricter reentry testing requirements, as they will have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day of departure, and provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival. Another interesting note for the country: California has the lowest coronavirus case rates in the U.S. Mask mandates and other measures are to credit, but most deserving of thanks is the Golden State’s high level of vaccinations. Additionally, a new vaccine mandate for large private employers is expected to be issued in the coming weeks by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Try this article for some important questions to consider. Lastly, the U.S. has reached 1,926 deaths per day, which is the highest since March, and approximately 80% of ICU beds are taken (30% of which are taken by those with COVID-19) putting uninfected people at risk.
- North and Central America: This region is leading a surge of new coronavirus cases at a time when many other parts of the world have managed to slow the spread of the virus. Cases in North America are up by a third and within the Western Hemisphere up by one fifth. Cases in Alberta, Canada, have doubled, and surges have been felt in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Belize.
- United Kingdom: The BBC reports that the UK is looking to overhaul the "traffic light" rules by eliminating the requirement for completely vaccinated people returning to the UK to need PCR tests. Additional potential changes would be to simplify the system to eliminate the "amber list" option entirely. There is also consideration for removing dozens of countries from the "red" list (there are 62 countries currently on that list), which would eliminate the requirement of people from those countries spending 11 nights in hotel quarantine. The UK Foreign Office has detailed advice for each country.
- Ireland: Per our friends at Corporate Care, over the last few days a number of restrictions have been eased as the vaccination rates rise across the country. The vaccination rate among Irish residents is now one of the highest in the world, with greater than 90% of all adults fully vaccinated. The vaccination program is now focusing on children down to the age of 12. For more on the changes to quarantine and additional restriction easing (public transit, indoor events, workplaces, etc.) try this update.
- Portugal: From our friends at BAL, the Portuguese government has permitted non-essential travel to and from Brazil, the U.S. and other areas deemed high risk. Travelers must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours or 48 hours depending on the test type before departure to enter the country. Travel continues to be permitted to and from the EU, Schengen Area and the U.K., as well as from Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Korea, among others. A mandatory 14-day quarantine remains in place for visitors arriving from India, Nepal and South Africa.
- Australia: Currently, the only people allowed inside the country are Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members. Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand was temporarily suspended in August. But now there will be a slight change in approach. The original plan was to maintain heavy international travel restrictions until mid-2022, but now Australia looks to open months ahead of that previous timeline, with a target of Christmas at the latest.
For more information on additional locations, try this from the Associated Press.
Singapore has reported its highest one-day Covid case total in more than a year, with 837 cases recorded on Tuesday. In response to the growing outbreak, the government has paused reopening plans and reimposed some restrictions. As of Tuesday, a total of 809 people were in hospital. Of these, 75 were seriously ill and required oxygen, and nine were in intensive care. The majority of seriously ill patients were older than 66, according to the Ministry of Health. Eighty-one per cent of the entire population is fully vaccinated – excluding under-12s, it is 90% – and the number of seriously ill patients is fairly low overall. Just four people have died in the past 28 days, all of whom were unvaccinated, according to the health ministry. However, the number of those seriously ill is increasing.