Much has happened and will continue to evolve as countries and local governments address concerns about the ongoing Delta variant surges that many locations are experiencing and the new Omicron variant. A Time Magazine post shared recent global single-day case records. These are some locations that are experiencing big increases in cases:
Per Fortune Magazine, Asia’s COVID-19 decline comes as Delta-driven waves are fueling surges elsewhere. Europe, for example, is recording more daily cases now than it has since the beginning of the pandemic, with infections rising from just over 100,000 cases per day in September to nearly 400,000 today, according to Reuters.
A few pieces of good news are that boosters do seem to help us minimize the effects of infection with the Omicron variant and while it's still early, the Omicron variant does not appear to be as dangerous as public health officials initially feared it might be.
However, rising numbers of COVID-19 cases around the world, combined with concerns over the Omicron variant, are causing cities to tighten rules again. Staying aware of how moving talent domestically, regionally and globally is being impacted is critical in this everchanging world. Never fear, we're here to help you catch up on the latest!
- United States: The U.S. has added some additional protocols for international travelers, including returning U.S. citizens. All inbound international travelers must get a COVID-19 test within one day of traveling to the US, rather than three days as previously mandated. This requirement applies to all travelers, regardless of vaccination status and nationality. While this might seem challenging, here's why it's still easy to meet the one-day testing requirement, even in the middle of nowhere. All travelers must wear masks on airplanes, trains and other forms of public transportation. Masks must also be worn in transportation hubs. This requirement will remain in effect through March 18, 2022. Noncompliance will result in fines. That said, it is still the super contagious Delta variant that’s driving nearly all new COVID-19 cases in the United States. New York City has even expand the vaccine mandate to private employers. Also, the CDC added Portugal, Liechtenstein, France, Cyprus and Andorra to its highest designation: “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High.”
- Singapore: Singapore is deploying an even more aggressive stance with the unvaccinated. The city-state is going to stop fully covering COVID-19 medical bills for the unvaccinated. Per the Wall Street Journal, "Singapore’s government has paid the full treatment costs of nearly all Covid-19 patients since last year, under a pandemic-era policy to ensure financial considerations wouldn’t add to public concern about the disease." Singapore already has one of the highest vaccination rates at 96% of the eligible population and has used strategies like not allowing dining out at food courts or going to shopping malls to get people to take the shot.
- Austria: Starting in February, Austria will require all adults to get vaccinated. In Vienna, those who fail to show up for vaccine appointments could face fines of up to $4,050. Also, per SchengenVisaInfo.com, after imposing a national lockdown and restricting entry for the majority of travelers, Austrian authorities have revealed that travel for touristic purposes will be allowed again after Dec. 13. Austria currently requires all persons to provide a COVID-19 test result, a vaccination certificate or a recovery certificate. Those who don’t hold a vaccination or recovery certificate must present a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.
- Switzerland: As of Dec. 4, there are no countries on its list of countries with a variant of concern. This means the quarantine requirement for people arriving in Switzerland from countries on the list no longer applies. All those travelling to Switzerland must complete an entry form. Per Forbes, those wishing to enter Switzerland will need to produce a negative PCR test result obtained within 72 hours of travel before they depart — travel will not be permitted otherwise. A negative test result will also be required on entry to the country, with a further PCR test or rapid antigen test to be taken between the fourth and seventh day after entry.
- Brazil: After promising the biggest New Year’s Eve party ever, with multiple firework displays and artists performing on a dozen stages across the city, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has cancelled due to fears of the Omicron variant. Overall though, the city and country of Brazil have recorded a drop in deaths and cases, and a high level of vaccination. Brazil will require international arrivals to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and for unvaccinated travelers to quarantine for five days. Unvaccinated travelers will have to take a new virus test after the five-day quarantine period and must check in with a health agency center that will have their addresses.
- Japan: The country has seen a drop in infections and deaths likely related to the fact that 77% of Japan is fully vaccinated, and there are near-universal mask wearing mandates, intense contact-tracing procedures and strict border controls. The Japanese government has numerous active bans. If a foreign national has stayed in one of the more than 130 restricted countries in the last 14 days prior to application for landing, then they are not allowed entry. This includes countries like the United States, Canada, much of Europe, most (if not all) of Latin America and Africa, and Israel, UAE and Malaysia.
- United Kingdom: Spreading at a phenomenal rate, London is experiencing increasing numbers of Omicron infections, with the number doubling every two to three days. Omicron now represents more that 20% of the cases in England and has risen over 44% in London. In response, local officials are working to roll out booster shots as soon as possible, requesting people work from home, reintroducing mask mandates in shops and public transport, and are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for large events.
- India: After a massive spike in infections earlier in 2021, India's infection numbers have dropped significantly to where the CDC now rates it "Level One - Low." According to CNN, all travelers arriving at an airport get screened. Those with symptoms will be taken to a medical facility. All travelers age 5 and older must upload a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha Portal, as well as a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the journey. Fully vaccinated arrivals do not have to quarantine, though travelers coming from countries deemed "at risk" must take another PCR test on arrival. As of Dec. 3, there are 11 at risk countries: the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel. Additionally, non-vaccinated or partially vaccinated arrivals must self-isolate for seven days, test on day eight, and continue to monitor their health for another week.
Besides the above country updates, we note that many companies are reconsidering their plans for "re-opening" their offices. Google and Uber were two of the first major employers in the U.S. to announce they would postpone their Jan. 10 return date indefinitely. Ford pushed out from January to March. Meta has given employees not ready to return the option to delay their return by three to five months. DocuSign has postponed, too. According to this New York Times article, more and more companies are not giving dates any more and are just going to watch and see how things go...TBD.
Three weeks after lifting a blanket pandemic travel ban on more than 30 countries, the Biden administration on Nov. 29 banned visitors from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Starting Monday, the U.S. is implementing stricter testing requirements for inbound travelers, including U.S. citizens, forcing travelers to make time and to budget for Covid tests closer to their departure date. Rules have changed quickly. Here is what U.S.-bound air travelers need to know: