Maybe because Omicron-induced staff shortages have forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights over the holidays so far, the topic of vaccine mandates is getting re-energized! The conversation has changed a lot over the last eight months with many more companies saying they intend to implement some type of mandate. Dr. Anthony Fauci says a vaccination should seriously be considered for any air travel. At the country level, Austria may have implemented the strongest mandate for vaccines where everyone over the age of 14 must get the shot, while the U.S. has left things more to state and local governments. Per the New York Times, all employers in New York City now have to verify that their on-site workers have received at least one dose of a vaccine. If employees have opted for a two-dose vaccine, they must submit proof that they have received the second dose within 45 days.
As reported by the Economic Innovation Group, "Nearly two-thirds of US companies are planning to require at least some of their workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 regardless of whether they are legally bound to do so, according to a survey of thousands of employers." Try this SHRM article to explore how employers are reacting to workers who refuse a vaccination and check out this NBC News article to see which companies are mandating vaccines.
Next, we track what is happening in various locations around the world where the coronavirus is impacting travel and talent mobility programs.
- India: Like most places, India is now being impacted by the Omicron variant and is beginning to experience sharper increases in cases, particularly in Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala. The Delhi government decided to impose a night curfew (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) starting on Dec. 27 after 290 Omicron variant cases were reported in the country in one day. For a list of Indian states imposing various restrictions, see this post from The Indian Express. Lockdowns may soon be considered depending on the surge and availability of medical oxygen.
- Singapore: The impact of Omicron here has been less severe for most, which is credited to a high vaccine rate. According to The Straights Times, no Omicron cases in Singapore have required intensive care or oxygen supplementation so far. Just after Christmas, the Ministry of Manpower announced that starting Jan. 15, only employees who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 within the past 270 days can return to the workplace. They are eliminating the "pre-event test" (PET), and while there is a grace period until the end of January, workers will have to pay for their own testing. The country is also applying border measures not allowing airlines to sell new vaccinated travel lane (VTL) flight tickets for travel into Singapore from Thursday, Dec. 23, until Jan. 20.
- Hong Kong: Much is being debated in Hong Kong, where officials have mandated three days of hotel quarantine for returning air cargo crew and are considering making coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for school students as they take a more aggressive approach to battling a rise in imported Omicron cases. Previously it was announced that government workplaces would require at least one dose of vaccine by mid-February and this may be extended to students as well. Vaccine passports and barring unvaccinated residents from workplaces and schools are being proposed in order to drive the vaccination rate as high as possible.
- European Union: Per the New York Times, many European nations have imposed new social restrictions, mask mandates and travel rules as Omicron drives the continent’s infection rates to their highest levels of the pandemic. Several countries in the European Union are setting vaccine expiration dates, or requiring proof of COVID-19 booster shots. EU Digital COVID Certificates are required to travel around the bloc, and will expire after nine months of someone being fully vaccinated or receiving a booster shot. Despite the new rules, which go into effect on Feb. 1, individual countries can still require visitors to quarantine or show a negative COVID-19 test.
- Portugal: A "state of calamity" was re-declared as of Dec. 1, and while the country remains open, new restrictions are in place to prevent infections. Per CNN, the Portuguese government announced that from Jan. 2 to Jan. 9, remote working will be recommended to those able to work from home, and schooling will occur remotely. Bars and clubs are also closed as of Dec. 25. Remote working will also be recommended from this date. Residents must show a negative test result to enter establishments like theaters, restaurants and sporting events.
- France: Hitting its highest number of infections since the pandemic started, the country announced that remote working will be required as of Jan. 3 and public gatherings will be limited. Nightclubs will remain closed until further notice and cafés and bars will be able to provide table service only. Employees who work from home will have to do so at least three days a week. Mask-wearing will become compulsory in city centers. Per the BBC, the government is also shortening the length of time between booster shots from four months after the last vaccination to three months. Lastly, Paris has made masks mandatory outdoors as of December 31st.
- Germany: Anyone entering Germany from a high-risk area who has not been fully vaccinated or recovered must be quarantined for 10 days and can be exempted from this with a negative test five days after entry at the earliest. Portugal, Spain and the United States have been added to the list, which also includes Cyprus, Finland and Monaco. The country has also introduced new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 before New Year's Eve (like closing clubs and discos), including limiting private gatherings for vaccinated people to a maximum of 10 people.
- United Kingdom (UK): Per The Points Guy, "The United Kingdom also announced that all visitors, including those traveling from the U.S., must now take two tests: a pre-travel PCR or antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure and a PCR test within two days after they arrive. They must self-isolate until receiving the results of the day 2 test."
- Ireland: Ireland has recently tightened up its restrictions, including for arrivals from Britain. The country is still not allowing entry to travelers who have been in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa or Zimbabwe within the last 14 days, but arrivals are allowed from all other countries. See this post for restrictions, which include passenger locator forms, testing and proof of vaccinations.
- Israel: The country is in the process of making some major updates to travel restrictions. While there were 69 countries on the "red list," many are coming off, which includes the majority of African nations as well as Italy, Ireland, Germany and more. However, a few will be added to the "red list" and those include Mexico, the U.S., Canada, Ethiopia, France, Hungary, South Africa, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Israelis who return to Israel from red countries are required to be quarantined for a full seven days, including taking two PCR tests — one on the first day and one on day seven. Israel is also making news as it launches tests for a second booster shot, which would be a fourth does of vaccine.
- United States: The U.S. has cut the recommended isolation time for people who test positive, allowing them to return to work sooner and potentially helping reduce widespread disruptions. People who test positive should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others. On Dec. 31, the U.S. will also lift travel restrictions on the eight southern African nations that were previously banned.
India is expanding its Covid vaccination drive to include everyone 15 or older and making health workers and some older citizens eligible for booster shots, as the country grapples with the prospect of another wave fueled by the Omicron variant. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation late on Saturday, said vaccines would available to those 15 to 18 years of age as of Jan 3. He also said booster doses would be offered as a “precaution” to health workers and those 60 years and above with comorbidities starting on Jan 10.