Omicron now accounts for roughly 97% of Covid-19 infections globally, with the BA.2 sub-variant accounting for the greatest share (39%). However, per CNN, BA.4 and BA.5 are the fastest spreading variants reported to date, and they are expected to dominate transmission in the United States, United Kingdom and the rest of Europe within the next few weeks, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. These latest variants appear to be good at evading the immune system. They are 10% to 15% more contagious  and impacting summer season much more than anticipated. It appears that  neither previous infections nor vaccines provide particularly strong protection against their ability to infect but do not appear to lead to more severe illness.

Like we have been doing every two weeks since the start of the pandemic, let's look around the world to see what's happening that might have an impact on your global mobility program.

  1. Europenew cases per million inhabitants is on the rise in countries including Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark. Romania and Sweden are doing better and were downgraded to moderate risk locations.
  2. Portugal: sporting the 2nd highest new-case rate in the world, Portugal has experienced a significant rise of BA.5 subvariant cases (accounting for 87% of the infections) and deaths in the last few weeks. The uptick reminds that those who remain unvaccinated and have not been previously infected are at the greatest risk. Cases appear to have peaked but remain higher than rates elsewhere. The number of people in hospital in Portugal, at 1,896, is nearly as high as it was during the original Omicron wave in January.  
  3. France: the number of infections has nearly tripled since the beginning of June. Cases have climbed to 920 in a week from 224 on June 13 per Our World in Data and hospital admissions in France were up 27% and intensive-care admissions 17% in a week’s time. 
  4. Austria: due to changing perceptions of Covid based on the new variants, and a desire to create more solidarity and cohesion within the country, Austria has decided to scrap the vaccine mandate which was splitting the country and creating tensions.  
  5. United Kingdom: Entering its 5th wave (and an unexpected summer wave), the UK has also seen cases rising by 43% week on week that many are associating with the Queen's Jubilee celebrational 4 day weekend. The BA.4 and BA.5 variants now make up more than half of new Covid cases in England, accounting for approximately 22% and 39% of cases, respectively. Hospitalizations for Covid have increased 31 per cent week on week, rising at a rate higher than the previous Omicron outbreak in March. 
  6. Germany: while cases have been climbing since the first week in June, with the concern this is coming much sooner than anticipated, cases are still below other countries. Officials are concerned with the possibility of a more dangerous variant, adding that masks indoors and capacity limits at major public events could soon be advisable, along with stricter measures in areas with more serious outbreaks. 
  7. South Africa: The country has announced that COVID restrictions are being dropped entirely for both domestic and international travel. No more mask mandates, no matter restrictions on the size of gatherings, and no more imposed requirements at borders. 
  8. United States: across the U.S. cases are down 15% from 2 weeks ago. But while cases are falling in about half of states, and coming down fastest in the Northeast and Midwest, they are rising in the South and West. The big news since our last update is that vaccination for very young children was approved. Data on state infection rates is available here - Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Colorado, Alaska and New Mexico currently lead.
  9. China: per Bloomberg, China has seen its outbreak of cases move south, impacting technology hub Shenzhen. The wave of cases has led to mass testing and a lockdown of some neighborhoods. Shenzhen has closed wholesale markets, cinemas and gyms in a central district bordering Hong Kong for three days as it steps up to prevent a wider spread of Covid-19. Macau is seeing it's first outbreak in the last eight months too. At the same time, Marketwatch reports China is lowering its “great wall” of border controls, with entry rules for foreigners relaxed, international flights increased and quarantine time shortened, with the South China Morning Post confirming this. Good news elsewhere as Beijing is now allowing primary and secondary schools to resume in-person classes and Shanghai declares victory over COVID-19 after the city reported zero new local cases for the first time in two months. 
  10. Botswana and Cape Verde: Both locations have been added to the CDC's "Level 3: Covid-19 High risk" list. They have joined France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, and Thailand in Level 3. 
  11. Southeast Asia and Middle East: While most countries in Southeast Asia — including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — have stopped requiring fully vaccinated travelers to take Covid-19 tests before traveling, cases jumped by about 45% in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Southeast Asia was the only region to report a slight 4% increase in deaths. 
  12. Bangladesh: As of June 19, there has been a 46% increase in reported COVID-19 cases (WHO) in the southeast Asia region. The 2 primary countries driving this is Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladesh has maintained mask wearing protocols, although many are apparently ignoring the mandate, and it is expected that the uptrend of the virus cases will continue for at least three more weeks. 
  13. Philippines: There is a new surge in the Philippines as coronavirus infections are on the rise again. Cases jumped by 82% from June 13 to 19, data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed. However, the country remains for now as a low-risk location.

Let's end with some news related to the effectiveness of Covid vaccines. According to one scientist, nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the United Kingdom.