The WHO’s director-general said last week that “the end is in sight” as Covid deaths worldwide fell 22% last week to the lowest number reported since we first hunkered down in March 2020. The agency is more cautious about the number of new cases: It noted that some of the 28% drop there could be attributed to countries relaxing Covid testing and reporting guidelines in the last few months. At the same time as saying the end is in sight, it was also stated that coronavirus still poses an "acute global emergency".

The WHO has released six short policy briefs that outline key objectives and actions that all governments must take. They are:

Per The Guardian, "The documents include guidance on testing, vaccination, best practice when managing the disease, maintaining infection control measures in health facilities, preventing the spread of misinformation, and community engagement."

While the WHO has stated that the end is in sight, President Joe Biden recently stated that "the pandemic is over. We still have a problem with Covid. We're still doing a lot of work on it… but the pandemic is over." As reported by CNN, data show there were about 65,000 new Covid-19 cases reported each day over the past two weeks and reported cases are dropping in almost every state. However, about 400 people in the US are dying every day from Covid-19, the CDC said. 

Per NPR, from Aug. 16 to Sept. 17, there were 19.4 million new cases worldwide, with some of the most significant increases happening in Japan (29%), Taiwan (20%) and Hong Kong (19%). Whether it is over or almost over, let's peel around the globe and see how Covid-19 is playing out the last couple of weeks since our last update:

  1. Japan: Although the government recently eased Covid-19 entry restrictions on September 7th, Japan remains one of the few major economies with significant restrictions on travel still in place, including a cap on visitor numbers. Now, with a valid vaccination certificate, it is no longer necessary to do a pre-departure PCR test; the maximum number of people to be accepted will be increased from 20,000 to 50,000 per day; visitors from all countries will be allowed to enter the country as long as their itineraries have been booked through a travel agency. Japan is expected to ease the daily entry cap on arrivals sometime in October. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan announced on Thursday, Sept. 22, the long-awaited news that Japan plans to fully reopen for foreign tourism on Oct. 11, Bloomberg reported
  2. New Zealand: As of September 13th, New Zealand has dropped all Covid-19 related travel restrictions. This is a milestone in the recovery of tourism. There are no vaccine requirements or self-testing direction after arrival. New Zealand has vaccinated about 90% of citizens 12 years of age and older with at least 2 doses.
  3. China: The city of Chengdu had entered an indefinite lockdown period as of September 8th, but has now eased up as cases have declined. The 2 week lockdown has ended as of this past Monday and no new cases were reported. Chengdu had also endured heatwaves and power cuts along with dealing a deadly earthquake, on top of the lockdown. Per The Guardian, about 65 million people in 33 cities across China have been placed under partial or full lockdowns, as authorities doubled down on stamping out coronavirus outbreaks ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th congress in mid-October.
  4. Hong Kong: Hong Kong may end hotel quarantine and pre-arrival tests soon. An announcement spelling the end to hotel quarantines, which was cut to three days from seven just weeks ago, could come as soon as this week. New arrivals may be asked to do rapid antigen tests rather than bring a copy of a negative PCR lab result conducted within the previous 48 hours, removing another hurdle that made travel inconvenient, according to sources. 
  5. Spain: Spain has confirmed that Covid entry requirements will be extended for UK travelers until November 15th. As the most popular holiday destination for British tourists it still extended its restrictions on third countries including the UK, despite lifting them for EU nationals. Per inews, All arrivals aged 12 and over must show proof of being fully vaccinated (including a booster), or a negative Covid test (a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure).Proof of recent infection (with an officially recorded PCR test) is also accepted. Spain accepts the NHS Pass as proof of Covid status. For visitors aged 12 to 17 who have not received a booster, but have received two doses of a two-dose vaccine, or one dose of a single-dose vaccine, approved by Spain, at least 14 days must have passed since their last dose for them to qualify as fully vaccinated.
  6. Taiwan: Taiwan has kept its entry and quarantine rules in place, even though most Asian countries have relaxed or lifted them completely. However, Taiwan recently resumed visa-free entry. The government said on September 5th that it will resume visa-free entry for some countries on September 12th. Taiwan has also done away with the requirement for negative pre-departure PCR tests. The government has relaxed restrictions in its "new Taiwan model", although it has not given a timeline for when quarantine rules may be fully scrapped. Currently, all foreign travelers have to apply for a special permit to enter Taiwan. Visitors must have confirmation of a reservation at a quarantine hotel. 
  7. Canada: Canada's federal government is making ArriveCan optional and is dropping vaccine requirements at the border by Sept. 30.  Canada will also drop random coronavirus testing on the same day.

Changes to testing and vaccination requirements continue to make international travel to some countries a confusing process. For a great resource to guide you through the latest in the ever-shifting rules and regulations, check out "Updated: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus reopenings" from The Points Guy.