WORLD WATCH: Global pandemic update
While the COVID-19 infections are decreasing in Canada and the US, and some destinations – like Greece – are un-battening the hatches to welcome tourists again, much of the world is cautiously preparing for, or fighting, the worst as variants multiply and, in some cases, past poor judgement comes back to haunt. Global cases as of May 16 totalled more than 162.5 million with over 3.36 million deaths. Here’s what’s happening:
Canada: The country may have “passed the peak” of the pandemic’s third wave with the country’s average daily COVID-19 case count dipping to just above 5,000. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that as more Canadians get fully vaccinated, enjoying the warm summer weather with small outdoor gatherings could soon be a reality. Over 44% of eligible Canadians have now received at least one vaccine dose.
Ontario: The province’s provincial government extended lockdown measures until at least June 2.
US: In a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people on Thursday, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Critics are warning there is now no way to tell who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t.
Germany: …is beginning to take steps toward a more normal life as its vaccination campaign advances and the latest wave of infections abates. On Friday, the nationwide infection rate dropped below 100 weekly new cases per 100,000 residents for the first time since March 20. Germany’s foreign minister says his compatriots can expect to go ahead with summer vacation travel this year, but there won’t be a repeat of last year’s concerted effort to bring holidaymakers home if coronavirus infections spike in some countries.
Italy: COVID-19 quarantine requirements for visitors from the European Union, Israel and Britain have been relaxed in a bid to jump-start tourism.
UK: The British government’s roadmap out of lockdown reaches another stage today (May 17) with the go-ahead for pubs and restaurants in England to reopen indoor areas, and venues including theatres, cinemas, and sports stadiums are able to admit limited audiences. However, warnings that increased cases of the Indian variant are taking hold threaten a backtrack.
The Netherlands: The Dutch government has eased travel restrictions for a group of popular vacation destinations. Among the countries with a lower risk of infections that can be visited by Dutch citizens are Portugal, Malta, Ireland, Thailand, Rwanda, the former Dutch colonies of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten, and a large group of Greek islands.
Portugal: British tourists can return to Portugal starting today, ending days of uncertainty over whether thousands of UK vacation bookings for Portuguese destinations would be allowed. British travellers will need to show on arrival a negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken in the previous 72 hours.
Greece: The Mediterranean nation re-opened its tourism season Friday. Greece is hoping to claw back half the 2019 visitor level. It’s vowed to finish vaccinating its entire island population over the next six weeks and will even waive test requirements for tourists who have received vaccines made in Russia and China that are not approved for use domestically. Canadians are among those free to travel to the country.
Cyprus: Nightclubs are scheduled to reopen June 10 as the tourism-reliant country aims to lure vacationers and reinvigorate the beleaguered economy.
Turkey: The requirement to present a negative COVID-19 test result when arriving in Turkey for passengers arriving from over a dozen countries including the UK has been dropped. Turkey still requires mandatory quarantines for people who visited India, Brazil or South Africa, but other travellers can begin their vacations immediately.
Mexico: The governor of Mexico’s resort-studded Caribbean coast has said his state is at “imminent risk” of returning to lockdown as coronavirus cases there steadily rise. Gov. Carlos Joaquin said the state of Quintana Roo, home to resorts like Cancun, Cozumel and Tulum, has seen five weeks of increases in cases with increased tourism around Easter playing a role in the rise.
Honduras: El Salvador’s president sent 34,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine to seven towns in Honduras on Thursday, responding to video pleas from their mayors posted to social media. The small-scale diplomacy by President Nayib Bukele raised eyebrows in El Salvador and Honduras, but most people agreed that ultimately it would benefit a population in desperate need of vaccine.
China: …has cancelled attempts to climb Mount Everest from its side of the world’s highest peak because of fears of importing coronavirus cases from neighbouring Nepal.
Mongolia: A COVID-19 outbreak appears to be easing after six weeks in which the sparsely populated country’s coronavirus death toll rose from 15 to 219.
Japan: Japan is further expanding a coronavirus state of emergency to three additional areas ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The state of emergency is currently in Tokyo and five other prefectures. The additions include Japan’s northern island state of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, as well as Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.
India: India’s two biggest cities, Delhi and Mumbai, have reported a drop in daily infections, but the government is warning that the devastating surge is spreading in rural areas, where nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.4 billion people live.
Pakistan: Authorities in Pakistan reported 48 single-day deaths and about 2,500 new cases, one of the lowest levels of fatalities and infections from COVID-19 in the past two months and two weeks after a national lockdown began.
Sri Lanka: The World Bank has signed an agreement with Sri Lanka to provide US$80.5 million to help the island nation’s vaccination drive against COVID-19. The funding comes as Sri Lanka is facing a severe shortage of vaccines because of the current crisis in neighboring India, which had earlier promised to give the vaccines to Sri Lanka.
Singapore: …has further tightened social-distancing restrictions, banning dining in at restaurants and limiting public gatherings to two people as it seeks to control a growing number of untraceable coronavirus infections in the city.
Philippines: Lockdown in Manila and adjacent provinces to fight economic recession and hunger has eased, but still barred public gatherings this month, when many Roman Catholic summer religious festivals are held.
Taiwan: The COVID-19 alert level for the capital Taipei and the surrounding area of New Taipei city has been raised to level 3 following its worst outbreak since the pandemic began. People are required to wear a mask outdoors and limits indoor gatherings to five and outdoor gatherings to 10. The alert remains in effect for two weeks.
First published at Travel Industry Today