In Europe, Madrid is back in lockdown after authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital city; a rise in infections in the Czech Republic could trigger a second lockdown; Berlin and Frankfurt in Germany are facing tightened restrictions, including bar and restaurant curfews; and Poland has made wearing face masks mandatory in all public spaces.
A three-tier lockdown system is to come into place in England – regions will be classified as either ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ alert. “We are clearly in a difficult position,” Graham Medley, a UK infectious disease specialist tweeted. “The level and rise of infections, admissions and deaths puts us in a similar position to early March. [But] we know the harms that 'lockdown' will bring. Very, very hard choices.”
Over in the Middle East, Jordan will be enforcing weekend-long lockdowns for a consecutive number of weekends in order to subdue growing new case numbers. “The last thing we want is a complete lockdown for two weeks or three weeks, we don’t want to reach this … it remains the last weapon if cases rise unbelievably high and lead to our hospitals being overwhelmed,” Health Minister Saad Jaber.
WHO questions the efficacy of lockdowns
The highest number of new Covid-19 cases continue to be reported in the US (just under eight million), although in India, the total number of infections has now surpassed seven million and, in Brazil, the death toll has now surpassed 150,000.
Despite the staggering numbers, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the mass instatement of lockdowns. WHO’s Dr David Nabarro has urged world leaders to stop ‘using lockdowns as your primary control method’ for blunting a virus surge. “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro said, adding that lockdowns should only be used ‘to buy time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance resources, and protect health workers who are exhausted. “By and large, we’d rather not do it,” he warned.
Australia considers travel bubbles
Meanwhile, after months of strict border closures, Australia is now in talks about quarantine-free travel with New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Pacific Island nations. From Friday, New Zealanders will be able to travel to some Australian states – New South Wales, Canberra and the Northern Territory – without having to quarantine, but will have to quarantine in a hotel upon their return home. Australians are not yet allowed to travel to New Zealand. Australia noted that it will not be considering travel bubbles with high-risk destinations such as Europe and the US until late 2021. “The prospects of opening up widespread travel with higher-risk countries will remain very reliant on effective vaccination or other major breakthroughs in the management of Covid,” Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said.
From November, Japan is looking to lift its ban on overseas travel for 12 countries – China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, and Malaysia – though the country will continue to advise against unnecessary travel to these destinations. Japan previously opened up its travel corridors for business travellers, including a reciprocal business travel agreement with Singapore.