Several vaccines have been approved for general or emergency use in many countries including China, Russia, the UK, and the US. As of February 2021, over one hundred million doses had been administered worldwide. Several countries – such as Israel and the United Arab Emirates – are making swift progress immunizing their citizens, while the vast majority of countries have either vaccinated only a small fraction of their population or are yet to start.
However, countries around the world are still in enforced lockdowns of varying degrees. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends curfews and lockdowns be short-term so as to assess how to reorganise, rebalance resources and protect health services.
UK in lockdown
In the UK, the English lockdown began on 4 January and is expected to last until at least mid-February. The national lockdown in Wales was implemented on 20 December and is expected to last until at least 22 February. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a lockdown in Scotland hours ahead of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Europe extends national lockdowns
Elsewhere, in Europe, Germany has extended its nationwide lockdown until March as governments across Europe consider prolonging or strengthening restrictions to battle highly contagious mutations of coronavirus. The tally of new infections in Germany has fallen off the record highs registered in the run-up to Christmas, when the country had roughly 30,000 cases a day.
Markus Söder, the premier of Bavaria and leader of the Christian Social Union, said: “The numbers are simply still far too high. As annoying as it is, we have to stay consistent and not give up too soon again.”
The Netherlands closed bars and restaurants in mid-October, with non-essential shops and businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres following on 15 December. After a minor Christmas relaxation, people are again advised to stay at home and may have only a maximum of two guests a day.
In Hungary, all shops remain open but the country’s borders are closed to almost all visitors, including citizens of other EU nations, and a night-time curfew is in force between the hours of 8 pm and 5 am.
China puts Shijiazhuang under lockdown
In China, the country placed 11 million people in the northern city of Shijiazhuang under lockdown after more than 100 new Covid cases were confirmed there. Residents were banned from leaving the city and schools have also been closed. More than 5,000 testing sites were set up so every resident could be tested. The figures were the highest China has seen in more than five months. The country has been able to contain such outbreaks by immediately taking tough action.
South America open for travel from certain countries
As a region, the Americas has been especially hard hit by Covid-19, with South America home to some of the worst outbreaks in the world. Several countries, including Panama and Guatemala, are now banning travellers from the UK and South Africa, where new variants of the virus have been discovered. On the flip side, a new strain out of Brazil is currently making headlines.
Costa Rica has been open to all travellers since 1 November, and visitors are no longer required to bring a negative PCR test or quarantine upon arrival. Travellers are instead required to complete the online Health Pass form within 48 hours of departure, and to have health insurance, or travel insurance from an approved list of Costa Rican companies.
In Brazil, new 30 December guidelines require that anyone flying into the country must present a negative Covid test taken with 72 hours of boarding. Additionally, all travellers must complete a health form agreeing to sanitary measures for the duration of their trip. Land borders are effectively closed to tourists without prior written authorisation from the Federal Police, though Brazilian citizens, permanent residents, and family members of Brazils are exempt from this restriction.