Expat Focus International Healthcare Update November 2021
Covid-19 continues to dominate international news headlines when it comes to healthcare. On the one hand is the relaxation of travel restrictions, whereas on the other are fears that death rates globally could increase as a result of waning immunity. Expat Focus asked a UK-based respiratory consultant for his views in mid-November, and he replied that rates are rising in the UK among unvaccinated younger patients, as well as older patients who are double jabbed but immunocompromised. We’re going to take a look at the situation across the world.
Denmark: restrictions return
Denmark, which had scrapped many of its Covid-19 regulations, has now had to bring some restrictions back in, as a result of rising rates. The country has quite a high vaccination rate, but with Covid-19 infections on the rise, it seems likely that masks and some hospitality and leisure restrictions may be reintroduced. A ‘coronapas’ may also be set to return – this is to show proof of vaccination. Maersk, the shipping giant, has already introduced a vaccine mandate for its personnel in offices, at least within Denmark itself. It accepts that this will be difficult to implement across different nations.
New Covid-19 rules in Queensland
In Australia, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said that, from 17th December or when 80% of Queenslanders over 16 are fully vaccinated, those who are fully jabbed will be free from restrictions. However, restrictions will be placed on those over 16 who remain unvaccinated, and the police will enforce the rules, such as when it comes to entering entertainment venues. Pubs, cafes, restaurants, museums, cinemas and stadiums will be open to those who are fully vaccinated.
Hospitals and care facilities will similarly be fully available, but if you are not vaccinated, you will only be able to enter a hospital for end-of-life care or an emergency. The Premier says:
“This is both a reward for the fully vaccinated and a precaution for when the borders open and we will see more cases in our community. People deserve to know that they can go to these places and that they are safe.”
Once the 80% cap has been reached, people outside the state will be able to enter Queensland again via a special border ‘hotspot,’ but some regulations will remain. In order to enter the state, you will need to be fully vaccinated and have tested negative for Covid-19 within the previous 72 hours, otherwise you will be obliged to quarantine at a government approved facility.
Austria undergoes ‘schnitzelpanik’
Austria, like Denmark, has returned to stricter measures, following a rise in infection rates. Like Queensland, the authorities intend to keep facilities open to those with a vaccination pass, but not to the unvaccinated. If you’ve been proven to have had Covid-19 within nine months, this will apply to you, too, as you are deemed to have sufficient antibodies. Hairdressers and beauticians will also need to check customers for full vaccination status.
The Austrian government says that this is the only way to avoid another lockdown. The announcement has seen a ‘Schnitzelpanik’ – a sarcastic reference to the record numbers of people who have suddenly decided to get vaccinated in case they are denied entry to, for instance, a restaurant.
In Upper Austria, vaccination rates rose over the weekend to 8,000 people, as opposed to 1,000 on the weekend before, so as an incentive to take up the vaccine, the announcement is clearly working. The new legislation will remain in place until Christmas, but may be extended depending on Covid-19 rates.
USA finally lifts travel ban for Brits
The American ban on British travellers has finally been lifted, nearly two years after the initial restriction came in. The new policy is vaccination-based: if you are double vaccinated, and if any child under 18 is accompanying fully vaccinated adults, you will be let into the country, as long as you comply with other immigration requirements. You will need to show proof of vaccination, as well as a negative Covid-19 test taken within three days of departure. Note that the USA is not currently accepting the free NHS lateral flow tests as evidence, only the lower cost lateral flow tests and PCR tests. This may be the case for other countries as well, so do check that your test has been deemed acceptable by your destination country and/or the airline – see below for details. You will also be issued with contact tracing details either on departure or during the flight.
Air carriers demand return to pre-Covid operating slots
Whizz Air Holdings and London Gatwick airport have written to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps with a plea to force airlines to return to pre-Covid rules and surrender unused operating slots. Their letter has been supported by Edinburgh and Belfast airports. Gatwick says that its runways are currently underused by around 58%, thus depriving the airport of income – a result of many airlines cutting down on long haul routes but hoarding slots to retain their market position. New market entrants, such as Whizz Air, say that they could be using these slots.
ABTA publishes list of acceptable Covid-19 tests
We’ve mentioned above that the US and some other countries won’t accept free NHS Covid-19 tests as proof. This can be worrying if you’re finally about to head off on holiday. So what kind of tests are acceptable? Travel agency organisation ABTA has issued a guide to the sort of tests you need for your travels. Details with updated information for November can be found on the ABTA website.
Their website also gives information about travelling with children and what kind of vaccines, if any, they need. It also explains what you will need to prove when you return to the UK. Make sure you keep informed, because regulations vary considerably across different nations, and you don’t want to find that you’re suddenly prevented from flying.
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