As COVID-19 vaccine rollouts gain momentum, many countries are opening borders and letting people back into restaurants, shops and sports venues after more than a year of on-off lockdowns.
But the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has led some countries to delay elements of their return to normal.
Here are some of their plans, in alphabetical order with the latest moves in each country listed first:
Authorities trying to stamp out an outbreak in Sydney of the Delta variant said on July 5 that the next two days would be “absolutely critical” in deciding whether to extend a stay-home order beyond July 9.
Britain aims to end COVID-related restrictions on July 19, allowing pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and other hospitality venues to fully reopen.
Non-essential retailers in England reopened on April 12 along with pubs and restaurants operating outdoors. Indoor hospitality, cinemas, theatres and sports halls reopened on May 17 with capacity restrictions. Britain also resumed international travel, with quarantine rules still in place for most arrivals.
Canadians and permanent residents who have received two vaccination doses exempted from quarantine when returning to the country from July 5.
From July 15, international travellers no longer need to present a negative PCR test and in-person classes resume for pre-school children to university students once staff are vaccinated.
On June 3, the country approved reopening most large events like concerts and sports matches with 25% capacity for cities where intensive care units occupancy rates are below 85%.
Nightclubs re-open from July 9.
Restriction measures were lifted on July 6 in the Landes southwestern region after a delay due to high numbers of infections with the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Masks have no longer been mandatory outside since June 16 and a national night-time curfew ended on June 20.
On June 9, cafes, bars, and restaurants fully reopened and sports halls, spas, swimming pools, and casinos resumed operation.
Shops, museums, cinemas and theatres reopened on May 19.
Germany said it aimed to lift all remaining coronavirus-linked social and economic curbs as soon as everyone has been offered a vaccine, which should happen during August.
General travel warnings for regions with a seven-day coronavirus incidence of below 200 were lifted starting July 1.
A rule which forced companies to allow working from home was lifted on June 30.
Since May 12, travellers have been able to enter the country without the need to quarantine, except those arriving from risk areas.
Those fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 had quarantine rules eased on May 9, with a lifting of curfews and the obligation to provide a negative test result to visit a hairdresser, a zoo or to go shopping.
Remaining late night curfews and the requirement for self-testing for fully vaccinated workers were lifted from June 28 and the government allowed more people on organised beaches and up to 10 people to sit together in restaurants.
Mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors ended on June 24.
Iceland lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on June 26.
Federally-protected monuments opened to tourists on June 16.
On June 14, all New Delhi’s shops and malls re-opened, although bars, gyms, salons, cinemas and parks remained shut. Some businesses in Tamil Nadu, known for its automobile industry, were allowed to bring back 50% of employees and salons and liquor shops reopened. In Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka state, businesses were allowed to partially reopen, though strict night and weekend curfews remained in place.
From June 7, the state of Maharashtra allowed malls, movie theatres, restaurants and offices to open regularly in districts where the positivity rate has fallen below 5%.
The country imposed emergency measures from July 3 until July 20 to contain a spike in cases, tightening curbs on movement, office work, dining and air travel on Java and Bali islands.
Israel told its citizens on June 24 they must again wear masks indoors, 10 days after being allowed to ditch them, amid a sustained surge in coronavirus infections attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant.
The country reopened its borders to tourists on May 23. Under a pilot programme, it gave the green light to visits by 20 groups of between five and 30 tourists from countries including the United States, Britain and Germany. It hopes to let individual tourists in from July.
People were able to stop wearing masks outdoors from June 28 and a nightly curfew was scrapped on June 21.
Indoor service at restaurants resumed from June 1.
Italy lifted quarantine restrictions for travellers arriving from European and Schengen countries, as well as Britain and Israel, from May 15.
Coffee bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres partially reopened in most regions on April 26.
Japan is considering barring all but VIP spectators from the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, a newspaper said on July 6, ahead of talks with the International Olympic Committee on July 8. Organisers have already banned spectators from overseas.
Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures are among areas under a ‘quasi’ state of emergency set to run through July 11 and the recent uptick in infections has officials leaning towards keeping restrictions in place, government sources have told Reuters.
That would cap spectators at 5,000. Olympics organisers have said spectators will be allowed up to half of venue capacity or a maximum of 10,000 provided the emergency restrictions are lifted. Some members of the ruling coalition are beginning to favour having no spectators at the Olympics, the sources said.
Most group size limits were lifted from June 26. People are not required to wear face masks anywhere except for public transport and airports, where distancing is not possible. Bars and restaurants have reopened.
Limits for concerts and sports events were raised to 50% of seats from June 26, with hotel capacity at up to 75%. From June 13, churches can be at up to 50% of capacity. People who have been vaccinated are not counted in the capacity limits.
Large indoor events with up to 50 people were allowed from May 28, a number that was tripled on June 6.
Poland reopened shopping centres, hotels, restaurants cinemas, theatres and concert halls in May. Indoor dining, indoor sports facilities and swimming pools reopened on May 28.
From May 28, Qatar allowed leisure, education centres, restaurants, gyms, pools and salons to operate at limited capacity, but bans on weddings, conferences and exhibitions remain in place.
Local and international sporting events can take place with fully vaccinated fans in open-space venues at 30% capacity.
The government had said it would relax social distancing measures in July, but case numbers shot up and authorities in Seoul and surrounding areas extended restrictions for another week to July 7.
From July 1, fully vaccinated overseas visitors can apply for exemptions from mandatory two-week quarantine if they are visiting family or travelling for the purpose of business, academic or public interest.
From July, masks are no longer required outdoors for those vaccinated with at least one shot.
From June 14, South Korea allowed up to 4,000 people to attend concerts and other cultural shows. Sports stadiums can operate at 30% to 50% capacity, depending on the districts.
Fresh outbreaks in July have prompted several regions, including Catalonia and Cantabria, to consider reimposing restrictions on nightlife and social events.
The country lifted a blanket obligation to wear masks outdoors on June 26.
From May 24, it allowed travel from low-risk non-EU countries without a negative PCR test. From June 7, vaccinated people from anywhere in the world could enter.
Curfews were lifted across most of Spain on May 9.
It will lift capacity restrictions in football and basketball games from the next season.
Sweden lifted curbs on restaurants and bar opening hours from July 1, and the number of seated spectators at outdoor stadiums will rise to 3,000 from 500.
Thailand said on July 4 it would allow some construction projects to resume in its capital and surrounding provinces but most sites and workers’ camps would remain closed due to the country’s biggest coronavirus outbreak to date.
A tourism pilot began on July 1 on the country’s most popular island, Phuket. On June 16, the country had said it aimed to fully reopen to visitors within 120 days.
Sunday lockdowns and weekday curfews, as well as public transport restrictions, were lifted on July 1, with music events, including concerts, allowed until midnight.
The United States is still considering when to lift its COVID-19 travel restrictions for international visitors, but does not intend to ultimately require coronavirus vaccinations for entry, the White House said on June 30.
On June 15, the state of New York lifted all state-mandated restrictions, including capacity limits of 50% for retailers and 33% for gyms. Mitigation measures are still required in public transit and healthcare settings.
California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut have also lifted most emergency measures.
On May 3, New York City allowed drinking at an indoor bar for the first time in months.
New York City and Los Angeles plan to fully reopen schools from September.
(Compiled by Vladimir Sadykov, Dagmarah Mackos and Federica Urso; Editing by Milla Nissi and Philippa Fletcher)
Canada’s wildfires could cost billions, kill thousands if nothing is done: report – Global News
Western Canada must urgently address the threats posed by highly destructive wildfires or face deadly and costly consequences, says a group of forest and environmental experts from British Columbia and the United States.
The experts, including Mathieu Bourbonnais, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of B.C. Okanagan, predict devastating wildfires like those currently burning in B.C. will be “commonplace” by 2050.
The group has released a paper predicting billions of dollars spent on suppression and indirect costs from the fires _ as well as hundreds or thousands of premature deaths each year due to smoke exposure _ ifaction isn’t taken to address climate change and the “daunting” scale of fuel, such as fallen trees and dead vegetation, that’s built up.
“If you look at record-breaking seasons, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fire suppression,” said Bourbonnais, a former wildland firefighter from Alberta.
Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution
“You can think about, if you spread that out over a couple of seasons, how may communities we could be engaged with on protecting watersheds, protecting drinking water sources, the communities themselves, high-value infrastructure, the ecosystems,” he said in an interview. “By doing that, we’re investing in a future that hopefully we don’t need to spend those kind of dollars on fire suppression.”
The group’s paper suggests creating patches of space in the forest that contain less flammable material, a strategy that can also boost the efficacy of fire suppression efforts, said Bourbonnais.
“Rather than crews responding to a fire with nothing but fuel in front of them, there are natural fire breaks, there’s old prescribed burns that help slow the fire down.”
Asked about the paper, the director of fire centre operations for the BC Wildfire Service said there was recognition of the work that needed to be done with communities as well as reducing fuel in the forests following historic wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018.
“I’m part of many different planning tables and discussions within this province and within this ministry on how do we do this better,” Rob Schweitzer told a news conference on Thursday.
“Through prescribed fire, through utilization of Indigenous traditional knowledge in use of fire, as well as amending our forest harvesting practices and the woody debris left behind, are all pieces that we continue to discuss and actually start to change policy and implement new strategies to help reduce that amount of fuel.”
South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire
About 1,250 wildfires have charred 4,560 square kilometres of bush since the start of B.C.’s fire season in April, compared with the 10-year average of 658 fires and about 1,060 square kilometres burned over the same time period, Schweitzer said.
Three dozen of the 245 wildfires that were burning in B.C on Thursday were considered either extremely threatening or highly visible, including a 655-square-kilometre fire north of Kamloops Lake that prompted an evacuation order for nearly 300 properties.
There were 28 states of local emergency and more than 60 evacuation orders covering 3,443 properties on Thursday. Nearly 90 evacuation alerts covered 17,679 properties, where residents were told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, said Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations for Emergency Management BC.
The number of daily new fires has subsided this week, Schweitzer said.
Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires
But higher temperatures are expected to contribute to “severe burning conditions” in B.C.’s southern half, he added. The forecast should bring more fresh air to the Interior, he said, fuelling a “short-lived increase in fire growth” but also aiding firefighting efforts by air, which have been hampered by smoky skies.
The service also anticipates some lighting this weekend, Schweitzer said, and crews are standing ready if new fires start.
Environment Canada issued heat warnings stretching across B.C.’s southern Interior, inland sections of the north and central coasts, as well as the south coast and parts of Vancouver Island. The wildfire service warns the combination of high temperatures and low relative humidity will make fires even more intense.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Northern Canada may be a popular destination at the end of the world – CTV News
In the event of societal collapse, researchers suggest northern Canada may be “habitable” and could act as a lifeboat, but that other countries are better suited for survival.
The researchers found that Earth is in a “perilous state” due to rapid population growth and an energy consuming society that has altered the Earth’s system and biosphere. They say that societal collapse could happen in various forms, including economic collapse, worsening climate catastrophe, a pandemic worse than COVID-19, or another mass extinction event, which the researchers say is already underway.
The goal of the study, published in the journal Sustainability on July 21, was to create a shortlist of nations that could host survivors in the event of a societal collapse, where civilization could start over. The researchers evaluated the land, how much was available and its quality, how easy or difficult it is to travel to the country, available renewable resources, climate and agriculture, to determine where it would be best to survive the end of the world.
Islands with low population density, particularly those with distinct seasonal changes, fared the best with New Zealand topping the list. Iceland, U.K., Australia (specifically Tasmania) and Ireland made up the rest of the shortlist where it would be best for society to restart after a collapse.
Northern Canada, while not on the shortlist, could act as a “lifeboat” in the event of societal collapse due to climate change and extreme temperatures, but survival would rely on maintaining agriculture and renewable energy sources to keep the population alive.
The researchers showed that the shortlisted countries had strong renewable energy sources, were in temperate climates, and have plenty of agricultural land and space for growth. In the case of Iceland, where suitable land for livestock is not in abundance, this downside is offset by fisheries and the island’s wealth of renewable resources, of which geothermal resources have already been widely developed.
While this may give Canadians living in northern regions a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, there are still zombie fires to contend with as climate change warms the north and shortens winters.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world – CBC.ca
Health authorities in Thailand are racing to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports as the country reports record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Other field hospitals are already in use in the capital after it ran out of hospital facilities for thousands of infected residents. Workers rushed to finish the 1,800-bed hospital at Don Mueang International Airport, where beds made from cardboard box materials are laid out with mattresses and pillows.
The airport has had little use because almost all domestic flights were cancelled two weeks ago. The field hospital is expected to be ready for patients in two weeks.
The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighbouring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 196 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.1 million deaths had been reported.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the number it had a week ago. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katunobu Kato told reporters the new cases are soaring not only in the Tokyo area but also across the country. He said Japan has never experienced an expansion of infections of this magnitude.
The World Health Organization’s Africa director says the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an “encouraging phase after a bleak June” as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase. But Matshidiso Moeti told reporters on Thursday that just 10 per cent of the doses needed to vaccinate 30 per cent of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have arrived in Africa so far, while 820 million are needed.
Less than two per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said.
In the Americas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 66.6 per cent of U.S. counties had transmission rates of COVID-19 high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.
COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization said.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 33,817 new cases of COVID-19 and 303 additional deaths. The country, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, is experiencing yet another surge in cases.
In Europe, Spain’s prime minister said existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.
Spain, one of the countries that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2020.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
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