Hail to the Chief! By order of the U.S. President Joe Biden the requirement for proof of Covid vaccination was dropped, effective from today for entry to the USA. However, with less publicity and of some import, China dropped its requirement for a PCR test on April 29th, requiring only a rapid antigen (lateral flow) test taken in the 48 hours prior to boarding your flight to China which “may be checked at Customs on arrival”. It requires a health declaration online prior to entry.
Since my previous update on the countries to which the unvaxxed may travel a lot has changed. Since that update on April 4th a further 37 countries (including the U.S.) — with a possible 38th — have seen the light and lifted vaccine requirements for entry. Notably, amongst these, Azerbaijan has dropped all requirements but the rest, without exception, require some form of COVID-19 test prior to entry.
The requirements of two countries, which I have included in the 37 above – Iran and Laos – are not entirely clear with what seems like an absolute requirement for proof of COVID-19 vaccination on the one hand but with provision for testing for the unvaccinated on the other. My advice, if you must travel to either of these countries, is to keep checking the requirements or to liaise with an embassy or airline. Chile could be the 38th country on the ‘freedom’ list, but what the entry requirements are is not provided on its website.
Some of those which continued to require a COVID-19 test prior to entry at the time of the previous update but which had by then dropped vaccination requirements may still require a COVID-19 test. So, wherever you intend travelling, you should still check. Very few countries seem able to let go completely of some kind of COVID-19 related travel restriction.
Sadly, 15 countries have clearly not received the memo from the WHO that the COVID-19 emergency is over and are maintaining COVID-19 vaccination requirements prior to entry. These are: Angola, Bolivia, Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue, Latvia, Malawi, Mali, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Palau, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Turkmenistan (“Darn!”, I hear you say).
Generally, things are better, and I don’t intend to do another update but will try to mark an ‘International Freedom Day’ when all vestiges of COVID-19 related travel restrictions have been lifted across the world. Meantime, I have applied for a Chinese visa for a visit of nearly three weeks next month. I have never been stopped at customs in Beijing airport and with the number of passengers flowing through, I very much doubt there will be any checks. I am willing to take the risk of entering untested. What’s the worst that can happen? My next article may come from a prison somewhere in China.
Dr. Roger Watson is Academic Dean of Nursing at Southwest Medical University, China. He has a PhD in biochemistry.