FULL CLAIM: “The following countries announced the cancellation of all quarantine procedures, Corona tests, and compulsory vaccination, and considering corona just a seasonal flu: 1) Turkey 2) Brazil 3) Britain 4) Sweden 5) Spain 6) Czech Republic 7) Mexico 8) El Salvador 9) Japan 10) Singapore”
On 2 February 2022, a screenshot was shared on Facebook of a Telegram message from Christiane Northrup who claimed that ten countries had “announced the cancellation of all quarantine procedures, Corona tests, and compulsory vaccination” and are now “considering corona just a seasonal flu”. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Northrup has downplayed the pandemic and made a number of false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines. As of 7 February 2022, the post had accumulated over two thousand likes and was shared over 800 times.
Northrup isn’t the only one who shared this specific message. Multiple copies of this message, some in a longer form, were posted to Facebook (see examples here and here), including in other languages, such as Korean (see here).
The ten countries are Brazil, Britain, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. However, as we’ll show below, the claims are false, as many of these countries continue to maintain COVID-19-specific requirements for individuals entering the country, and COVID-19 restrictions, such as requiring vaccine certificates to enter certain venues, remain in place in many countries. Additionally, most countries never made COVID-19 vaccination compulsory in the first place, and only two of these countries have advocated for treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease, like the flu, instead of a pandemic disease.
Claim 1 (Inaccurate):
Ten “countries announced the cancellation of all quarantine procedures, Corona tests”
The post claimed that these ten countries cancelled all quarantine procedures and COVID-19 testing. However, a look at the specific COVID-19 entry requirements for travelers arriving in these ten countries at the time of this review’s publication, demonstrates that the claim in the post is false for eight of the listed countries.
Brazil continues to require proof of full vaccination (children under 12 are exempt), a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen), and a completed Traveler’s Health Declaration for all air travelers arriving in Brazil. Proof of vaccination is waived for four categories of travelers, but unvaccinated travelers who arrive in Brazil must complete a 14-day quarantine at their final destination. Quarantine can be discontinued after the fifth day if the traveler is asymptomatic and has received a negative COVID-19 test.
Beginning 11 February 2022, international travel requirements in England, Scotland and Wales will differ depending on the traveler’s vaccination status. Fully vaccinated travelers who received one of the approved vaccines 14 days before arrival won’t need to take a COVID-19 test before traveling to England nor will they have to take a test upon arrival. Fully vaccinated travelers are also exempt from quarantine. Travelers who aren’t fully vaccinated, however, will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test and will also have to take a second COVID-19 test upon arrival in England. If the second test is positive, the traveler will need to quarantine.
COVID-19 entry requirements for the Czech Republic differ depending on two points: (a) vaccination status, and (b) what country the traveler is arriving from. Travelers arriving from low and medium-risk countries need to have a negative COVID-19 test either before or upon arrival; fully vaccinated individuals and persons who had COVID-19 in the last 180 days and have a European Union COVID Digital certificate are exempt from testing. The European Union COVID Digital certificate is given to people who have been vaccinated, received a negative COVID-19 test result, or have proof of previously recovering from COVID-19. Travelers arriving from high and very high-risk countries need both a negative COVID-19 test done before arrival and must do a PCR test after arrival; the same testing exemptions apply for these travelers.
Since 17 November 2021, El Salvador no longer requires a negative COVID-19 test or vaccine for entry.
All travelers arriving in Japan from countries where the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant is dominant are required to self-quarantine for seven days upon arrival. Travelers to Japan must also submit a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test; those who fail to submit a certificate will be denied entry into the country.
Mexico has no entry restrictions for travelers arriving in the country; there is no need to do a COVID-19 test or quarantine.
COVID-19 entry requirements for Singapore differ depending on the traveler’s profile (including what vaccine they’ve received) and their travel history. A negative COVID-19 test done prior to departure to Singapore is required of most travelers, and passengers must take a PCR test upon arrival in the country.
COVID-19 entry requirements for Spain depend on the country the traveler is coming from. Travelers departing from countries outside the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), with certain exceptions, need to present a vaccination certificate. Persons coming from low-incidence countries, can travel without the need of a diagnostic test or proof of vaccination/immunity. Persons traveling from one of the listed high-risk countries or areas will need a vaccination certificate, unless they are eligible for exemptions.
Sweden has a ban on non-essential travel from most countries outside of the EU/EEA, with a number of exemptions based on country of residence and the traveler’s profile. Travelers from EU/EEA countries must present the EU COVID certificate or a proof of vaccination, while exempted travelers from non-EU/EEA countries need to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken prior to departure to Sweden, or a vaccine certificate or, in certain conditions, a proof of recovery.
Fully vaccinated persons and individuals with a COVID-19 recovery certificate traveling from most countries can travel to Turkey without having to submit a negative COVID-19 test. Travelers from a handful of countries, including South Africa, Brazil and India, must have a negative COVID-19 test independent of vaccination and/or immunity status. Furthermore, all travelers arriving in Turkey may be subject to a random PCR test. Those who test positive will be subjected to a quarantine period of seven days.
Of the ten countries listed in the screenshot, only El Salvador and Mexico have no COVID-19 requirements for travelers arriving in the country. The other eight do, with the specific requirements often depending on the traveler’s country of origin and vaccination status.
Claim 2 (Misleading):
Ten “countries announced the cancellation of […] compulsory vaccination”
The post also claimed that these ten countries cancelled “compulsory vaccination”. However, this claim is misleading as most countries never made COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for the general population in the first place. Japan, for instance, has never mandated COVID-19 vaccines and, in fact, the country has had no compulsory vaccines since 1994.
So far, Austria is one of the few countries that signed a law making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for the general population over 18, with the unvaccinated facing a fine. Despite this, many of the ten of the countries on the list mandate the COVID-19 vaccines for certain situations.
In Brazil, where vaccine requirements are often decided at the state and/or city level, at least 20 of Brazil’s state capitals require that individuals present a vaccine certificate to enter specific establishments and to attend certain events. For instance, in order to visit many of the tourist sites in Rio de Janeiro, visitors have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Similarly, on 10 January 2022, the state of Jalisco in Mexico announced that people going to bars, casinos, and concerts will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test result.
Of the ten countries on the list, some have ruled out mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations; however, this is not the same as cancelling compulsory vaccination, since there was no compulsory vaccination in the first place. Spain, where over 90% of the population over 12 years old is fully vaccinated, has ruled out making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory due to the country’s already high vaccination coverage.
In the Czech Republic, the new government has dismissed the previous government’s plan to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people aged 60 and older, firefighters, medical professionals and medical students, and police officers. According Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, the plan was dismissed because over 90% of the people who were covered by the plan are already vaccinated.
As such, the claim that these ten countries cancelled compulsory vaccination is misleading, because most of these countries never made COVID-19 vaccination compulsory.
Claim 3 (Inaccurate):
Ten countries are “considering corona just the flu”
The post also claimed that these ten countries are now “considering corona just the flu”. Of the ten countries, government officials in only two of them, Spain and Britain, have advocated for reclassifying COVID-19 as an endemic disease rather than a pandemic at the time of this review’s publication.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced that the country was working with experts to shift from “managing a pandemic to managing a disease which we hope science will reclassify as an endemic illness.” Spain’s Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, announced that “once this sixth [COVID-19] wave is overcome,” Spain will transition to monitoring COVID-19 in a way similar to other respiratory diseases, like the flu. At a press conference on 19 January 2022, United Kingdom health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that “we must learn to live with COVID in the same way we live with flu.”
An endemic disease is one that is always present within a region, which makes the disease predictable; malaria, which is continuously present in certain regions, is considered an endemic disease in those regions. A pandemic disease is one that has spread globally, impacting large numbers of individuals. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that “COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
Despite calls from the Spanish and U.K. governments, as well as from a few other European countries, to start considering COVID-19 an endemic rather than a pandemic disease, experts and global health officials disagree, saying the timing is not right.
At a press conference of 11 January 2022, Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency officer at WHO Europe said that “endemicity assumes that there’s stable circulation of the virus, at predictable levels and potentially known and predictable waves of epidemic transmission.” Smallwood then pointed out that “what we’re seeing at the moment coming into 2022 is nowhere near that, we still have a huge amount of uncertainty.”
There are experts, including U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Anthony Fauci, who believe there’s a good chance that COVID-19 will eventually become endemic, with the virus still circulating but causing fewer hospitalizations and deaths. However, it’s hard to anticipate when COVID-19 may shift to endemicity, said Yonatan Grad, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s dependent on factors like the strength and duration of immune protection from vaccination and natural infection, our patterns of contact with one another that allow spread, and the transmissibility of the virus,” Grad said in a news piece published by the T.H. Chan School.
Calls for declaring COVID-19 endemic have popped up in other countries, including some of the ten listed countries. For instance, in Japan, public figures, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, expressed support for declaring COVID-19 an endemic instead of a pandemic disease; Japan’s current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, however, pushed back, saying it’s too early to make this switch.
One country, Sweden, has announced that it will lift all coronavirus restrictions on 9 February 2022. Despite this, on 3 February 2022, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said that “the pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase”.
In short, while there are calls, primarily in European countries, to shift the view of COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic disease, like the flu, many of the ten countries listed in the post haven’t made this call or are, at the time of publication of this review, still studying how to make this shift.
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year and vaccination coverage increases in a number of countries, certain countries announced the removal of some COVID-19 measures or are studying how to make such changes. For instance, Spain, which has achieved over 90% vaccine coverage in the population above 12 years old, announced it won’t make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory and is now working with experts to figure out how to transition the country’s relationship with COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic one.
At the same time, most countries continue to maintain COVID-19 measures, including vaccine and testing requirements for visitors entering the country, and having to show proof of vaccination to enter certain venues. As such, the Facebook post alleging that ten countries dropped all COVID-19 requirements and compulsory vaccination, and were now treating COVID-19 as “just a seasonal flu” is inaccurate.