Some of the world’s more idiotic COVID-19 rules

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Travel writer Oliver Smith describes in The Daily Telegraph some of the more idiotic rules and regulations introduced worldwide in the name of science. And yes, South Africa features.

He writes:

Spain: Last week the Canary Islands, as well as the region of Galicia, effectively banned smoking in public places over concerns it increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

More regions are expected to follow suit. Why? The president of the Canary Islands, Angel Victor Torres, said a ban was needed because “infected smokers could blow droplets carrying the virus when they exhale.” How he thinks non-smokers breathe was not explained. As Christopher Snowdon points out, an ironic twist is provided by growing evidence that smokers are actually less susceptible to COVID than the rest of us. He said: “Studies suggesting that smokers are surprisingly resistant to COVID-19 have been around since April and, although it has received minimal media attention, the evidence has been growing stronger every week.

A study in the Lancet last month found that countries with more smokers had less COVID-19. While I donʼt expect to public health officials to actively encourage people to smoke, there is no reason to think that a renewed clampdown on smoking is going to do a lick of good in the public health crisis that has engulfed the world. It may well make things worse, but when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

BrazilUS aviation website View From the Wing has the story: “US airlines donʼt reuse pillows without sanitising them first, airlines are cleaning and disinfecting more than ever before – especially on international flights – and surface transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is now thought to be much less common than aerosolised spread.

“Nonetheless, a memo from United Airlines to its flight attendants outlining new rules from the Brazil Health Regulatory Agency banning pillows on aircraft. The ban means that United Airlines cannot provide pillows to passengers on its flights to and from Brazil and passengers are not permitted to bring their own pillows on board, either.”

Cambodia: It hasnʼt officially lowered the travel drawbridge just yet, but when it does not only will you need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test, but youʼll also have to hand over a $3,000 deposit to cover the cost of various coronavirus “services”.

Hereʼs the full run-down of those delightful services: $5 for transport from the airport to a waiting centre, $100 for one COVID-19 test, $30 for overnight stay at a hotel or waiting centre and $30 for three meals a day while waiting for the test result. If one passenger tests positive for COVID-19, all those on the same flight will be quarantined for 14 days. Each passenger will have to pay $100 for a COVID-19 test and $84 a day to pay for the stay in a hotel or quarantine facility. For a COVID-19 positive patient, they will be charged $100 per COVID-19 test (maximum four tests), and $225 a day for hospital room, medical treatment service, meals, laundry and sanitary services.

In addition, in case of death the cremation service charge is $1,500. If issuance of a COVID-19 health certificate is required, for example for future travel, foreign nationals will need to pay $100 for a lab test and $30 for the certificate. Join the back of the queue!

Kosovo: Not at the top of many holiday bucket lists, especially when the Foreign Office says you shouldnʼt go (as it currently does), but any intrepid older travellers will think twice when they see the following warning on the FCO website:

“Following a rise in cases, some local measures to slow the spread of the virus have been reintroduced. An overnight curfew prohibiting the movement of people outside their place of residence between the hours of 10.30pm and 5am is in place in the municipalities of Pristina, Prizren, Peja, Podujeva, Gjakova, Ferizaj, Lipjan, Drenas, Vushtrri, South Mitrovica, Gjilan, Fushe Kosove and Sterpce. In those municipalities, individuals over 65 years of age, or with chronic illnesses, are only permitted to leave their place of residence between the hours of 5am to 10am and 6pm to 9pm.”

Over 65s canʼt be trusted to pop to the shops during normal business hours, apparently. Because COVID only comes out in the daytime.

New York: Official rules say masks should be worn in public when social distancing (six feet) is not possible. Common sense would suggest this applies to crowded indoor environments like Metro trains and busy shops. But police are also eagerly enforcing mask wearing in the cityʼs outdoor parks, while residents … have taken to verbally abusing those seditious few who, in full accordance with the rules, wander the streets bare-faced.

So absurd is New Yorkʼs embrace of the face mask that the cityʼs Health Department recently encouraged residents to wear them while having sex. “Make it a little kinky,” the guidelines said. “Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face-to-face contact.”

Canada: Officials have issued their own, even more explicit, tips: “Use barriers, like walls (glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.” I wouldnʼt advise Googling “glory hole”. Use your imagination.

Ukraine: The FCO advice for Ukraine states: “When in public places, including when travelling on public transport and in taxis, you must maintain a minimum distance of 1.5m, wear protective masks and gloves.” Yes, thatʼs social distancing, masks AND gloves in a country of 42m that has seen just 2,089 COVID-related deaths… Gloves are madness, of course. COVID is spread largely in the air, not on surfaces, and germs latch onto latex just as easily as they do bare skin. Furthermore, they may provide a false sense of security, encouraging users to wash their hands less frequently and ignore social distancing guidance.

South Africaʼs government offered style tips during its long and oppressive lockdown. Shops were told they could only sell shoes if they are “closed toe,” while short-sleeved shirts were only allowed if they were promoted or displayed to be worn under jackets or jerseys.

Quite how many cases of coronavirus have been traced back to a super-spreading big toe is not clear. But, you know, whatever it takes.

“These new clothing regulations are frankly mad and seem more at place during the 1980s under the Soviet Union than they do in a democracy like South Africa,” Dean Macpherson, the countryʼs shadow trade and industry minister, said in response.

There was some solace for South Africans today, however, when the countryʼs alcohol and cigarette ban was finally lifted. A stiff drink is surely needed.

Australia, having adopted an ambitious elimination strategy, is starting to discover that government rules, no matter how draconian, canʼt stop a global pandemic. But still it tries.

In Victoria, a “State of Disaster” has been declared, which involves venturing no more than three miles from home, and wearing a mask whenever you do, while the country is increasingly preventing its citizens from heading overseas.

Since 25 March, most Australian citizens and permanent residents have needed government permission to travel or move abroad, but around three-quarters of applications have been rejected – even though they will be tested and kept in quarantine for 14 days on their return. Those with seemingly good reasons to travel are being denied the chance, not just holidaymakers.

New Zealand is permitting its residents to leave the country – so long as they pay to be quarantined on their return. The isolation stays cost NZ$3,100 ($2,050) for the first adult in each hotel room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each child sharing the room.

It essentially makes overseas trips unaffordable for all but the wealthiest residents. For how long will New Zealand prevent most of its residents from leaving the country? Until a vaccine is found, it would appear. How long that will take is anybodies guess.


Full report in The Daily Telegraph (Registration required)

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