The Long ‚GoodBye‘ to COVID: Delta Variant Surge Brings Uncertainty for Europe’s Summer Reopening

Written by | Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

France and Greece have both announced plans to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for health-care workers as the more virulent delta variant gains ground across Europe, threatening even those nations with high or climbing inoculation rates. French President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address Monday that France was “facing a strong resumption of the epidemic” and that a slowing vaccination campaign could lead to rising hospitalizations later this summer. “The equation is simple. The more we vaccinate, the less space we leave this virus to circulate,” the French leader said. Thousands of French citizens rushed to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment on Tuesday (13 July), after Macron warned that unvaccinated people would be refused access to a variety of events and venues. And as the country celebrates its national holiday – the Bastille Day – thousands of troops were marching in a Paris parade and traditional parties around the country, after last year’s events were cancelled because of virus fears. This year those fears are still lurking, but the government decided to go ahead with the parade on the Champs-Élysées as part of a broader effort to return to pre-pandemic activity.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has recorded a 500% rise in COVID-19 cases this week, following moves to fully reopen the economy including opening nightclubs. It has been seen as a warning as to how case numbers might take off in England when restrictions are dropped next week. The surge in COVID-19 infections comes even though more than 46% of the Netherlands’ adult population is fully vaccinated, and more than 77% of the country’s adults have had at least one shot. Health minister Hugo de Jonge has said that the late June loosening of restrictions combined with a lack of social distancing and the delta variant “has had, of course, an accelerating effect. You can unfortunately see that with hindsight”. Infections among people ages 18-24 surged by 262%, followed by a 191% rise in 25- to 29-year-olds.
Countries in and outside of Europe are also tightening their immigration policies in response to the growing challenge posed by the Delta variant. Malta has abandoned its plan to close its borders on Wednesday (14 July) to travellers that have not received the COVID-19 vaccine following a criticism from the European Commission. The government announced earlier on Tuesday (13 July) that instead, arrivals would face an undisclosed period of quarantine. The compulsory self-isolation period for those arriving from countries certified as “red” is already 14 days. The EU executive had criticized the ban, pointing out that the health pass system adopted by the EU – under which arrivals had to prove they were vaccinated, cured of the coronavirus, or recently tested negative – was binding on member states. Meanwhile, the United States has lowered travel advisory status from Level 3 to Level 2 for a number of European destinations, urging travelers to “exercise increased caution.” The travel advisory concerns Germany, Austria, Armenia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Serbia.

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