Britain appears to be like set to develop into the Covid pariah state of Europe as soon as once more as extra nations are anticipated to comply with France and Germany’s lead by imposing Omicron journey bans this week – simply as they did final yr over Alpha.
Italy, Portugal, Eire and Greece final week tightened restrictions on vaccinated EU travellers to gradual the unfold of the virus, elevating fears they might now search to crack down additional on these arriving from exterior the bloc.
Whereas there are presently no EU-wide plans to ban journey – Ursula von der Leyen has prompt obligatory PCR exams for these getting into the bloc as a substitute – Belgium, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands are understood to be lobbying in Brussels for a ‘well timed’ revision of border guidelines in mild of the fast unfold of Omicron.
It comes after Germany on Saturday declared Britain a ‘virus variant space’, largely banning journey from the UK besides by its personal residents – who will nonetheless need to quarantine on arrival for 14 days no matter vaccine standing.
France final week imposed related measures, regardless of steering from the EU’s personal illness response company issued a day earlier saying that journey bans will probably be largely ineffective in nations the place Omicron is already spreading – together with France and Germany. The UK has dropped all journey restrictions off the again of comparable steering.
The strikes echo final winter when most nations – led by France – shut down cross-border journey with the UK over Christmas after the emergence of the Alpha variant, then often called the ‘Kent pressure’.
Regardless of the measures, which first got here into pressure in late December, Alpha had develop into the dominant pressure in Europe by the tip of winter earlier than being over-taken by Delta within the spring.
Europe is seeing a fast rise in Covid instances throughout the continent, spurred by a winter wave of the Delta variant and the arrival of the brand new and more-infectious Omicron variant that has prompted many nations to reimpose restrictions
Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands have all seen instances fall from report highs in current weeks after reimposing robust lockdown measures whereas infections proceed to rise in most different nations
Britain is being singled out for journey curbs due to excessive case numbers and comparatively excessive variety of Omicron instances, however we’re additionally finishing up considerably extra exams and sequencing extra of them for the presence of Omicron than most different European nations.
That results in a skewing of the info as a result of instances can’t be detected if they don’t seem to be being regarded for.
For instance, the UK on Sunday reported 83,000 Covid instances in comparison with 43,000 in Germany and 48,500 in France. On December 15, the newest date for which knowledge is on the market, the UK carried out 1.3million Covid exams.
Comparable knowledge from Germany and France on December 12 reveals they carried out simply 250,000 exams and 800,000 exams respectively. That’s regardless of Germany’s inhabitants being greater than 20 per cent bigger than the UK’s and France’s inhabitants being about the identical dimension as Britain’s.
That can imply that many optimistic instances are being missed from official tolls, which is confirmed by knowledge monitoring the variety of Covid exams which come again optimistic. Germany has one of many highest positivity charges in western Europe with round one in 5 exams coming again optimistic, in comparison with 1 in 14 in France and one in 25 within the UK.
In the meantime, the UK can be sequencing a a lot increased proportion of exams to detect instances of Omicron – with the newest figures displaying one in 5 British exams are being checked. Germany sequences fewer than one in 30 exams, whereas in France it’s fewer than one in 50.
Solely Austria is finishing up extra Covid exams relative to its inhabitants dimension than the UK, and solely Sweden is sequencing a better share of the exams carried out.
Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s new well being minister, even admitted on Sunday that the UK journey ban won’t cease Omicron taking maintain in his nation – saying as a substitute that the transfer is designed to gradual the unfold.
‘The longer it takes Omicron to get a grip on Germany, the higher,’ he stated.
That’s regardless of the European Centre for Illness Management issuing up to date steering on Omicron final week which reiterated that border controls are more likely to make little distinction to the unfold of the virus within the long-term.
In a scenario report issued on December 15, the ECDC stated journey restrictions imposed when Omicron first emerged have been ‘designed to purchase invaluable time’ to evaluate the virus’s transmission price and severity, however that the majority European nations have now confirmed instances and are experiencing group unfold.
It didn’t advocate any journey curbs, and as a substitute prompt elevated social distancing measures at airports together with pre-departure and post-arrival testing to attempt to catch instances.
The UK is reporting a number of the highest case charges in Europe, however can be testing way over different nations in relation to the dimensions of the inhabitants – with the notable exception of Austria (pictured above)
Take a look at positivity charges recommend nations the place giant numbers of infections are being missed attributable to an absence of testing, with the Netherlands and Germany faring worst with the UK’s determine holding regular since mid-July
The UK additionally sequences much more exams for the presence of Omicron than different European nations – barring Sweden – which can in-part account for the upper variety of instances being detected on this nation
However, in mild of Omicron’s fast unfold, even testing ‘will most likely not be related for for much longer’, it added.
The specter of journey bans comes towards a backdrop of tightening home Covid restrictions on the continent, with the Netherlands changing into the newest nation to impose full lockdown to gradual the unfold of instances.
Dutch cities have been largely abandoned because the nation started a snap lockdown that left individuals’s Christmas plans in disarray.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte introduced the shutdown Saturday, ordering the closure of all however important shops, in addition to eating places, hairdressers, gyms, museums and different public locations from Sunday till a minimum of Jan. 14.
Omicron, a really contagious variant first detected final month in southern Africa and Hong Kong, has raced across the globe and been reported in 89 nations, the World Well being Group stated on Saturday.
The variety of Omicron instances is doubling round each two days in areas with group transmission, the WHO stated, noting that a lot continues to be not identified in regards to the variant, together with the severity of the sickness it causes.
Whereas the Netherlands took the plunge and shut down a lot of public life to stop its healthcare system from being overwhelmed by an anticipated surge in instances, a number of different European governments are contemplating extra curbs – at a time when individuals are usually spending cash on buying, leisure and journey.
Britain reported a surge in instances of Omicron on Saturday, with 25,000 recorded up to now. Authorities advisors stated this might be the tip of the iceberg and well being minister Sajid Javid declined on Sunday to rule out the possibility of additional COVID-19 restrictions earlier than Christmas.
Javid stated the federal government was taking the ‘sobering’ recommendation of its scientists critically, was watching the info on an ‘virtually hourly foundation’ and would steadiness that towards the broader impression of restrictions on areas comparable to companies and training.
Protesters took to the streets of Belgium on Sunday to exhibit towards additional Covid restrictions, although the nation has not tightened its guidelines since late November when it enforced social distancing in indoor hospitality venues
Police confronted off with protesters hurling flares and highway indicators in Brussels on Sunday, the newest in a sequence of anti-lockdown protests within the capital which have been happening for 3 weeks
Riot police arrest a protester within the Belgian capital of Brussels on Sunday after anti-lockdown demonstrations turned violent
Hundreds of individuals marched by the Belgian capital carrying posters arguing towards vaccine mandates and lockdowns
A protester carrying a banner that quotes from the Nuremberg Code, and says: ‘Nobody might be subjected with out his free consent to a medical or scientific experiment’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reeling after a sequence of scandals and missteps, and greater than 100 of his personal Conservative lawmakers this week voted towards the federal government’s newest measures to deal with COVID-19.
Javid stated Johnson was not too politically weak to herald additional curbs if essential.
In Italy, the federal government is contemplating new measures to keep away from a surge in infections throughout the vacation interval, native newspapers reported on Sunday.
After holding a gathering with ministers on Dec. 23, Prime Minister Mario Draghi might mandate that individuals who have been vaccinated additionally present a adverse take a look at to entry crowded locations, together with discos and stadiums, each day Corriere della Sera reported.
In the meantime, in Belgium, 1000’s protested for a 3rd time towards strengthened COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Belgian authorities to counter a spike in infections because the omicron variant sweeps throughout Europe.
The marchers – some with placards studying ‘free zone,’ ‘I’ve had my honest dose’ and ‘sufficient is sufficient’ – got here to protest the federal government’s sturdy recommendation to get vaccinated. In addition they included Belgian well being care staff who may have a three-month window through which to get vaccinated towards the virus starting Jan. 1 or threat dropping their jobs.
A robust police presence and widespread preventive controls have been deployed for the march, given how earlier protests had descended into violence. However solely 13 arrests have been made for ‘insurrection and possession of prohibited articles,’ in keeping with police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere.
Additionally Sunday, the Brussels-based European Fee agreed with Pfizer-BioNTech to speed up the supply of vaccines beginning in just a few weeks. The pharmaceutical large will ship an extra 20 million vaccine doses from January to March to the European Union’s 27 nations.
The Belgian protest comes in the future after related protests in different European capitals together with Paris and London.
In a Brussels protest final month, a number of hundred individuals began pelting police, smashing vehicles and setting rubbish bins ablaze. Police responded with tear gasoline and water cannons.
Streets in Amsterdam have been abandoned on Monday because the Netherlands started the primary day of a brand new nationwide lockdown that may final till a minimum of January 14
A shopping center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is abandoned only a few days earlier than Christmas because the nation begins one other nationwide shutdown over rising Covid instances