COVID-19: Growing spread of Delta variant impacting travel
- Portugal confirms that the Delta COVID-19 variant is now dominant on its territory
- EU holidays in jeopardy after Germany calls for tighter restrictions against British travellers
- Australia facing a “serious crisis” due to an uptick in Delta variant caseloads
- New Zealand pauses the reopening of the travel bubble to New South Wales
Authorities worldwide are tightening travel restrictions to curb the spread of the Delta COVID variant, which is fast becoming the dominant coronavirus strain in many countries worldwide.
The rapid spread of the B 1.617.2 variant caused the UK government to delay the final unlocking of the British economy and prompted other countries such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to reintroduce more stringent lockdown restrictions.
The surge in the more transmissible Delta variant also saw the UK government add six new destinations to its “red” list for travel.
From 04:00 BST on June 30th, travellers arriving into Britain from the following countries will be required to quarantine in government-designated hotels at the cost of GBP 1,750 per person:
- Dominican Republic
- and Uganda
However, the Global Travel Taskforce (GTT) confirmed that sixteen destinations would be added to the green list – much to the delight of the travel industry.
According to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, people travelling to the UK from the following destinations can do so without quarantining upon arrival:
- Anguilla and Montserrat
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- The British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- The Balearic Islands
- Turks and Caicos
In a press statement, Mr Shapps stated: “We’re moving forward with efforts to reopen international travel this summer safely. Thanks to the success of our vaccination campaign, we’re now able to consider removing the quarantine period for fully-vaccinated UK arrivals from amber countries – showing a real sign of progress.”
However, millions of Brits hoping to travel to continental Europe for a summer getaway could be denied after German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a case for imposing more stringent restrictions against British travellers due to the uptick in the Delta variant cases in the UK.
According to recent news reports, Angela Merkel said people entering the EU from Britain should quarantine irrespective of whether they’re fully vaccinated.
French President Emmanuel Macron is believed to be backing Mrs Merkel after raising concerns about the growing spread of the Delta variant in France.
Last week Mr Macron said: “We should all be vigilant because the Delta variant is coming…We see that it affects people who have not yet been vaccinated or who have only had one dose, which means we have to be even faster in this vaccination campaign.”
His comments follow news that Portuguese authorities confirmed that the B.1.617.2 variant had become the dominant strain in Portugal.
Due to the uptick in cases of the Delta variant, most European holiday hotspots, including France, Spain, Greece and Italy, have been placed on Britain’s “amber” list, meaning travellers arriving into the UK from these countries must self-isolate at home for ten days.
Currently, travellers entering Italy must quarantine for five days, while fully vaccinated Brits can enter France without self-isolating. Meanwhile, those who provide negative COVID tests can travel quarantine-free to Greece, Spain and Portugal.
However, with the coronavirus infection rate in the UK soaring, it seems that rules against Britain are about to change.
Portugal and Germany tighten COVID border policies
Germany and Portugal have issued new travel restrictions against the UK to stem the spread of the highly transmissible Delta COVID variant.
The coronavirus Delta variant appears to be “exploding” in the UK, and scientists have warned the British government against removing all restrictions on social contact from July 19th.
New figures from Public Health England (PHE) published last Friday revealed that the caseloads of the Indian variant of concern (Indian-VOC) had risen by 46% week-on-week to 111,157.
While the rate of infection is slowing and most cases have been identified in unvaccinated people, the news is posing a threat to holidaymakers’ getaway plans.
From June 28th, unvaccinated Britons travelling to mainland Portugal by air, land, or sea will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Portugal imposed more stringent measures after German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the country for allowing Brits to enter without quarantining despite being aware of the rapidly spreading Delta strain in the UK.
Portugal has also become the first EU member state to announce that the Delta variant is now the dominant variation in the country.
The new rules came into effect on June 28th and are scheduled to remain until July 11th. Authorities may also want to extend the new border policy if the situation deteriorates further.
However, signs of an improvement in the epidemiological situation could encourage the Portuguese government to relax travel restrictions against Britain.
While the news is expected to put a dampener on summer holiday hopes, as Portugal is on Britain’s “amber” list, visitor numbers are relatively low anyway.
Still, Brits will be happy to know that the law does not apply in Madeira, which is one of the latest additions to the UK’s green list.
From June 30th, Malta – also added to Britain’s quarantine-free travel list – will allow vaccinated UK travellers to enter its borders without self-isolating upon arrival.
However, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressing for the EU to designate Britain as a “country of concern” due to the high prevalence of the Delta variant in the country, Brits face further hurdles.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants British travellers to quarantine for 14 days
The Chancellor of Germany has launched a bid to make quarantine mandatory for all British holidaymakers, even fully vaccinated Brits.
Under the proposed plans, UK travellers would have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in the EU.
Mrs Merkel is expected to receive backlash from tourism-dependent nations such as Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal, albeit the latter has imposed more stringent measures against the UK this week.
According to a Times report, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will sit down with Angela Merkel at Chequers next week and attempt to talk her down from the draconian move.
The conservative chairman of the Future Aviation Group (FAG), Henry Smith, is convinced that Mrs Merkel’s efforts are more political and less to do with coronavirus data.
During an interview with the Telegraph, Mr Smith said: “I suspect the EU believes that shutting Britain out of international travel gives them a competitive edge.”
He added: “Good luck persuading Spain, Greece and Portugal to agree with that as their economies heavily depend on tourism.”
Germany isn’t the only country pursuing more stringent border policies. Australia and New Zealand have also ramped up efforts to stem the spread of the highly contagious Delta COVID variant.
COVID outbreaks emerge across Australia
Australia’s COVID-19 Committee will hold an emergency meeting on Monday over the uptick in the coronavirus infection rate, fuelled by the spread of the Indian-VOC, formally known as B.1.617.2.
The Committee warned the Australian government that the country is facing the most “serious crisis” since the coronavirus pandemic began last year.
New South Wales recorded 18 new cases of the virus, while Sydney has re-entered a two-week lockdown after the infection rate in the state rose to triple figures.
At the same time, in Australia’s Northern Territory, the city of Darwin has entered a two-day lockdown after a gold mine worker tested positive for the variant.
Authorities are now pursuing 900 other mineworkers working in different locations across the country to determine whether they are also carrying the virus.
The more stringent measures announced in Australia means that approximately 70% of the population is now under coronavirus restrictions.
Australia has been far more successful than other countries in tackling the virus, with just 30,529 cases and 910 deaths, according to Worldometer.
Australia’s success has primarily been attributed to draconian social distancing measures and thorough contact tracing.
However, concerns over the growing spread of the new Delta variant saw Queensland mandate face coverings and Brisbane reintroduce curbs on social gatherings.
Health authorities are also urging the Federal government to tighten border policies to reduce the number of travellers entering Australia.
It comes as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said the travel bubble between the two countries would reopen except for flights to New South Wales amid the high prevalence of the Delta variant in that state.
She added that the New Zealand government might introduce additional preventive measures such as pre-departure testing to protect NZ citizens and residents.
New Zealand’s COVID response minister Chris Hipkins said that while he acknowledged “the frustration and inconvenience that comes with the pause to the travel corridor, we must keep the more contagious strain out of the country.”
Restrictions on the travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia will deliver a significant blow to some tourism operators, who had been hoping for a mini travel boom with the upcoming ski season.
Yet, on the other side of the Atlantic, the US has reported its busiest airport travel weekend, with the start of the summer season ushering in thousands of passengers and triggering extensive waiting times.