Germany has tightened restrictions on returning travellers due to concerns that holidaymakers could fuel a fresh increase in Covid-19 cases, after European health authorities warned against all but essential travel to several top tourism spots.
In its latest update, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned against all but essential travel to much of Spain, including the holiday islands of Ibiza, Minorca and Palma, most of the Netherlands, Cyprus, Corsica and the popular tourism spots of the south Greek Aegean islands due to a boom in Covid-19 cases.
The “dark red” colouring on the ECDC’s latest map was a blow for the 13 Greek islands, including Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes, which rely on the business of millions of tourists from around the world each summer.
Dozens of extra police have been sent to Mykonos to help enforce sanitary measures amid a surge in cases, particularly among the young. The island had previously restricted music in bars and restaurants and imposed a mandatory curfew between 1am and 6am, requiring all people to stay at home unless for work or vital healthcare reasons.
Authorities in Germany have announced that all unvaccinated travellers arriving into the country whether by road, air, sea or rail would have to present a negative Covid-19 test result, amid concerns that returning tourists may trigger a new spike.
Rome's Fiumicino airport this week opened a walk-in vaccination centre in a departure lounge, where arrival, departure and transit passengers can receive doses of Moderna, Pfizer and Janssen jabs, in a bid to facilitate safer travel.
"We must bring Italy out of the Covid nightmare and give Italians the freedom to live," the president of the Lazio region Nicola Zingaretti said as the "Vax and Go" initiative was launched. "Giving Italians back their freedom means two things: vaccination and responsible behaviour."
The Delta variant now accounts for 95 per cent of cases in Italy, the National Health Institute announced on Friday, a dramatic rise from the 23 per cent of cases it accounted for in the country on June 22nd, illustrating its high infectiousness. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said the variant is as transmissible as chickenpox, and causes more severe disease than other strains.
High rates of vaccination across Europe are helping to prevent the rates of hospitalisations and deaths seen in previous surges. Across the EU, almost 60 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated with more than 70 per cent having received at least one dose, according to ECDC figures. They show Ireland has one of the highest rates of vaccination, with more than 71 per cent of adults fully vaccinated and 86 per cent having received at least one dose.
However, in parts of the world with lower rates of vaccination the variant is causing deaths to rise sharply, including in Africa where deaths rose 80 per cent in the past four weeks, according to the World Health Organisation, driven by the Delta variant.
Africa has the lowest vaccination rate of any continent with just five jabs administered per 100 people, and the WHO's Bruce Aylward condemned the rise in deaths as "unacceptable" at a time when vaccines are available, calling on wealthier countries to share jabs more equitably.
Israel announced it would become the first country in the world to offer booster shots to people aged over 60, due to indications that the body's immunity wanes over time. A speedy start to its vaccination campaign helped Israel drop restrictions earlier this year, but only about 55 per cent of its population is fully vaccinated, and infections have soared in the past month.