Countries across Europe have begun to tighten borders and implement stricter quarantine requirements as governments seek to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across the continent as the fast-spreading Delta variant continues to paralyze nations.
Authorities in Malta have barred entry to unvaccinated travelers, while Germany has targeted people arriving from the Netherlands and Spain, the Guardian reported on Sunday. Countries have also begun to implement vaccine requirements for a variety of activities – a similar measure to vaccine passports, although governments have shied away from using that specific term.
In Greece and Portugal, only vaccinated customers are now welcome in bars and restaurants, while in Italy proof of vaccination is required to visit museums, watch a film, or attend a gym.
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Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement protested Saturday against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
The previous week, more than 100,000 people had protested around France against mandatory vaccinations and the imposing of health passes.
Governments in Europe have heightened measures to contain COVID-19 as the highly contagious Delta strain of the virus has continued to spread.
Europe is not alone in its fight against the more virulent version of COVID-19. Earlier this month, reports emerging that the Delta variant had begun to surge throughout Asia, with record numbers of infections in Australia and South Korea, prompting some countries to tighten curbs and others to hasten vaccination.
The Delta variant is around 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was around 60 percent more transmissible than the original variant that began the pandemic in China, Martin Hibberd professor of emerging infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Guardian on Sunday.
“Europe probably needs to expand [mass testing] a little bit more so that people can be more aware about whether they’re positive or not and then isolate if they are. [Europe] haven’t been quite as good at that: you can’t get free tests quite as easily across Europe as you can in the UK,” Hibberd said, according to the Guardian.
European economic prospects dim
Government measures to contain the Delta variant could also hit Europe’s economic recovery. While governments have yet to announce a return of full lockdowns, containment measures could well hit economic activity throughout the last quarter of this year.
Earlier this month, France’s finance minister said that while he expects economic growth for 2021 to be around 6 percent, up from a previous 5 percent target, the Delta variant remains a wildcard.
“The Delta variant would be the only obstacle,” Bruno Le Maire told Franceinfo radio, Reuters reported.
The high level of Delta variant infection in the UK has already resulted in some European countries banning British tourists, a situation which could be replicated with other nations.
“The UK was responsible for exporting Alpha, and now Delta. Countries across Europe, especially the UK, still haven’t learned the value of regulated quarantine,” Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds told the Guardian.
While more control measures such as green pass rules will continue to help, Griffin added, “to control Delta properly you should ideally use both vaccination and restrictions in a concerted effort – unlike the UK.”
With The Associated Press, Reuters