A third wave of Covid across Europe could leave the British summer vacation dreams in ruins again.
Foreign travel will be “extremely unlikely” this summer as there is a risk of new variants being brought back to the UK, warned a top researcher advising the government.
Hopeful vacationers are warned that it is too early to bank on vacation abroad as restrictions on international travel may remain.
The British ban on international travel is set to end on May 17th at the earliest.
Countries like Greece and Portugal are still hoping to roll out the red carpet to vaccinated British travelers as they struggle to keep their tourism industries alive.
However, experts warn of worrying new varieties of the virus, and new lockdowns in Europe could delay much-anticipated summer trips and reunions for families being kept apart.
France, Germany, Italy and Poland are among the countries that announced new lockdowns in the past few days as vaccine rollouts in Europe remain sluggish.
Der Spiegel has analyzed what effects the third wave of Europe is likely to have on summer holidays and examined the individual circumstances in countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal.
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The infectious disease expert, Dr. Mike Tildesley said there was a risk that new variants could jeopardize the vaccination program later in the year.
Dr. Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modeling group that advises the government, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “Unfortunately, I think international travel this summer is extremely unlikely for the average vacationer.
“I think we run a real risk if a lot of people go overseas in July and August because there is the potential to bring more of these new varieties back into the country.”
The Kent variety has also spread to Europe, where countries are also trying to keep the worrying new South African variety at bay.
Even if the UK’s vaccine campaign goes into effect, the virus will still be widespread across the continent and leaders are introducing new restrictions to fight off the strains.
The EU has also been plagued by the slow adoption of vaccines and several countries stopped using the Oxford / AstraZeneca prick for fear of blood clots but have since reversed the decision after drug regulators assured it is safe.
The company’s gradual reopening in the UK is set to gain momentum in the coming weeks after Boris Johnson’s roadmap from the lockdown was released earlier this month with the schools reopening.
The UK vaccine rollout topped 26 million first-time doses on Friday, but is expected to be hit by delays keeping first-doses for under-50s as weekly deliveries are reduced significantly.
The surge in infections on the continent has led some countries across Europe to impose stricter restrictions, with British scientists worried about outbreaks of the South African variant.
Government scholars say it is still unclear what overseas travel plans will happen this summer, but the risk of importing cases and variants comes from countries with a higher prevalence than the UK.
The government is “unlikely” to want to encourage travel to European countries that are currently experiencing high levels of coronavirus infections, Professor Andrew Hayward told Times Radio this morning.
Prof. Hayward of University College London was asked if he thought that travel to Europe could probably resume without restrictions this summer.
He said, “I think the government has always realized that going abroad … changes or plans are likely to change.”
Prof. Hayward added that the UK government is unlikely to want to encourage travel to countries where there are still high levels of infection.
He said the authorities would also “keep an eye on which variant is prevalent or even widespread in each country”.
He added: “I suppose one of the more worrying things about this resurgence is that in some parts of Europe the South African variant is beginning to creep up to higher levels.”
He said this variant was “particularly worrying” because the effectiveness of the vaccine against it was “quite low”.
“So of course we want to be very careful,” said Prof. Hayward.
A study published Thursday by Oxford University suggested that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca strikes were fighting the South African variant and could potentially offer limited protection.
The researchers said the South African variant should be the focus of any effort to develop new vaccines that may be needed next winter.
Experts have long expected that countries’ covid jab programs could become seasonal – much like the annual flu vaccine.
Prof. Ferguson said “important decisions” are being made regarding how to deal with variants, including easing the ban on international travel.
One way to deal with variants could be to “introduce tests for people coming into the country,” he suggested, but added, “These are political choices.”
As EU countries began relaunching their AstraZeneca jab rollout after this week’s suspensions, they continue to follow the UK and some Eastern European countries.
According to StatistaSerbia, Hungary, Malta, Cyrpus and Estonia lead the per capita vaccination rates in Europe.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia are reportedly the ones who have expressed an interest in Russia’s controversial vaccine, Sputnik V.
Hungarian Vicktor Orban, a close ally of Vladimir Putin who frequently clashes with Brussels, was the first to approve the use of Russia’s push.
Current blocking and travel rules by country
The French government announced that new lockdown restrictions would be imposed on Paris and 15 other regions starting Friday at midnight due to an increase in cases.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said France was facing a “third wave” of the pandemic and that the new measures would take four weeks.
As of Friday March 12, the UK will be one of the few countries outside the EU where people can legally travel to and from without justifying their trip.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany may need to take an “emergency break” to ease restrictions amid the rise in infections.
Neighboring Poland has been classified as “high risk”, which means that anyone crossing the country’s border must present a negative Covid test.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn warned this week that strict restrictions are likely to be reintroduced as it will take “a few weeks” for the most vulnerable people to be fully vaccinated.
Curfews are in place and are likely to tighten around Easter. The restricted opening times and national trips are limited to the spread of curbs.
Spain was one of the few countries where restrictions were eased before Christmas.
The country, including the popular vacation hotspots in the Balearic and Canary Islands, has signaled a strong desire to reopen to British travelers, a key pillar of its tourism economy.
The Spanish authorities have previously stated that vaccinated British travelers could be given a ‘green corridor’ to the country if the EU cannot agree on a stance on controversial vaccination certificates.
Concerns about rising case numbers have led to tightened restrictions in many regions, restricting national travel and restricting nightly hospitality times.
As of Monday March 22nd, all regions of the country will be in the highest “red” or “orange” zones.
The island of Sardinia was the only region not subject to restrictions since March 1, when its rules were relaxed.
It was the only part of the country where bars and restaurants could be open at night, but now it is tightening the rest of the country to tighten restrictions.
Portugal has already announced that it will open its borders to British tourists from May 17th.
In the meantime, the borders with neighboring Spain should remain closed until at least after Easter as the countries try to contain the spread of the new wave.
According to health officials, travel restrictions such as a negative Covid test or quarantine for arrivals from the UK and other countries dealing with new variants of the virus will remain in effect.
Portugal has also been removed from the UK’s “red list” of countries from which travel is severely restricted. It had been added to the list because of its close ties to Brazil, where another worrying variant emerged and spread quickly.
The change means travelers arriving in the UK can spend their 10-day quarantine at home rather than a government-approved hotel at a cost of £ 1,750.
The country is expected to be cautiously reopening from next week, despite a high number of infections and busy hospitals.
It is planned to reopen to British tourists from May 14th – although travelers will have to show proof of vaccination, a negative Covid test or evidence of antibodies to the virus.
Greece is struggling to balance its already fragile economy with ongoing restrictions.
Leaders said its popular archaeological tourist sites along with hair and beauty salons from Monday.
A nationwide night curfew remains in place, but begins two hours later at 9 p.m. on the weekend.
The nearby Republic of Cyprus has also announced that it will open its borders to vaccinated Brits from the beginning of May.
The country begins a new three-week lockdown today with shops, hotels, cultural and sports facilities closed.
Poland has already lifted quarantine requirements for travelers who have received the vaccine.
Visitors from abroad, including the UK, do not need to self-isolate upon arrival in Poland if they can show they have already had the sting.