Covid lockdowns threaten Europe travel plans for tens of thousands

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Travel plans for 100,000 Britons before Christmas are in doubt as Covid restrictions return to many parts of Europe after a surge in cases.

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Austria has become the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a full COVID lockdown, according to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, with Germany considering suit amid a “dramatic” fourth wave, which saw the country go “in full force”. together”.

In the Netherlands, health officials reported a record 23,000 new cases on Thursday – a peak of nearly 13,000 in December 2020. The country entered a three-week partial lockdown last week, closing bars, restaurants and essential shops from 8 pm.


In a typical year, around 250,000 British travelers would be expected to travel to one of the three countries during or before Christmas.

But with Austria in lockdown, Germany and the Netherlands under partial restrictions, and an increasingly precarious situation in Eastern Europe, where vaccination rates are far lower than in the West, many people are giving up or leaving their plans. want to reschedule.

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Munich’s Christmas market is one of many that have been canceled again this year, while the winter ski season is also in jeopardy.

The head of Germany’s disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said on Friday that the country is headed for a “very bad Christmas season” if action is not taken to control the rapidly growing spread of COVID-19. .

A vaccination center in Munich, whose Christmas market has been canceled again

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A vaccination center in Munich, whose Christmas market has been canceled again

To avoid following Europe into lockdown, the UK must continue to move forward with its vaccine program, scientists have said, while the government needs to consider wearing face coverings.

Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have between 64 and 73 percent complete vaccinations, according to Our World in data. The UK coverage is 68 per cent.

The UK is relying on its immunization programme, including the rollout of boosters, to compensate for dwindling protection from the first and help keep society open to winter. Downing Street is insisting that there is nothing in the data that points to the need to reimpose restrictions.

Professor David Matthews, a virologist at the University of Bristol, said the situation in Europe “reiterated the need for us to speak to adults who, for whatever reason, have decided not to vaccinate in the UK”.

“Vaccination is easily the most effective way out of the pandemic and the best way to avoid any further lockdowns.”

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, cautioned that “vaccines carry a lot of weight when it comes to keeping Covid-19 under control”, while “other interventions are needed to stop the case numbers from rising”. is”, alluding to the example of compulsory wearing of masks.

“These are minor inconveniences that, along with the continued rollout of booster vaccinations, can really help us through the winter months,” he said.

These warnings come as a new YouGov poll suggests the Vaccine Passport mandate has widespread support across Europe. The annual YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project shows that the majority of people surveyed in 10 European countries returned passes for large events; More people also believe that they should be implemented in cafes, restaurants and gyms.

Austria, where police are spot-checking vaccine passes, announced on Friday that Covid jabs would become mandatory from February.

Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, said: “Different countries need to respond as needed according to how the virus is behaving in their populations.”

He added: “The dynamics of virus-infection will differ between countries as they have different cultures, health care systems, levels of natural or vaccine immunity – as well as concerns related to social distancing, PPE, masking and different forms of practice.” level – and their also diagnostic testing, and testing, track, isolation, quarantine capability.”

The EU’s average infection rate has quadrupled in recent weeks, from more than 110 daily new cases per million people on 1 October to 446 on Thursday, according to data from Our World in Data.

In the Netherlands, hospitals have begun delaying operations for some cancer and heart patients in order to free up space in intensive care units for those sick with Covid.

Meanwhile, Germany has said further measures will be decided based on when the hospitalization rate reaches a certain threshold. Its fourth wave of infections has plunged the country into a national emergency, with Health Minister Jens Spahn warning that vaccination alone will not cut the number of cases.

Asked whether Germany could rule out an Austrian-style complete lockdown, Mr Spahn said: “We are now in a position – even if it generates a news alert – where we cannot rule out anything. “


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