European summer in jeopardy as France warns against Spain and Portugal

(Bloomberg) – France is warning its citizens against holidays in Spain and Portugal in the latest sign that the rapid spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 could ruin the European summer.

With the migration of tens of thousands of holidaymakers already underway on the continent, European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune issued a “message of caution” and advised those who have not yet booked to go elsewhere or to leave on vacation in the country.

The comments come as European Union countries introduce vaccination certificates intended to facilitate travel. But the delta strain and resumption of viral infections are hampering reopening, with some governments delaying plans to ease restrictions, or even reintroducing them to some hot spots. And as countries seek to weather the pandemic, new figures point to the current human cost, with the global death toll surpassing 4 million.

Spain and Portugal have the highest 14-day case notification rate in Europe after Cyprus, according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Both countries are heavily dependent on tourism and Beaune’s warning could endanger emerging recoveries.

“The situation is particularly worrying, especially in Portugal,” Beaune told France 2. The government will discuss the situation on Monday and may take measures, including border controls and local restrictions to try to stem the spread of the virus. .

The UK has already seen a surge in Covid cases, although the government continues with plans to reopen there. In the EU, the increased threat of a new wave of infections coincides with an apparent slowdown in vaccination rates in some Member States. As virus hotspots emerge, concerned government officials have stepped up warnings about the delta as well as the need to get vaccinated.

The Spanish region of Catalonia – a magnet for tourists with its capital Barcelona – currently has a 14-day infection rate of 290 per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to a national average of 118.5. The Balearic Islands, popular with German and British holidaymakers, have a rate of 191.5. Two weeks ago the rate in Catalonia was 46.3 and in the Balearics it was 36.

In a report on the economy released on Wednesday, the European Commission also called for faster vaccinations, saying the risks of spreading variants “underscore the importance of stepping up the pace further.”

Portugal reported 3,285 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since February 11. The latest figures are still only a fraction of the daily record of more than 16,000 cases reported at the end of January, when the country was facing one of the world’s worst epidemics.

Nonetheless, the European Travel Commission expects travel activity to continue to gain momentum as the peak of the tourist season approaches thanks to increased vaccinations and further easing of restrictions.

“Europe is now managing the risks of Covid well for both locals and our long-awaited travelers,” Luis Araujo, president of the industry body, said on Thursday. “So we believe safe travel is possible this summer.”

Meanwhile, UK travelers who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will no longer need to self-isolate when returning from moderate-risk countries, under a plan expected to go into effect this month.

British ministers have been working on an overhaul of the pandemic rules for overseas travel to give more freedom to fully vaccinated passengers returning to England from destinations on the government’s ‘orange list’.

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