Don’t look now, but the Delta variant of the coronavirus is putting the brakes on the restart of travel, especially in Europe.
Portugal, Spain and Germany are among the first nations to initiate new travel restrictions in a bid to limit the spread of the more contagious variant which was first detected in India, reported Euronews.
Portugal is the first European Union nation to announce that the more transmissible Delta variant was now dominant on its territory. In Germany, the number of delta-variant cases has doubled in a week, said a Reuters report.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Portugal last week for allowing British tourists to travel to the country between mid-May and early June, while the Delta variant was circulating in the U.K.
As of Monday, anyone travelling to mainland Portugal will have to prove they have been fully vaccinated or have to isolate for two weeks.
Turkey is also limiting flights to some countries over concern about the variant, according to a TRT World report.
Meanwhile, hopes for a travel corridor between the United States and Great Britain this summer seem to be dwindling, officials told the Financial Times on Monday, partially due to the rise of the Delta variant in the U.K.
FT said the talks for the corridor would likely extend into August and even September and are further complicated by the fact that the U.S. has yet to approve the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which has been widely used in the U.K.
It’s not just Europe that is throwing up new measures to slow the spread of the new variant. In Israel, which is the most highly vaccinated country in the world against COVID, they have delayed the entry of individual tourists until at least August 1.
In Australia, which had seemingly eradicated the virus causing COVID, 80 per cent of the country’s population is now under lockdown due to a sudden rise in the Delta variant. The country also sits dead last in the OECD for vaccination against the virus with less than five per cent of its population fully vaccinated.
Because the Delta variant is spreading at such a fast rate, scientists say that the race against the virus could be lost unless countries seriously ramp up their immunization campaigns and increase their vigilance against the disease.
“This is the problem with hanging everything on vaccines until you’ve got something near a population immunity threshold … you need a much higher coverage to protect against a variant that’s more transmissible,” Dr. Stephen Griffin, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Leeds school of medicine told The Guardian.
“It just speaks to the fact that we really, really must keep cases down at the same time as rolling the vaccines out.”
The same report stated that research in Australia indicates that the Delta variant can be spread in “scarily fleeting” encounters. In two cases, it was transmitted within five to 10 seconds of people walking past each other in an indoor shopping area.