German experts urge stricter virus measures, more boosters

Germany should implement stricter measures this week to slow the spread of the omicron variant

VIENNA — Germany should implement stricter measures this week to slow the spread of the omicron variant, the German government’s new expert council said Sunday, a day after the government announced it would impose travel restrictions on people coming from Britain.

Omicron cases are doubling in Germany around every 2 to 4 days, the council said, making it slightly slower than the spread in the U.K. but faster than any previous variant.

To combat the next wave of infections and keep Germany’s already stretched hospitals from being overwhelmed, the council recommended stricter government policies to reduce Germans’ contacts.

“Effective, nationally coordinated countermeasures to control the infection process need to be drawn up, in particular well-planned and well-communicated contact restrictions,” it said in a statement.

The council also recommended speeding up Germany’s booster vaccination program. Germany has fully inoculated 70.2% of its population, and 30.3% have received a booster shot.

“A massive expansion of the booster campaign can slow down this dynamic and reduce the impact, but not prevent it,” the council wrote, adding residents need to reduce their own contacts, consistently wear face masks and test regularly for the virus.

The country’s national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, added Britain to its list of “virus variant areas” late Saturday. This means anyone traveling from the U.K. to Germany must enter a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

The new restrictions, which take effect at midnight Sunday, come as the U.K. is reporting record-high numbers of new coronavirus infections. On Saturday, Britain saw 90,418 new COVID-19 cases, on Sunday it reported 82,886 more.

The U.K. joins eight African countries, including South Africa, on Germany’s list of “virus variant areas.”

Starting Sunday, Germany considers France and Denmark “high risk areas,” meaning those who are not vaccinated or recovered from the virus must quarantine for 10 days after entering the country. Dozens of countries, including nearly all of Germany’s direct neighbors, have now been added to this category.


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New Virus Restrictions in Britain Worry Businesses

LONDON — On Thursday morning, a group of 50 called to cancel their holiday party booked for that evening at Luc’s Brasserie, a French restaurant in the financial district of Britain’s capital. That same morning, a group of 21 canceled their party too, also for Thursday night.

The previous night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that stricter Covid measures were coming, and the impact was immediate for Darrin Jacobs, the owner of Luc’s. There had been a “multitude of cancellations,” he said.

But thanks to a waiting list of reservations, he said, the restaurant was still fully booked until Christmas. And many of the canceled bookings had optimistically rescheduled their celebrations for early next year.

“We won’t lose the business, we’ll just move the business on,” Mr. Jacobs said. But “it’s not easy because we’ve already bought food and moved staff around,” he said.

For months, businesses across Britain have been desperately trying to maneuver around supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and rising costs as they emerged from various stages of lockdown.

Offices reopened, which filled up commuter buses and trains; restaurants and pubs advertised to host holiday parties; and lines grew longer at city center coffee shops.

Now, the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant has unexpectedly dealt those efforts a blow. The government has revived coronavirus restrictions that are likely to weigh on hospitality and travel businesses during the critical holiday season and put a dent in the economy.

“I don’t know where this is going to go next week,” Mr. Jacobs said. “I think this is a tip of the iceberg-type scenario and it may get a lot worse next week and, if that’s the case, we’ll really have to scale it back.”

For now, he’s still cautiously optimistic. But his business relies on people who work in nearby offices and walk to his restaurant in Leadenhall Market, especially several insurance companies. On Thursday, Mr. Jacobs heard that two large companies were closing their offices again.

In England beginning Friday, face masks will be required in most indoor public places including cinemas and theaters. Starting Monday, people who can work from home should. And starting in the middle of next week, passes showing vaccination or a recent negative Covid test will be required for large events and nightclubs, Mr. Johnson announced this week. The rules will be voted on in Parliament next week. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set their own measures, which are slightly stricter.

“Unless you go to a full or partial lockdown, the effect of the measures themselves will be rather small,” said Paul Mortimer-Lee, the deputy director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London. “What will be hurting the economy is individuals’ responses.” People are likely to take more precautions to protect themselves from the virus, especially by socializing less.

While the rules are relatively light, for some businesses this will be an unwelcome retreat.

Before the Omicron variant was discovered, the British economy was losing some momentum while prices were rising rapidly, putting inflation at its highest level in nearly a decade. Gross domestic product grew 1.3 percent in the third quarter, down from 5.5 percent in the previous three months. And that growth was driven by spending on services, especially in hotels, restaurants and entertainment as the last of the major pandemic restrictions were lifted in the summer. In October, economic expansion slowed sharply, to just 0.1 percent from the previous month.

Now, there are early indications that restaurant reservations are declining and Christmas parties are being canceled.

Restaurants, cafes and shops primarily serving office workers were contending with the lost trade from hybrid working but had at least seen a notable return of workers. Some 70 percent of British workers said they had traveled to work at least some days each week in early December, according to the Office for National Statistics, up from about 50 percent earlier in the year, when the country was under a strict lockdown.

Sales at Pret A Manger, the coffee and sandwich chain whose shops tend to be clustered around office hubs and transport locations, only returned to prepandemic levels about two weeks ago. Now those sales are starting to slip again.

“Christmas has been canceled for many City shops, restaurants, pubs and other businesses that rely on footfall from workers in nearby offices,” Catherine McGuinness, the policy chairwoman of the City of London Corporation, which governs the capital’s financial district, said in a statement.

Her organization will encourage workers and businesses to follow the new rules but said the government needed to lay out a road map for lifting the restrictions again in the new year, Ms. McGuinness said.

The new measures will also complicate the next steps for the Bank of England. Policymakers at the central bank had been preparing to raise interest rates in response to inflation, provided unemployment remained low. Some analysts believed an increase could come as soon as next week. But the potential for Omicron to further slow the economy makes it harder to justify tightening monetary policy.

The extra uncertainty could dampen productivity and employment growth, according to Mr. Mortimer-Lee. It’s likely to make companies more cautious about hiring and investment, especially businesses that rely on face-to-face interactions, like restaurants. Also, high case numbers will keep children out of schools and parents away from their jobs.

“It’s those millions of individual decisions, rather than Boris Johnson’s decision, that’s going to affect the economy,” said Mr. Mortimer-Lee. “And none of it’s going to be good.”

Even before the latest measures, hotels were seeing about a fifth of their corporate bookings canceled, according to UKHospitality, an industry lobby group, after the government required travelers into Britain to take a Covid test within two days of arriving, and isolate until receiving the results. Christmas bookings weren’t as strong as they traditionally are for hospitality businesses in a quarter that usually brings in about 40 percent of the industry’s annual revenue.

And so, the industry is asking for relief from business rates (a type of tax on commercial properties), more grants, rent protection and an extension of the reductions on VAT, a sales tax. “Anything less would prove catastrophic,” Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said in a statement.

The latest measures have been particularly disappointing for nightclubs, one of the last businesses allowed to reopen earlier this year. The Night Time Industries Association said Covid passes have been damaging to their industry in the parts of Britain where they were already in place.

Michael Kill, the chief executive of the lobbying group, said businesses were experiencing a “honeymoon period” since reopening in the summer and were trying to rebuild cash reserves before the quieter months at the start of the year.

“We’re now seeing some concern around cancellations and ticket purchases hesitancy,” Mr. Kill said. “These sorts of things that are leaving people in a vulnerable position, because many of them stocked up and purchased and staffed for a busy Christmas period.”

The group accused the government of enacting the changes to draw attention away from public fury over accusations that the prime minister’s staff broke lockdown rules by holding an office party last Christmas.

“It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the prime minister for him to save his own skin,” Mr. Kill said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Live updates: South Africa sees surge in virus cases

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled in a day, authorities reported Wednesday, signaling a dramatic surge…

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled in a day, authorities reported Wednesday, signaling a dramatic surge in the country where scientists detected the omicron variant last week.

New confirmed cases rose to 8,561 Wednesday from 4,373 a day earlier, according to official statistics.

Scientists in South Africa said they are bracing for a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases following the discovery of the new omicron variant.

“There is a possibility that we are going to see a vast increase in number of cases being identified in South Africa,” Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, regional virologist for the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press.

The omicron variant has been detected in five of South Africa’s nine provinces and accounted for 74% of the virus genomes sequenced in November, the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced Wednesday.



— The world faces weeks of uncertainty as more countries restrict travel

— Spain and Portugal are stepping up efforts to vaccinate residents, despite having inoculation figures that are the envy of the world

— Singapore’s COVID-19 strategy appears to be on track despite the new variant

— U.S. moves to toughen testing requirement for travelers

— More cases linked to the new omicron variant are surfacing, prompting countries to impose restrictions.

Go to for updates throughout the day.



PORTLAND, Maine – The burden of COVID-19 on hospitals in Maine, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, grew more acute in the last two weeks, the head of the state’s public health agency said.

There were 334 people hospitalized in the state on Wednesday, said Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah. That was a new record and an increase from 280 two weeks ago, he said.

Maine has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccine rates in the U.S. at 73% and had been spared the burden experienced by other states until recent months. Shah said about 60% of the people in hospitals are not vaccinated.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. recorded its first confirmed case of the omicron variant Wednesday — a person in California who had been to South Africa — as scientists around the world raced to establish whether the new, mutant version of the coronavirus is more dangerous than previous ones.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, made the announcement at the White House.

“We knew it was just a matter of time before the first case of omicron would be detected in the United States,” he said.

The infected person was identified as a traveler who had returned from South Africa on Nov. 22. The person, who was fully vaccinated but had not had a booster shot, tested positive on Monday and had mild symptoms that are improving, officials said.


UNITED NATÎONS — The United Nations chief is accusing countries that have restricted air travel from some African nations because of South Africa’s discovery of the COVID-19 omicron variant of “travel apartheid.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries that have imposed travel restrictions to adopt testing measures instead, saying pre-departure and post-arrival tests have allowed thousands of people to fly in conditions where the transmission of COVID-19 is “highly unlikely.”

What is unacceptable, he said, is to have Africa, “one of the most vulnerable parts of the world economy, condemned to a lockout” for revealing a new variant that already existed in other parts of the world.

Guterres spoke at a news conference following a meeting Wednesday with the African Union Commission chair, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who vigorously condemned “the unfair measures” imposed on Africa by a growing number of mainly Western countries which he called “a form of stigmatization” and “injustice.”

The U.N. chief said he was launching a very strong appeal “to common sense: We have the instruments to have safe travel. Let’s use those instruments to avoid this kind of, allow me to say, travel apartheid, which I think is unacceptable.”

Mahamat echoed Guterres saying: “It’s immoral to condemn Africa in that way.”


BEIRUT— Lebanon has declared a nighttime curfew for the unvaccinated ahead and during the holiday seasons. Its health minister on Wednesday called it one of the measures to stem a recent rise in coronavirus infections and a precaution against the new variant.

Lebanon has not recorded any infections with Omicron, but the small country enduring a severe financial crisis is concerned its health care system won’t be handle a new peak of infections.

Lebanon’s Health Minister Firass Abiad said the COVID committee wants to avoid imposing a full lockdown and hopes to encourage more people to get vaccinated.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization says travel bans by countries are having an impact on global cooperation against the new omicron variant by causing “challenges” to the sharing of laboratory samples from South Africa that can help get better grips on the new variant.

The comments Wednesday came at the first press briefing by the U.N. health agency since it christened omicron as a “variant of concern” after being brought to light by researchers in South Africa last week. Many countries responded by suspending flights from seven southern Africa countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for “tailored” intervention by countries, including testing travelers before and after they arrive in a country, and advised against “blanket travel bans” that “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”


GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says at least 23 countries have reported cases of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus, “and we expect that number to grow.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency “takes this development extremely seriously, and so should every country, but it should not surprise us. This is what viruses do, and it’s what this virus will continue to do as long as we allow it to continue spreading.”

Tedros, citing the early stages of global response to omicron, said efforts were ongoing to determine the severity of disease, transmissibility and the effectiveness of tests, treatments, and vaccines in the face of omicron. He said the delta variant remains by far the most common


RIO DE JANEIRO — Health officials on Wednesday confirmed Brazil’s third known case of the omicron coronavirus variant as the government examined possible new measures to contain the virus, such as suspending some flights and requiring arriving passengers to show proof of vaccination.

A passenger from Ethiopia tested positive for Covid-19 upon landing in Sao Paulo on Nov. 27, the state’s health secretariat said in a statement. The 29 year-old man is vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer shot and is in good health, officials said.

The news came a day after Brazilian health officials reported confirmed cases of the omicron variant in two travelers arriving from South Africa –– the first such cases in Latin America.


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s government has proposed a plan to give people 60 and older a 500-euro ($568) bonus if they get vaccinated against COVID-19, the finance minister said Wednesday.

The measure, announced by Finance Minister Igor Matovic, should boost inoculations in the European Union country with one of the bloc’s lowest vaccination rates. So far, only 46.1% of the nation’s 5.5 million people have been fully vaccinated.

The current four-party ruling coalition in Slovakia has been split over the issue. The pro-business Freedom and Solidarity opposed it, saying it was ready to support a 150-euro ($170) bonus only. But the party didn’t veto it, making the approval possible.

The bill will now go to Parliament. It would need some opposition support to be approved.

The bonus would be a voucher that could be used in restaurants, cafes, hotels or to buy tickets for sports, theater, cinema, exhibitions or concerts. It could be also used to pay hairdressers or fitness centers.


BUENOS AIRES — Fear of the new variant also caused a scene reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic: a cruise liner turned away from port.

Argentina’s Ministry of Health said Tuesday it had isolated the German-based cruise ship Hamburg following two confirmed positive cases of the new coronavirus.

The vessel, whose trip originated in Hamburg, Germany, touched in at Africa’s Cape Verde islands en route to South America and Antarctica.

On Wednesday, it was at sea off Argentina’s Buenos Aires province with 285 passengers and 156 crew aboard. Officials said they were waiting for tests to determine what variant of the virus had been detected.

Officials initially had allowed some passengers off the ship when it arrived, causing a local controversy.

Plantours said Wednesday the ship was continuing its planned journey toward South Georgia Island and Antarctica and was not stranded.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Wednesday confirmed its first five cases of the new omicron coronavirus variant in people linked to arrivals from Nigeria, prompting the government to tighten the country’s borders.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Wednesday the cases include a couple who arrived from Nigeria on Nov. 24 and a friend who drove them home from the airport. The two other cases were women who also traveled to Nigeria and returned to South Korea on Nov. 23.

Health workers earlier said they were conducting genetic sequencing tests on a child of the couple and relatives of the man who drove them home to determine whether they were infected.

Following the confirmation of the omicron infections, South Korea announced it will require all passengers arriving from abroad over the next two weeks to quarantine for at least 10 days, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status.


PARIS — A spokesperson says France’s government will allow flights carrying French and European Union citizens back from Southern Africa to resume under very strict conditions starting Saturday.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the move will lift for “very few” travelers a suspension on flights from the region that France imposed last week as a precaution after the identification of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Trips for family visits, professional reasons or tourism still won’t be allowed, Attal said.

Only passengers who are returning home to France or who work as diplomats or for airlines will be permitted into the country, he said.

Under the rules taking effect Saturday, travelers departing from 10 countries, including South Africa and neighboring nations, Zambia and Mauritius, will need to get tested for the virus both before their flights and after arrival.


MIAMI — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami is making face coverings optional for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated students whose parents sign opt-out paperwork.

The archdiocese made the announcement Tuesday, citing community COVID-19 statistics and the advice of physician advisors, the CDC and the Miami-Dade County Department of Health.

The CDC recommends mask-wearing in public indoor settings, including schools, in areas of substantial or high community transmission. As of Wednesday, Florida was the only state in the U.S. where transmission was low in nearly every county, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker.

Face masks were already optional for fully vaccinated students and teachers.


WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s prime minister got a booster shot against the coronavirus and made an emotional appeal to citizens to get vaccinated as 570 new deaths in one day were reported from COVID-19.

Mateusz Morawiecki’s appeal on Wednesday was made to a nation with a vaccination rate of just 54%. The numbers of those fully vaccinated have risen very slowly in recent weeks, though fears of the new omicron variant have appeared to spur some to finally get vaccinated.

Poland also reported over 29,000 new infections, the highest infection rate since a virus wave in the spring made central Europe a global hot spot.


GENEVA — The World Health Organization says the rate of increase of coronavirus cases held steady over the last week, though its African, Western Pacific and European regions all reported gains.

At the same time, new weekly deaths linked to COVID-19 fell by 10% worldwide.

The U.N. health agency said in its latest weekly epidemiological report on the pandemic that case counts shot up 93% in Africa, though it cautioned about interpreting too much from that high figure because it was largely due to “batch reporting” of antigen tests by South Africa.

The report, issued Wednesday, referred for the first time to the new omicron variant that WHO named on Friday. WHO said the variant, which was first detected in South Africa and Botswana, had been reported in a “limited number” of countries in four of health agency’s six regions.

As of Sunday, more than 280 million cases and more than 5.2 million deaths have been tallied due to the pandemic, WHO said.


BERLIN — Germany’s intensive care association is calling for nationally uniform restrictions to be imposed immediately and warning that the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care will hit a new high before Christmas.

German federal and state leaders are expected to decide Thursday on new measures to curb a sharp recent rise in coronavirus infections. Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz says he will back a proposal to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for everybody next year.

The DIVI association said Wednesday that more than 6,000 patients with COVID-19 will need intensive care treatment before Christmas and the all-time high from last year will be exceeded. It said that more than 2,300 new patients were admitted to ICUs in the last week alone, and that transferring patients within Germany isn’t a long-term solution.


GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization is hailing steps by its member states to launch work toward an international agreement to help prevent and prepare for future pandemics in the wake of the coronavirus.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the consensus decision during a long-planned special session of the U.N. health agency’s members was “cause for celebration.” It sets off work toward creating an “intergovernmental negotiating body” to draft an agreement, which is likely to take months if not years to be finalized.

“Of course, there is still a long road ahead. There are still differences of opinion about what a new accord could or should contain,” he said.


LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is entering a so-called state of calamity — the second this year — to curve an upward trend in coronavirus infections despite having one of the strongest vaccination records in Europe.

The state of calamity is one step below the country’s top level of alert.

The country is tightening passenger control in airports, seaports and land borders, requiring negative coronavirus tests for most incoming visitors as part of the new set of rules that kick in Wednesday.

Face masks are again required in enclosed spaces and coronavirus vaccination or COVID-19 recovery tests are required to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and hotels.

© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Travel bans imposed to slow spread of new virus variant | DW News – latest news and breaking stories | DW

DW News

Governments across the globe have issued travel restrictions in response to a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa and now named “omicron” by the WHO. The South African government says the bans are an overreaction.

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Threat of new virus variant brings back travel restrictions from 8 African countries

The United States just recently started allowing international visitors into the countries, but a new COVID-19 variant already has travel restrictions back in place.

Omnicron, believed to have originated in South Africa, has prompted President Joe Biden to place travel restrictions for eight countries in southern Africa.

Dr. John Zaso, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Health, says it is a highly evolved mutation that could be much more contagious.

It’s not clear how the current vaccines work against the new strain, but Zaso says their effectiveness could go down.

“If you think of the spike protest as a key–what happens is you have many teeth on a key,” Zaso says. “Sometimes one tooth can be a little off or flat and it can still work. When you a 30-mutation spike protein, it’s a whole new key.”

Robert and Melissa Silverstein were planning a trip to Aruba, but changed their minds because of the new variant.

“It’s scary,” Robert Silverstein says. “But it’s just something we need to find out more about.”

News of the new variant also sent stocks tumbling after the holiday as scientists look to learn more about it.

Zaso says it’s not yet known if there is any increase in how sick the Omnicron makes someone, but he says it’s “probably” very contagious compared to other strains.

Travel restrictions begin on Monday. They do not apply to United States citizens or permanent residents, but traveling to that part of the world is not advised.

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Asian Stock Markets Sink as Traders Watch Europe Virus Cases | Business News

By JOE McDONALD, AP Business Writer

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets sank Friday after some European countries tightened curbs on travel and business following a surge in coronavirus infections and South Africa reported a new variant.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. U.S. markets were closed Thursday for a holiday.

Austria imposed a nationwide 10-day lockdown after its daily virus deaths tripled, while Italy imposed curbs on activity by unvaccinated people. The U.S. government advised Americans to avoid Germany and Denmark. Scientists in South Africa said a new variant was spreading among young people in its most populous province.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.

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The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5% to 3,566.18 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo plunged by an unusually wide 2.6% margin to 28,746.20. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong tumbled 2.1% to 24,213.55.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 1.3% to 2,941.81 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 fell 1.7% to 7,282.50.

India’s Sensex opened down 1.8% at 57,752.68. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also declined.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 closed up 0.2% on Wednesday. U.S. markets are due to reopen Friday for a shortened trading session.

Investors already were more cautious after Federal Reserve officials said in notes from their October meeting released this week they foresaw the possibility of responding to higher inflation by raising rates sooner than previously planned.

Financial markets had been encouraged by strong U.S. corporate earnings and signs the global economy was rebounding from last year’s history-making decline in activity due to the pandemic. Stock prices have been boosted by easy credit and other measures rolled out by the Fed and other central banks.

Investors worry central bankers might feel pressure to withdraw stimulus earlier than planned due to stronger-than-expected inflation. The Fed said earlier it foresaw keeping rates low until late next year.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.22 to $76.17 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, shed $1.84 to $79.08 per barrel in London.

The dollar fell to 114.74 yen from Thursday’s 115.36 yen. The euro held stead at $1.1221.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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EU warns differing virus measures put free travel at risk

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union warned member countries Thursday that they risk undermining the 27-nation bloc’s COVID-19 travel and…

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union warned member countries Thursday that they risk undermining the 27-nation bloc’s COVID-19 travel and access certificate system with new restrictions that some are putting in place to try to thwart a surge in cases.

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said there is “an obvious risk that differing approaches between countries could endanger confidence in the COVID certificate system, and harm free movement in the Union,” The bloc relies on free movement of people and goods for business and travel to flourish.

The World Health Organization says coronavirus infections jumped 11% in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 continues to rise. The WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned that without urgent measures, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.

Many countries have begun tightening rules on people who are not vaccinated to try to encourage them to get shots to better halt the spread of the virus. Austria even plans to make vaccines obligatory from next February.

As winter closes in and coronavirus restrictions are ramped up, tens of thousands of people have rallied around Europe in recent weeks in protest against the tightening of measures and against the requirement for COVID-19 certificates.

The EU’s COVID pass contains proof that the holder has either been vaccinated, has in the past recovered from the disease, or has recently tested negative.

But some German states are now demanding proof of vaccination and daily negative tests. From next month, Italy will require proof of vaccination or having recovered to access a host of free-time activities over the holiday season. Tests will no longer be enough.

“Holders of (an) EU certificate should, in principle, not be subject to additional restrictions, wherever they come from in the European Union. Restrictions such as additional tests or quarantine, for instance,” Reynders, the justice commissioner, told reporters.

The commission, the EU’s executive branch, says scientific evidence shows that vaccine immunity begins to diminish after about 6 months. But it’s recommending that certificates should continue to be accepted as valid for 9 months after the first shot.

Some countries want booster shots to be mandatory for the certificates to be valid. France, for example, wants to require them on certificates for people over 65, while neighboring Belgium does not think it’s necessary yet.

“The commission is not proposing any period of validity for boosters at the moment,” Reynders said.


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Virus Outbreak US Travel Vaccine Disappointment | National News

FILE – Workers place a box containing doses of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V into a refrigerated container after unloading it from a plane, at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela, Feb. 13, 2021. On Monday, the U.S. will implement a new air travel policy to allow in foreign citizens who have completed a course of a vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. That leaves people in Mexico, Hungary, Russia and elsewhere who received the non-approved Russian Sputnik V vaccine or the China-produced CanSino vaccine ineligible to board U.S.-bound flights.

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UK eases travel, takes all countries off virus ‘red list’

LONDON (AP) — Britain on Thursday said it was removing the last seven countries on its travel “red list,” meaning travelers vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel after arriving in the U.K.

The countries are Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Once the change takes effect at 4 a.m. (0400GMT) on Monday, fully vaccinated travelers will no longer have to stay in a quarantine hotel for 11 nights at a cost of more than 2,000 pounds ($3,000).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the red category would remain “as a precautionary measure” in case it was needed later.

He said Britain will also recognize vaccinations given in more than 30 additional countries, including Peru and Uganda, bringing the total to more than 135.

At one time there were dozens of countries on the red list, with other nations classed as amber, for medium risk, or green for low risk. Britain scrapped the amber and green categories on Oct. 4 and removed most countries from the red list three weeks ago.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the latest move was “a welcome and a significant step forward to normalizing international travel.”

The U.K. government only makes health policy for England, but Scotland and Wales said they would mirror the changes. The Welsh government expressed concern, however, that the change increased the chances of a new, more severe or vaccine-resistant strain of the coronavirus reaching the U.K.

Britain has had one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with more than 140,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.


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