Europe’s top holiday destinations are seeing another surge in Covid cases as wary British tourists are warned of ‘high levels’ across the continent this summer.
France, Greece and Italy are among the hotspots seeing infections creeping up after months of reduced virus concerns.
The World Health Organisation called on countries to monitor the spread as cases tripled in the past month, more than two years on from the outbreak of the pandemic.
Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal were the countries with the highest incidence rates, with almost all countries in the region seeing a rise in cases.
After registering around 4,000 to 5,000 deaths per day throughout most of the winter, Europe is currently seeing around 500 deaths per day, about the same level as during the summer of 2020.
Europe’s top holiday destinations are seeing another surge in Covid cases as wary British tourists are warned of ‘high levels’ across the continent this summer
A tourist bus drives past a curbside Covid-19 testing tent placed along the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris on Friday
‘As countries across the European region have lifted the social measures that were previously in place, the virus will transmit at high levels over the summer’, WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge told AFP.
‘This virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still taking lives.’
In France, officials have now ‘recommended’ people go back to wearing face masks due to the spike, but they stopped short of imposing mandatory restrictions.
Nearly 1,000 patients with Covid have been admitted to hospital every day in France, but government spokesperson Olivia Gregoire said there are no plans to reintroduce draconian rules.
She said: ‘The French people are sick of restrictions. We are confident that people will behave responsibly.’
Dr Benjamin Davido, an infectious diseases specialist at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital outside Paris, told The Guardian: ‘The pandemic is accelerating again, despite the warm weather.
People wearing face masks shop at a market in Versailles, outside Paris, as infections soar in France
Entry requirements for Europe’s Covid hotspots
France: Fully vaccinated UK travellers aged 12 and over must provide proof of full vaccination with a booster.
If you are 18 and above and received two vaccines but not a booster, it must be less than nine months since the second jab.
The final dose must have been administered at least seven days before travel.
Those who are not fully vaccinated must provide a negative PCR taken within 72 hours or an antigen test within 48 hours of departure.
Children under 12 are exempt.
Spain: Travellers aged 12 and over must show proof of full vaccination or recovery from Covid within the last six months.
Additional checks at Spanish airports may be in place.
If you have only received two doses, the last must have been taken between 270 and 14 days before travel.
Without vaccination, travellers must show proof of a negative test within 72 hours or a PCR within 24 hours, or proof of recovery within six months.
Greece: Passengers do not need to show proof of vaccination, negative test or recovery.
But you are still required to wear a mask on public transport.
Italy: Travellers are no longer subject to restrictions, meaning no proof of vaccination, negative test or recovery is needed to enter.
All passengers must wear an FFP2 mask if arriving on ferry, train or coach.
Portugal: There are no vaccination or testing requirements for entry to mainland Portugal, Madeira, and Porto Santo.
But the Azores requires proof of full vaccination including a booster.
‘The new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are 10 per cent to 15 per cent more infectious and it’s this that is giving the virus an added kick.’
Portugal has experienced the highest wave in Europe this summer, with infections peaking at 2,788 per million people last month, although rates are now falling again.
Greece’s health minister said last week that restrictions may be reimposed by autumn amid the flood of tourists despite the soaring cases.
The country reported more than 11,000 infections yesterday and the figure is expected to peak at 25,00 by the middle of the month, according to Dimosthenis Sarigiannis, a professor of Environmental Engineering at Aristotle University.
Italy currently has a million active cases of the virus following a surge in the past two weeks, with eight of its 21 regions considered at ‘high risk’.
Transmission has been rising consistently for four weeks, with the R-rate currently at 1.3, meaning the virus is spreading.
New rules have been imposed mandating mask use in the workplace for those with specific health risks.
Employees with a temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius will also be told to stay at home.
With the milder but more contagious Omicron subvariant BA.5 spreading across the continent, the 53 countries in the WHO European region are currently registering just under 500,000 cases daily, up from around 150,000 cases daily at the end of May.
‘We hope that the strong vaccine programmes most member states have implemented together with prior infection will mean that we avoid the more severe consequences that we saw earlier in the pandemic’, Kluge said.
‘However, our recommendations remain,’ he stressed.
The WHO urged people experiencing respiratory symptoms to isolate, to stay up to date with their vaccinations and wear masks in crowded places.
Kluge also urged member states to keep testing for the virus.
‘We must keep looking for the virus because not doing so makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and virus evolution,’ Kluge said.
He also called on countries to increase their vaccination rates.
‘High population immunity and the choices made to lower risk to older people is key to preventing further mortality this summer,’ he said.