EU pays price of jabs fiasco: Millions wake up to draconian new lockdowns as Kent variant sweeps across the continent
- Britons were warned this week that foreign summer holidays ‘extremely unlikely’
- Severe restrictions in place in France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Greece
- Of the 27 EU member states, 20 have seen a surge in Covid cases recently
Almost three-quarters of EU countries are experiencing spiralling Covid infection rates, forcing vast swathes of the continent back into lockdown.
As a third wave sweeps across Europe, Britons were yesterday warned that foreign summer holidays are ‘extremely unlikely’.
In France alone, 21 million people awoke yesterday to a fresh draconian lockdown. Millions more in Italy, Germany, Poland and Greece face severe restrictions.
Of the 27 EU member states, 20 have seen a surge in Covid cases in recent weeks. Fifteen have warned of a dramatic rise in intensive care admissions due to the virus.
Despite a ban on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being largely lifted, there are fears that the suspension has slowed the EU’s already snail-paced rollout
A government scientist has warned foreign trips are ‘extremely unlikely’ this summer as Europe struggles to control a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Benidorm today
France recorded 35,000 new cases on Thursday, with intensive care occupancy up to 4,246 – higher than in November. A quarter of those are in Paris where streets were eerily quiet this weekend, with non-essential shops forced to close for at least a month.
In Poland, most shops will be shut for the next three weeks along with hotels and cinemas. Similar measures have been introduced in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.
Streets in Rome and Milan, where shops, restaurants and schools have been forced to close, were empty but roads in cities in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands were crammed with anti-lockdown protests, some of which became violent.
In Yerres, a town just outside the French capital, the mayor said he had instructed businesses to remain open, defying the ‘totally incomprehensible’ restrictions.
Despite a ban on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being largely lifted, there are fears that the suspension has slowed the EU’s already snail-paced rollout.
The European Commission has urged countries to step up vaccinations, with figures showing governments sitting on a stockpile of millions of unused doses.
Europe has 9.7 per cent of the global population, but last week accounted for 39.5 per cent of Covid cases. Estonia is currently the worst-hit country in the world with 1,130.12 cases per million people. By comparison, the UK has 79.55 per million.
New infections jumped 24 per cent across the bloc last week, with the Kent variant accounting for 75 per cent of new cases. There are also concerns over pockets of the South African strain, with studies suggesting vaccines work less well against it.
Dr Mike Tildesley said there was a danger travellers could bring back new variants which are less susceptible to vaccines (pictured: A cyclist passes on the empty Grand Place of Lille, northern France today)
The surge in cases has dampened hopes of British holidaymakers jetting to the continent this summer. Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group which advises the Government, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: ‘I think that international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely.’
In Italy, where the R – or reproduction – rate has soared to 1.6, the target of vaccinating all over-80s by the end of the month looks likely to be missed.
New rules mean people in more than half of the country can only leave home for work, health or other essential reasons. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is now threatening that the country will adopt its own vaccine strategy, including assessing the Russian Sputnik jab, if the EU response does not improve.
In Spain, figures show tourist numbers fell 80 per cent to 19 million last year, the lowest since 1969. The country was one of those pushing hard for an EU vaccination certificate in a bid to stop a second lost holiday season.
In Greece, a fifth of the workforce have livelihoods linked to tourism. They had also been desperate to welcome back Britons over the summer, but the country has a rate of 220.1 daily cases per million.
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