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Countries with tourism-reliant economies are divided on how to handle arrivals from countries where the more infectious “Delta” variant of COVID-19 is prevalent.
Different parts of Europe, popular among British tourists in particular, have taken divided stances on accepting visitors from the U.K., where the Delta variant has become increasingly prevalent.
On Monday, Spain, Portugal, and Malta announced tightened rules on U.K. arrivals, with Hong Kong adding to British tourists’ woes by banning direct flights to the U.K. after July 1.
Brits travelling to Spain will need to prove they are fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 or show a negative PCR coronavirus test upon arrival in the country.
Essential reading: The U.K. has vaccinated 80% of adults but Delta variant cases are surging. What it means for the U.S.
Meanwhile, to travel to Portugal, British travellers must have had their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior to arrival or quarantine for 14 days.
Maltese authorities also added restrictions amid mounting worries over the Delta variant, with only fully-vaccinated people from the U.K. allowed to visit the Mediterranean island nation.
But the prime minister of Greece—a country heavily reliant on tourism, and popular among Brits—pushed back against the need for new travel restrictions in the face of the Delta variant.
Speaking at a European Union summit last Friday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that “regarding the Delta variant, in my intervention I said that we should not adopt a logic of new restrictions but, on the contrary, accelerate the vaccinations.”
“Those who have been vaccinated are protected, those who have not been vaccinated are in danger,” Mitsotakis added, as quoted in the Guardian.
Also read: Third dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine boosts immune response, Oxford study finds
In the U.K., where nearly 85% of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, there were more than 20,000 new daily cases of coronavirus on Tuesday. More than 125,000 new cases reported in the last week represents a 73% increase compared with the week prior. Data from Public Health England updated on June 25 showed that the Delta variant made up around 95% of coronavirus cases sequenced in the U.K.
“Through the success of our vaccination programme, data suggest we have begun to break the link between cases and hospitalisations. This is hugely encouraging news, but we cannot become complacent,” said Dr. Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the U.K. Health Security Agency.
“Whilst vaccines provide excellent protection, they do not provide total protection, so it is still as important as ever that we continue to exercise caution,” Harries added.
Officials from the World Health organization have said that the Delta variant is present in 92 countries, with the organization emphasizing its position that even fully vaccinated people should continue to wear face masks.