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Will rising Covid cases in Europe affect my travel plans?

Will rising Covid cases in Europe affect my travel plans?
With worrying spikes of Covid infections across some of Europe’s most popular destinations, we look at the possible disruptions to travel

As predicted by epidemiologists, several countries are seeing a second or third spike of Covid-19 cases as we approach winter 2021-22.

In the week to 7 November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that Coronavirus deaths in Europe had jumped by 10 per cent, while other regions saw stable figures or a decline.

But are surges in individual countries’ infection rates affecting holidays, city breaks or flights to certain destinations?

Here’s everything we know so far.

Which countries are seeing a spike in Covid cases?

Germany is currently seeing a spike in new infections of the virus, recently recording more than 50,000 cases in one day for the first time since the pandemic began.

The country also has the third lowest vaccination rate in Europe, with just 67 per cent of the population fully jabbed at this stage, and has suffered from spreads of the Delta variant.

While the country is seeing record new infections per day, the rate of Covid deaths there is still below previous peaks of the virus in April 2020, January 2021 and April 2021.

The Netherlands was added to the US’s highest-risk Level 4 list earlier this week. American residents are advised not to visit countries on its high-risk list, comprised of nations which have recorded more than 500 new cases per 100,000 residents within a 28-day period.

The country has seen a record number of daily infections – 16,364 were registered this week, leading to plans for much tighter local restrictions (see below).

Austria, like Germany, is seeing a spike in cases of the Delta variant. It reported 522 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the week to 7 November, a similar rate to November 2020, when the country was forced to go into a full lockdown.

Greece has also registered a record number of new infections, with new cases hitting 7,335 a day on Monday – the country’s vaccination rate, currently at around 60 per cent, has also plateaued.

Croatia is also seeing a surge, reporting nearly 7,000 new infections on Friday. Prime minister Andrej Plenkovic described its vaccination programme as moving “at a snail’s pace”, with only around half the population inoculated so far.

Ireland’s daily case numbers have hit their highest peak since January in recent weeks. The country held off plans to drop most remaining restrictions last month, and leaders have not ruled out enforcing stricter Covid rules in the coming weeks.

In the Czech Republic, hospitalizations are at a six-month high, and fatalities are also rising. However, it is unlikely that local access rules will change for vaccinated visitors – though they may be tightened up for the unvaccinated.

Iceland hit a record 179 new cases in 24 hours towards the end of last week, the highest daily rate since the beginning of the pandemic.

Norway has also suffered high rates in recent weeks, with daily cases at around 1,500 in a country of 5.4 million people.

The UK’s cases have seen an uptick since the end of summer, making us a target for tighter restrictions from other countries.

This was demonstrated by the sudden travel ban on inbound flights from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands by Morocco in late October, which has yet to be lifted.

How could a surge in cases affect holidays to these destinations?

Many countries’ leaders have vowed to stay agile when it comes to imposing local or international travel restrictions in the event of a further peak in Covid figures.

This means that, while vaccinated British travellers will likely still be allowed in, day-to-day life on the ground may feel a little less relaxed, with fewer venues open or accessible to all and some festive events off limits.

Germany

Several states in Germany have already taken steps to limit entry to bars, clubs and restaurants, allowing in only those who have been fully vaccinated or can prove they have recently recovered from Covid.

Germany’s popular Christmas markets may also face a second consecutive year of closure, as local and regional authorities decide whether they are safe to go ahead given the current spread of the Delta variant.

While not devastating to travel plans, market closures could knock the stuffing out of an atmospheric winter city break in the country. So far only one Berlin Christmas market – due to be held at the Charlottenberg Palace – has officially cancelled its dates, but some politicians have called for mass events of this kind to be ruled out for the season.

Austria

Across the border, popular ski and winter travel spot Austria is planning to tighten its Covid restrictions in the coming weeks, even putting a number of unvaccinated people into lockdown in the Upper Austria and Salzburg regions, where intensive care units are under strain.

As of 12 November, people spending time there will need proof of vaccination or a past infection to be seated at a restaurant, enter a bar, visit a hairdresser or join any gathering of more than 25 people – places that could previously be accessed with a negative test result.

The Netherlands

City breaks in the Netherlands may not be much fun in the coming weeks – due to its spike in cases, authorities are set to tighten restrictions in the coming days, including closing bars, restaurants and non-essential shops from 7pm. It will be the first country this winter to impose a partial lockdown of this kind. Theatres and cinemas are expected to remain open, but locals are being advised to work from home.

Greece

In Greece, rules were tightened up on 6 November to restrict access to cafes and restaurants, state services and banks to only those who are either vaccinated or have evidence of a negative test. Even fully vaccinated visitors have to present their vaccination certificates on entering some shops, restaurants and beauty salons, resulting in frustrating queues and delays.

Iceland

Iceland is only putting moderate restrictions back in place at this stage, such as closing bars and clubs at 11pm, and reinforcing mask wearing in social spaces. Gatherings of up to 500 are still allowed, with the new restrictions in place for at least four weeks.

Croatia

There are plans to up the usage of proof of vaccination in Croatia, but no time frame has been given by the government as yet.

Norway

Norway had lifted the bulk of its domestic restrictions in September, and it was reported this week that the country will up its vaccination drive – but will not reintroduce any lockdowns.

How long will the tighter restrictions be in place?

In all cases, the reintroduction of tighter Covid rules is designed to reduce strain on local hospitals until the number of cases levels out.

With that in mind, most governments are implementing these new rules on a short-term basis of weeks or a month, with the aim of reviewing them as case numbers decline.

The best way to keep track of local rule changes and stricter entry requirements is by checking the “coronavirus” sections on the FCDO website’s individual country by country advice.