Unable to speed up vaccine rollouts, major European countries that moved hastily to lift lockdowns and other restrictions are now struggling to cope with a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With infections surging and the pace of inoculation drives slow at best, authorities in France, Italy, Spain, and Germany have been forced to backtrack and introduce new measures to stem the spread of the virus.
A new lockdown will start in France this Saturday in an effort to curb the rapid surge in infections.
President Emmanuel Macron warned in a televised address on Wednesday that the “the epidemic is accelerating” and France “will lose control if we do not move now.”
Nurseries, schools, and high schools will be closed for three to four weeks, travel will be limited to a radius of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) for daily outings, and a daily curfew will be in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time.
Only businesses offering essential services, food outlets, and grocery stores will be allowed to open.
There were over 50,000 new cases reported in France on Wednesday, while the number of patients in intensive care units (ICUs) remains above 5,000.
The overall case count stands at 4,644,423, including 95,640 deaths, according to official data.
More than 11.38 million people have received a first vaccine dose since France started its immunization drive at the end of December last year.
Italy reported 467 more coronavirus fatalities on Wednesday, raising the nationwide death toll to 109,346.
The country also registered 23,904 new infections, up from around 16,000 a day earlier, taking the overall count past 3.5 million.
Italy aims to vaccinate 80% of its population by the end of September, according to Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, the emergency commissioner appointed by new Premier Mario Draghi to lead the country’s pandemic response.
Figliuolo told Parliament on Tuesday that priority will be given to the “most vulnerable” and that he aims to bring about a “change of pace” in Italy’s vaccination rollout, which has been delayed by regional inefficiencies and shortfalls in vaccine deliveries.
According to the latest data, the new management is already showing positive results: the overall supply of vaccines in March alone amounted to over 7.6 million doses, out of the first quarter’s total of 14.2 million.
Last week, Italy’s prime minister said schools – up to the first year of middle school – will reopen after the Easter break, even in high-risk zones.
All of Italy’s regions will be declared “red zones” during the Easter holidays, leaving the country under partial lockdown until the end of April.
With another 8,534 infections reported on Wednesday, Spain’s infection rate moved into “high risk” territory, as defined by the country’s central government.
Restrictions in Spain remain relatively relaxed compared to other countries, with indoor dining permitted nationwide.
The country has passed a new law making masks mandatory in all outdoor public spaces, including beaches and even empty countryside areas.
However, after clamor from several regional governments and the tourism sector, Health Minister Carolina Darias said the government would consider backtracking on the measure.
So far, Spain has given vaccines to just 3.8% of people aged between 70 and 79, while 10.3% of people aged 25 to 49 have received at least one dose.
In total, the country of some 40 million people has administered 8 million vaccine jabs.
Germany on Thursday reported its highest daily case count since mid-January, fueled by the spread of the virus’ more contagious and evasive mutations.
The Robert Koch Institute confirmed 24,300 infections in the past 24 hours, up from 17,051 on Wednesday, along with 201 more deaths.
Thursday’s figures marked the highest rise since Jan. 13, when 23,461 people tested positive for the virus.
The national total now stands at more than 2.83 million cases, including 76,543 fatalities, the fifth-highest tally in Europe, behind France, the UK, Italy, and Spain.
B.1.1.7, the virus variant first detected in the UK, has become the predominant strain in Germany since last month, and currently accounts for more than 88% of all new cases.
Hospitalizations and the occupancy rate of ICUs have also spiked in the country, with 3,680 patients currently under intensive care, including 2,026 on ventilators.
Three months in, Germany’s vaccination campaign has not gained the desired momentum due to production delays and logistical problems, increasing pressure on the government.
As of Wednesday, close to 9.4 million people had been administered first doses of the vaccine, with over 4 million people having completed the two-dose course.
Germany’s vaccination rate of 8.1 doses per 100 people lags far behind other developed countries.
Image Credit: © AA
The most interesting news
Lufthansa Airbus A350-900 Erfurt will become climate research aircraft
The Lufthansa Group's most fuel-efficient long-haul aircraft becomes a data collector above the clouds.
Introducing eight additions to Design Hotels
Spanning a brightly colored Modernist delight set deep amongst the mountain ranges and desert landscape of Tucson, to a pared back minimalist retreat overlooking the Genkai Sea on Japan’s Iki Island, Design Hotels’ newest additions exceed all exp
Turkey declares partial lockdown during Ramadan
President Erdogan says new measures against virus will go into effect on Wednesday evening.
Turkey a preferred country for medical tourism
Turkey offers high-tech devices, experienced doctors at reasonable prices, say patients who visited country for medical purpose
Tourists make beeline for Turkey's famous Cappadocia
Nearly 200,000 people have visited picturesque region in 3 months of 2021, according to government data.
Turkey: Russians to head to diverse holiday spots
Pandemic has created alternative tourism destinations reaping great benefits, says hotel association head.
Qatar Airways Celebrates the Opening of a New State-of-the-Art Engine Facility
New 9,000 square foot Technical Engine Facility building will enable the award-winning airline to boost cost efficiencies by more than U.S.$2.2 million annually and improve workflow by an estimated 23,400 man hours per year.
Russian tour operators visit southeastern Turkey
Tour operators promoting Mardin as ‘dream city,’ says head of Mardin Tourism and Hoteliers Association.
Global air traffic continued to fall in February
Passenger traffic continued to narrow, but cargo demand rose, says industry group.
COVID-19: Demand on rise for caravans, tiny houses in Turkey
Caravans, tiny houses provide more solitary tourism alternatives as holiday-goers seek isolation amid pandemic.
Narita Airport, Amadeus and NEC introduce Japan’s first end-to-end biometric boarding process
Narita International Airport Corporation empowers passengers to pass from check-in to boarding using biometrics, eliminating the need to continually present passports and boarding passes
‘Qatar fully supports footballers and football associations who promote human rights’
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Sheikh Thamer bin Hamad Al Thani, Deputy Director for Media Affairs of the Government Communications Office, confirmed that calls to boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar were based on misleading med
Advancing harmonized travel protocols and financing tourisms survival
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has again convened its Global Tourism Crisis Committee to lead the sector in harmonizing travel and health protocols and securing vital financing for businesses struggling to survive an historic crisis.
Turkey has 'huge potential' for winter tourism
Sarah Lewis Obe Oly aims to become fifth and first female president of International Ski Federation.
ASTA Supports Legal Action for Removing Restrictions on Cruise Travel
Zane Kerby, President and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), releases the following statement in response to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) continued inaction in removing restrictions on cruise trave
Concepció by Nobis, Opening Summer 2021
The Nobis Hospitality Group's first foray outside Scandinavia.