How Omicron hits Europe travel

(CNN) – Several European countries have been forced into lockdowns in recent days as the highly contagious variant of Omicron continues to spread at an alarming rate.

As more restrictions are imposed, travel to and across Europe is becoming increasingly difficult for tourists, especially those from the UK, where cases have skyrocketed.

The Netherlands entered a strict lockdown on Sunday, with non-essential shops, hospitality venues and cultural institutions, with all closed and indoor gatherings limited to a maximum of two visitors.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the move “inevitable” due to the upsurge in infections across the country.

“Inevitable” restrictions

“The Netherlands is closing again. It’s inevitable due to the fifth wave coming to us with the Omicron variant,” Rutte said at a press conference this weekend.

The move came just days after Germany announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers arriving from the UK from December 20.

Meanwhile, France has banned all non-essential visitors to and from the UK in an attempt to facilitate the spread of the new variant. The move came as many British tourists prepared to travel for the start of the alpine ski season.

“As the Omicron variant spreads extremely quickly in the UK, the French government has decided to restore the compelling reasons for traveling to and from the UK, and to strengthen mandatory testing on departures and arrivals,” said French Prime Minister Jean Castex. in a statement last week.

On Saturday, more than 90,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the UK for the second day in a row, including more than 10,000 Omicron cases.

Great blow for the United Kingdom

As government officials have stepped up a campaign to ensure all fully vaccinated adults receive a booster before the end of December, the new restrictions in France and Germany will undoubtedly be a blow to the destination, with fears that other European countries may follow. combination.

Meanwhile, Greece and Italy have put in place restrictions requiring all visitors, including those from the EU, to present a negative Covid-19 test before entering.

While an antigen test carried out no more than 24 hours before departure is allowed for entry into Italy, those visiting Greece must produce a negative PCR test carried out within the last 48 hours.

Until relatively recently, fully vaccinated travelers arriving from Schengen countries could enter without having to take a Covid-19 test.

However, a number of European destinations, including Portugal, have reintroduced mandatory test requirements for all visitors thanks to the new variant.

Denmark and Norway have also chosen to introduce new Covid-19 restrictions in recent days due to rising infection rates.

Deteriorating situation

In Denmark, public places such as cinemas and concert halls have been closed, as well as the popular amusement park Tivoli Gardens, while government officials have chosen to close gymnasiums and swimming pools in Norway, as well as ” ban the service of alcohol in bars and restaurants. .

At a conference earlier this month, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre noted that the country must “act quickly and we must act again” in order to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

“For many it will look like a lockdown, if not of society, of their lives and livelihoods,” he added.

In Sweden, the vaccination passport exemption will be abolished for visitors from the other Nordic countries, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland from December 21, which means that those arriving from these destinations will have to present a proof of vaccination upon entry.

Swedish Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren has also advised anyone traveling in the country to take a Covid-19 test in advance due to the “worsening” situation.

“The spread of infection is increasing sharply. The new variant of the omicron virus makes it difficult to predict the spread of infection in the future,” Hallengren said at a press conference last week, before saying residents to “prepare to cancel” their Christmas plans. if they are showing symptoms of Covid-19 and “pick a smaller party” for New Year’s celebrations.

Since its appearance in late November, Omicron has been detected in 89 countries, with coronavirus cases involving the variant doubling every 1.5 to three days according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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