Euractiv: Delta variant spread upsets EU plans for return to relative normality

Moscow and Indonesia on Sunday (27 June) recorded their worst daily coronavirus death toll due to the highly contagious coronavirus Delta variant, while various EU countries envisaged new restrictions, likely to upset their plans for a return to relative normality this summer.

Indonesia saw more than 21,000 infections in a day, a record, as countries across the Asia-Pacific region extended or reimposed restrictions to tackle fresh waves of cases.

Even as vaccination drives have brought down infection numbers in many wealthy countries, the Delta strain of the virus is a growing concern.

The Delta variant, first identified in India, is now in 85 countries and is the most contagious of any Covid-19 strain so far identified, according to the World Health Organization.

While in much of Europe and the United States curbs on daily life are easing as vaccination programmes bear fruit, Russia is grappling with a deadly third wave.

Moscow on Sunday recorded 144 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, a day after Saint Petersburg set Russia’s previous highest figure.

Saint Petersburg has hosted six Euro 2020 matches and is due to host a quarter-final on Friday, with spectator numbers capped at half but still upwards of 26,000 people.

Russia has seen an explosion of new infections since mid-June driven by the Delta variant. Officials in Moscow are pushing vaccine-sceptic Russians to get inoculated.

Rapid, large-scale vaccination was the only answer, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told state-run television on Saturday.

Germany declares Portugal ‘variant zone’

On Monday Germany declared Portugal a ‘variant zone’ from Tuesday, which reportedly prompted the massive return of German tourists before this date.

Over 70% of coronavirus cases in the Lisbon area are from the Delta variant, which is quickly spreading to other parts of the country, a report said late on Friday.

The national health institute said in its report that the Delta variant represented 51% of cases in mainland Portugal, showing the variant is “spreading rapidly” as it happened in Britain.

New coronavirus cases rose by 1,604 on Friday, the biggest jump since 19 February, when the country of just over 10 million people was still under lockdown. In total, Portugal has recorded 871,483 cases and 17,081 deaths since the pandemic began.

Greece boosts test demands for Russian tourists

Athens on Sunday announced that all Russian travellers, vaccinated or not, would have to show a negative PCR or rapid test result on arrival in Greece. They will also have to undergo another test as soon as they arrive.

Since March, tourism officials had repeatedly stated that they would recognise Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

But according to media reports, during an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron blasted Greece and other tourism-dependent countries for accepting travellers without tests who were vaccinated with Chinese and Russian vaccines.

Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on Friday dismissed these reports as “journalistic exaggerations”.

On Friday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi warned that Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine may never be approved by the EU and cast doubts on China’s Sinovac jab.

He also referred to a “certain discrepancy of pronouncements” on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines between the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and national medicine bodies.