Wednesday, August 4

Europe bets on COVID passports to restrict activities due to the rise in infections

The COVID-19 contagion curve grows again in Europe with the start of summer and the end of most restrictions. Once again, measures to curb the virus are beginning to spread. But this time, with the advance of immunization as the main difference with respect to previous waves, several European countries are betting on restricting certain activities, mainly in closed spaces and leisure, to people who prove that they are vaccinated or are not sick through passports COVID.

Vaccination passports, an idea that divides Europe as immunization progresses slowly

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Confirmed coronavirus cases have skyrocketed in virtually all Western European countries in the past week. In addition to the runaway increases in incidence in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, where infections rose mainly among unvaccinated groups and due to the appearance of the delta variant, cases are also on the rise in countries such as Germany, France , Italy, Belgium, Switzerland or Denmark, as well as in Greece, according to data from Johns Hopkins University analyzed by

Source: Johns Hopkins University

In the Netherlands, for example, they have gone from confirming just over 5,000 cases in a week to more than 46,000 in the last seven days in a country of 17 million inhabitants. The incidence in 14 days has escalated to 310 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This trend is repeated in Belgium, where cases have practically doubled in the last week, or in Greece, where cases rose from 5,000 to almost 14,000 every 7 days.

The great counterpoint is that mortality does not rise at the same rate thanks to the advance of the vaccination campaign throughout Europe. While confirmed infections rose again to 90,000 weekly cases across the continent, deaths are at their lowest level since October last year. In the UK, by contrast, they are returning to their spring levels.

Malta, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal are the European countries that have put the most doses per 100 inhabitants so far, more than 100. They are followed by Germany, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, France and Sweden , above 90.

From France to Portugal

Faced with the increase in infections, and in an attempt to speed up vaccination, France, Portugal and Greece have been some of the last countries to follow in the wake initiated by Israel at the beginning of this year, when it launched a “green pass” that allowed vaccinated or recovered people to access certain places that others could not enter. With the advance of its immunization campaign, considered a success, the Israeli Government revoked the system in June, which made the country one of the first in the world to face a host of legal, moral and ethical issues while trying to balance resuming activities with Sensitive issues such as public safety, discrimination, freedom of choice, and privacy.

As of August, the citizens of France will need the health certificate to go out for a coffee or dinner at restaurants, as well as those who go to shopping centers and use long-distance transport. From next Wednesday, July 21, it will also be ordered in theaters, cinemas and other cultural points where more than 50 people gather. This pass can be obtained by those who have been vaccinated with the complete guideline, those who test negative or those who prove they have recovered from COVID-19, and it is already used to access discos and events of more than 1,000 people.

“We are going to expand the health certificate to the maximum to encourage the majority to get vaccinated,” said President Emmanuel Macron, who defended that his intention is “to carry restrictions on those vaccinated instead of on all.” After Macron’s speech, hundreds of thousands of people they have rushed to make appointments to get vaccinated. In addition, health personnel and those who work with vulnerable people will have the obligation to be immunized.

The French president expressed his concern about the progression of the delta variant and although he said that in France the epidemiological situation is “controlled” for the moment, “if no action is taken now”, the number of cases will continue to grow considerably, and will cause ” inevitably “an increase in hospitalizations from August. “To deal with this new situation, we have a great asset, which changes everything from previous waves: the vaccine.”

In Greece, from this Friday until the end of August, the interiors of bars and restaurants (also cinemas and theaters) will be open only to vaccinated and seated customers. “The country will not close again because of some,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also said on Monday during the announcement of new measures to combat the increase in cases during the summer tourist season, vital for the country. Like France, the Hellenic Government has made vaccination compulsory for nursing home workers and health personnel. Centers that do not comply with the measure face fines of thousands of euros.

Portugal was one of the first to join these types of measures last week, when the Portuguese Government imposed the requirement to present a negative test or digital certificate of vaccination to eat inside restaurants from Friday afternoon and during the weekend in the 60 municipalities with the highest incidence, including Lisbon and Porto. “The importance of using the digital certificate in access to activities is to comply with what the Government has always announced: maximizing security, minimizing restrictions,” said the Minister of State and the Presidency, Mariana Vieira da Silva. The Minister of Economy explained this Monday that the Government is studying the possibility of extending the use of the digital certificate for other activities.

The worsening of the pandemic in Portugal and the significant increase in the delta variant have forced the Executive to impose a new night curfew and to regain restrictions on business hours in the locations most at risk. The number of hospitalized and ICU patients is increasing, but the impact is expected to be less thanks to vaccination.

Meanwhile, the British government has limited itself to advising nightlife venues and discos to ask their attendees for proof of the full vaccination schedule or a negative test, as part of the lifting of restrictions in England on July 19, a plan moving forward despite the rise in COVID-19 cases. “We encourage companies with high-risk environments to use the NHS (British healthcare system) COVID pass as a condition of entry, in order to reduce risk. This will be the case especially in high-rise locations. influx of public “, indicates the latest executive guide from Boris Johnson, which also explains that it reserves the right to require certification in certain places later “if necessary”.

This measure is not new in Europe. One of the first countries to implement it was Denmark, where citizens have to teach in a multitude of spaces the so-called crown passport, which shows that the holder has been fully vaccinated, has passed the coronavirus or has tested negative in a recent test. It is so in museums, libraries, zoos, cinemas, amusement parks, gymnasiums, and in religious activities with a large number of participants. Danes also need it for haircuts, massages, or inside restaurants and cafes. The government decided to introduce this filing requirement “as a way to help keep the pandemic under control in Denmark while society reopens.”

It is also required in some parts of Germany, such as Berlin, where customers who want to sit inside restaurants must present a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery of COVID-19. This Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out the idea of ​​making vaccination mandatory for health workers like other European neighbors, while the country’s authorities defend that the measures still have to be maintained until more population has been vaccinated.

The apology of the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has been very popular, who on Monday admitted that the coronavirus restrictions had been lifted too soon in his country. “We made a miscalculation, we are disappointed by it and we apologize,” he said.

Infections have increased much faster than expected and at very high levels, which is why Rutte has reimposed, in the face of the summer, time restrictions on the hospitality industry, as well as a new closure of nightclubs, in an effort to stop infections among young adults, just two weeks after most of the rules in the country were lifted as cases declined.

Most infections have occurred in nighttime settings and parties with large numbers of people. The Government has explained that the delta variant is causing more cases of disease among people not fully vaccinated and does not rule out the possibility that hospitalized patients will increase again in the coming weeks. The Netherlands has also introduced an entry pass. From Friday, in events for which a negative access certificate is required, the test will have to be a maximum of 24 hours, instead of the 40 hours that was allowed until then.

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