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The uber-contagious Omicron variant has now firmly established itself on the world stage, having spread to 89 countries since its emergence at the end of November.
Several European nations have been compelled to impose lockdown measures in the past few days due to Omicron’s swift spread. Unfortunately, fresh restrictions have arrived just in time to potentially ruin people’s end-of-year holiday plans, making travel to and around Europe more difficult.
That’ll be especially true for Britons, given that COVID-19 cases are soaring in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and the British government is predicting a “tidal wave” of Omicron cases. According to CNN’s report, the U.K. reported over 90,000 cases on Saturday for the second consecutive day, more than 10,000 of which were Omicron cases.
Just yesterday, the Netherlands announced strict new lockdown measures, closing all non-essential shops, hospitality businesses and cultural centers, and limiting indoor gatherings to two guests; with a slightly larger allowance of four guests during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
During a televised address on Sunday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the decision was, “unavoidable because of the fifth wave that is coming at us with the Omicron variant,” and that delaying the lockdown would likely cause “an unmanageable situation in hospitals”, according to CNN.
The Netherlands’ Omicron countermeasures arrived only days after Germany imposed a 14-day quarantine requirement on all travelers coming from the U.K., which takes effect today.
France, meanwhile, has now banned nonessential travelers coming from the U.K., and will grant entry only to those Britons who can provide a “compelling reason”. It will be a blow to the many U.K. tourists who had plans to travel across the Channel for the upcoming Alpine ski season.
In the Mediterranean, Greece and Italy have both enacted new restrictions requiring all foreign travelers, including those from European Union countries outside their national borders, to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry. Italy will accept rapid antigen tests administered within 24 hours of departure, but Greece is requiring more accurate PCR tests taken within 48 hours of travel. Previously, fully-vaccinated travelers coming from Schengen-area countries were allowed to enter without testing.
Portugal has also brought back mandatory pre-travel testing, even for fully-vaccinated or proven-recovered foreign visitors. Regardless of their point of origin or nationality, arrivals must provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding their Portugal-bound flight or an antigen test taken within 48 hours.
Rising infection rates in the Scandinavian destination of Denmark and Norway have also prompted the introduction of new COVID-19 measures in the past few days. Denmark has ordered the closure of public venues like cinemas, concert halls and amusement parks, while Norway has shut down fitness centers and public swimming pools, and prohibited the service of alcohol in bars and restaurants.
And, from December 21, Sweden is suspending its vaccine passport exemption for travelers coming from its fellow Nordic nations of Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Norway, Visitors arriving from those countries will now need to provide proof of full vaccination in order to cross Swedish borders.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that COVID-19 cases involving the Omicron variant are doubling every one-and-a-half to three days.
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