Guatemala Orders New Travel, Social Curbs as Virus Cases Surge | World News


GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced new national transport curbs and social restrictions on Thursday in an effort to contain a surge of coronavirus infections and relieve pressure on hospitals.

Giammattei opted against the toughest lockdown measures but said from Saturday, auto transport will be prohibited for most trips from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. and social gatherings such as weddings and public sports events will be banned for at least four weeks.

The president, who is a medical doctor, said in a televised speech the measures were “urgent and necessary to contain the spread of the pandemic”.

“It will give our hospital system a chance to breath,” he said, as the capital’s biggest hospital reported it could take no new patients due to the surge of COVID-19 cases.

The new measures require the approval of Congress, which is expected to be granted on Friday.

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Guatemala, Central America’s biggest country with about 18 million residents, has posted nearly 480,000 coronavirus infections and more than 12,000 deaths, according to official data.

To date, only 1.3 million Guatemalans have been fully vaccinated.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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U.S. to Extend Travel Mask Mandate Until January: Virus Update


(Bloomberg) — The U.S. plans to extend mask requirements for travelers on airplanes, trains and buses, and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18, Reuters reported, citing three unidentified sources.

The U.S. government is poised to being offering booster shots as soon as next month. Morgan Stanley is stepping up efforts to ensure employees comply with its rule that they be vaccinated to enter its buildings.

Apple Inc. will increase testing of both corporate and retail employees and has reversed course on rebooting in-store classes in the U.S. this month. Staff participating in the company’s at-home testing program will now receive kits twice per week instead of weekly.

New Zealand, which has run a successful Covid elimination strategy, will enter a lockdown after reporting its first community transmission since February. Early Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were four additional Covid cases, RNZ reported.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 208.1 million; deaths pass 4.37 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 4.7 billion doses administeredDelayed Wuhan report adds crucial detail to Covid origin puzzleWhere are we in the quest for Covid treatments?: QuickTakeBusinesses in Hong Kong slam tightened Covid travel curbsBooster shots for Americans eight months after vaccination

U.S. to Extend Travel Mask Mandate: Reuters (3:20 p.m. NY)

The U.S. plans to extend mask requirements for travelers on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18, Reuters reports, citing three unidentified sources.

Apple Steps Up Staff Testing (1:15 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc. will increase testing of both corporate and retail employees and has reversed course on rebooting in-store classes in the U.S. this month.

This week, the iPhone maker informed staff participating in the company’s at-home testing program with Quest Diagnostics Inc. that they will now receive testing kits twice per week instead of weekly. The company told employees in the program that they are expected to get tested on Mondays and Thursdays.

Morgan Stanley Asks Workers for Vaccine Proof (1:05 p.m. NY)

Morgan Stanley is stepping up efforts to ensure employees comply with its rule that they be vaccinated to enter its buildings.

The firm told vaccinated workers to provide documentation of their shots by Oct. 1, after previously letting them attest to their status, according to an internal memo. The extra step is meant to “provide greater comfort for those working in the office,” it wrote.

Masks Required in U.S. National Parks (12:35 p.m. NY)

The U.S. National Park Service said it is requiring masks for crowded outdoor spaces and buildings “regardless of vaccination status or community transmission levels.”

In a statement issued Monday, Shawn Benge, deputy director of the Park Service, said: “Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world. Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety.”

Greece Sees Biggest Case Jump Since April (11 a.m. NY)

Greece reported 4,205 new cases, the highest daily increase since April 6 and the third-biggest one-day jump since the start of the pandemic. Greek authorities are worried by the situation on the island of Crete, which is a popular vacation destination for foreigners and Greeks alike. The Heraklion area of the country’s largest island saw the third-biggest increase in new cases nationwide after Thessaloniki and central Athens.

U.K. Authorizes Moderna for Adolescents (9:15 a.m. NY)

Britain’s drug regulator authorized Moderna Inc.’s shot for children as young as 12, though few are likely to receive it in the near term as the country remains an outlier in its policy on vaccinating kids.

The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency extended the existing conditional marketing authorization for the Spikevax shot. It is up to the government’s advisory committee — the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation — to decide if and when the vaccine will be offered to to 12- to 17-year-olds.

The vaccine is the second after Pfizer Inc.’s to be authorized in the U.K. for use in older children, though Britain is currently only offering shots to those aged 16 and up, and to vulnerable kids aged 12 to 15 who have underlying health conditions or who live with immunosuppressed adults.

Swiss Cases Jump; Vaccine Demand Weak (8:20 a.m. NY)

Switzerland recorded 3,150 new infections within the last 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in months. Since early July, the number of hospitalizations has risen 10-fold, Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health said.

The government has redoubled efforts to get more people vaccinated with a publicity campaign this week. Just 56% of the public has received at least one dose. With demand for vaccinations weak, the government agreed take delivery of just half the 1 million doses it was due to receive from Moderna.

“Vaccines globally are in very short supply and they should be located where they actually can be used,” Mathys said.

U.S., Singapore to Discuss Virus Response (7:57 a.m. NY)

Singapore expects to discuss areas of cooperation, including the pandemic response, during U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit in the city state next week, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

S. Africa White Adults Most Vaccine-Hesitant (7:36 a.m. NY)

Vaccine hesitancy is most pronounced among White adults in South Africa, which is struggling to keep immunization centers busy just three months into the rollout, a survey showed. Only 52% of White adults in the country are willing to get a Covid-19 shot, compared with three-quarters of Black adults, researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Johannesburg said in the highlights of a report due to be released on Wednesday.

Separately, South Africa may open registrations to allow people aged between 18 and 34 to get vaccinated as early as this week, Eyewitness News reported, citing Health Minister Joe Phaahla.

Iran’s Daily Cases Surpass 50,000 (6:02 a.m. NY)

Iran reported a record number of daily cases, with new infections surpassing 50,000 for the first time. The country had 50,228 cases and 625 deaths overnight, according to the Health Ministry, bringing the total figures to more than 4.5 million infections and 99,100 fatalities.

Serbia Set to Rollout Boosters (6 a.m. NY)

Serbia is offering booster shots to people who completed their initial, two-dose vaccination at least six months ago. The new rollout is starting with transplant patients and others with weakened immunity, as well as health workers, frequent travelers and nursing home residents.

The Balkan country is struggling to advance the inoculation rate from around 50% of its population of 7 million, amid some vaccine skepticism. Weeks of accelerating Covid cases soared on Tuesday to almost 1,500 new infections, the highest daily total since late April.

S. Africa Expects Fourth Wave, New Variant (4:11 p.m. HK)

South Africa expects a fourth wave of infections to start on Dec. 2 and to last about 75 days, said Salim Abdool Karim, former chairman of the government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19.

The government assumes that the wave will follow a similar pattern to the current one and that there will be a new variant by then, he said at a Government Technical Advisory Centre conference. Data suggest the current wave will end around Aug. 26.

Poland to Let Employers Check Vaccinations (3:43 p.m. HK)

The Polish government expects parliament to approve regulations allowing employers to check whether workers are vaccinated, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said in an interview with Wirtualna Polska. The rules, which may be voted on by parliament next month, would enable companies to move unvaccinated people away from jobs focused on direct contact with clients.

New Zealand Goes Into Lockdown (2:30 p.m. HK)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put the nation into a three-day lockdown after reporting the first community case of Covid since February. The country will be placed in lockdown at midnight tonight after discovery of a single case in Auckland, Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington. Auckland and the nearby Coromandel region will be in lockdown for seven days.

“Going hard and early has worked for us before,” she told reporters. She said officials assume the case is the delta variant, adding that strain “has been called a game changer, and it is.”

India’s Record Vaccination (1:05 p.m. HK)

India administered a record 8.8 million shots in a day, according to a government statement. India has given 554.7 million doses so far, but only 8.9% of the country’s population is fully inoculated, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker. India added 25,166 cases, while deaths rose by 437 to 432,079.

Booster Shots in the U.S. (11:50 a.m. HK)

The U.S. government is poised to offer booster shots as soon as next month, with the country facing a renewed wave of infections fueled by delta.

Biden administration officials are finalizing a plan expected to recommend booster shots eight months after people received their second dose, according to two people familiar with the deliberations who asked not to be identified. The plan is not yet finalized but an announcement could come as soon as this week, they said.

Singapore Pilot Programs (11:45 a.m. HK)

Singapore plans to set up pilot programs next month to allow vaccinated business travelers from some countries to enter on carefully controlled itineraries as it takes steps to reopen its borders.

Singapore is in talks with Germany, Australia, Canada and South Korea to be the first batch of countries for such arrangements, though it is also looking at the possibility of leisure travel, trade minister Gan Kim Yong told Bloomberg News in an interview Tuesday. He said factors like infections, vaccination rates and the ability to control outbreaks will be considered in these discussions.

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Virus Expert Predicts This Dire Future


Coronavirus cases are rising so high, right before back to school time, it feels like August 2020. “This is a very, very tough time. It is confusing. If you’re confused, if you’re concerned in a way that you haven’t been before, if you’re feeling let down, if you’re feeling somewhat frightened, please know that you’re not alone, that this clearly is something that we’re all feeling,” says leading epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on the latest episode of his podcast. Read on for his 6 life-saving pieces of advice he shared with his listeners—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.

Emergency medic and doctor moving patient to emergency room in hospital
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“The world passed a very grim milestone last week with the total confirmed cases, now reaching 200 million. That is clearly a major under-report of cases, but from the standpoint of kind of the relative tip of the iceberg, it gives you a sense that the numbers are not going down. They’re going up. The global death toll is not more than 4.3 million weekly for this past week, around 4.3 million cases reported as up from 4.1 million the week prior, this is the seventh straight week of increasing cases. Global deaths are also up from last week with 65,500 reported.” He said last week, cases were going up and down in certain areas but now “most concerning is the trend that they keep overall going up. Meaning this pandemic is a long, long ways from being over globally.”

Child With Sore Throat
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“I’m struggling right now as a grandparent,” says Osterholm. “I’m struggling because I’m fully vaccinated and I have five grandchildren under the age of 12. I’ve chronicled my time with them through the course of this pandemic, they have been a lifeblood to me, feeling more comfortable being in close contact with them has been a joy that I can never adequately describe. And now feeling like wow, Delta is taking over, we’re seeing widespread transmission in kids. These kids are in camps. These kids are playing with friends. Will they get infected and bring it home to one of us who are vaccinated, but could have a breakthrough case, or…I know how to protect myself,” but could I “potentially going to get exposed, get infected and more importantly, transmit it to them.” Despite the perception that kids’ infections are not as common as those in adults, “they still do have severe disease and die,” said Osterholm. “And so I think to myself, well, am I exposing them now that we know more about these breakthrough cases and the potential for transmission?”

Covid-19 patient with oxygen mask in bed in hospital
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“Please, we have to remember these cases are people,” said Osterholm. “Every time I see the news media put a number up, or I see another chart from some organization, or even me talking as a talking head about numbers—these are people, these are our fathers and our mothers, our grandparents, our brothers, and our sisters, our colleagues in some cases are people that we don’t necessarily agree with, but we have watched really over the course of the past two to four weeks, just increasing devastation caused by this virus….At the very, very heart of it is our real people.”

RELATED: I’m a Doctor and Here’s How to Not Catch Delta

Scientists and microbiologists with PPE suit and face mask hold test tube and microscope in lab
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“The Delta variant has created a whole new challenge for the world,” said Osterholm. “This is a brand new game and we have to understand that it’s not a mystery in the sense we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not somehow lightning struck and look at it as a whole different world. It’s evolution, viral evolution, it’s classic epidemiology…..Our vaccines are going to continue to be tool number 1, 2, 3, and four. As we look at other countries out there that have used other tools, such as China’s doing mass testing, they’re tracing their travel restrictions, vaccination, masking, et cetera, and they’re still having challenges. So I only want to point that out because we should not misinterpret that our problems here in the United States are just solely because we aren’t trying something. Our vaccination efforts are clearly among the best in the world, but you can see how tough this is to deal with even, even with vaccine….So from a global standpoint, the lessons learned this is far from over. This is far, far from over.”

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Predicted What Will Happen Next

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Osterholm said Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma are seeing major surges. “So where do we go from here?” he asks. Unclear, he says. “The hottest activity remain mainly in Southern Sunbelt states will upward trends in the Midwest in the far west in the Southeast, continue to mature. What’s the ceiling, what impact will state fairs, concerts, and festivals play. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. What should we expect from schools reopened? We’ll learn the answers to all these questions with time—time. That’s what it’s going to be. Most importantly, all I can keep saying is get vaccinated and make sure your friends and family members are also vaccinated. Even if they get vaccinated now, they won’t get immediate protection, but there’ll be covered from future surges.”

RELATED: These 9 States to Have Next Outbreak, Virus Expert Warns

Nurse with face mask sitting at home with senior woman and injecting covid 19 vaccine.
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“Remember, as we sit here today, over 90 million Americans have not yet been vaccinated or previously infected and are vulnerable to this virus and it will find them,” warned Osterholm. “It will find them. If it’s not this surge, it’ll be the next surge. And there will be more surges. I hope each time they get smaller numbers. I hope that the number of people impacted is reduced in part large part because of vaccine, not because they had to previously have an infection to get there, but we’re going to see more. This is not done. We can’t celebrate independence from this virus right now for the foreseeable future, unless we fundamentally change the number of people who get vaccinated, both in the United States and around the world.” So get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.



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UPDATE 1-FTSE 100 slips as virus fears outweigh gains in travel stocks


(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window)

* Flutter Entertainment top blue-chip gainer

* Insurer M&G drops despite strong earnings

* Sporting events push UK consumer spending in July

* FTSE 100 down 0.1%, FTSE 250 adds 0.3% (Updates prices, adds comment)

Aug 10 (Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 slipped on Tuesday as fears over a spike in global COVID-19 cases dented optimism about strong corporate earnings, while Flutter Entertainment jumped after saying it expected its U.S. business to turn a profit by 2023.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 inched 0.1% lower as gains in travel and leisure stocks were outweighed by weakness in heavyweight banks, which tracked benchmark bond yields lower.

Flutter Entertainment rose 4% to the top of the FTSE 100 even after its first-half earnings fell by 12% on a pro-forma basis as it continued to invest heavily in its fast-growing U.S. business.

Travel stocks have gained nearly 12% since the UK eased lockdown restrictions on July 19. The industry has been among the top sectoral performers this month on optimism travel demand would pick up pace, but still underperforms the mid-cap and blue-chip indexes.

“The outlook for travel and leisure stocks is kind of mixed at the moment, with most shares clocking gains but still being off their highs due to rising uncertainties regarding the Delta variant,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index climbed 0.3% with sports goods retailer Frasers being the top gainer, as surveys showed sporting events and the summer holidays prompted a big increase in British consumer spending in July.

The FTSE 100 has gained 10.4% so far this year on re-opening optimism and record-low interest rates, but a recent jump in global coronavirus infections and rising inflation have spurred worries that central banks could pull back support sooner than expected.

Among stocks, British insurer and asset manager M&G dropped 1.4% to the bottom of the FTSE 100 even after it posted an above-forecast 6% rise in first-half operating profit and said it was on track to meet its end-2022 capital generation target.

Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu



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Sydney Lockdown Lingers; Singapore Freer Travel: Virus Update


(Bloomberg) —

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Sydney’s month-long lockdown shows no signs of being eased as daily Covid-19 cases keep climbing. However, Adelaide and Melbourne — Australia’s second-largest city — announced that they would lift their lockdowns at midnight after bringing their clusters under control.  

Singapore said it’s aiming to start allowing quarantine-free travel in September, even as it struggles to control an outbreak of the delta variant. The situation is much worse in the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand has started transporting patients out of virus-wracked Bangkok, while a spike in deaths during pregnancy in Indonesia is being blamed on Covid-19.

Reliance Industries Ltd. said more than 98% of its workers have had at least one vaccine shot. Helmed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, Reliance is one of several big Indian corporations that have pulled off the feat of inoculating nearly all of their employees in a resource-crunched country that’s scrambling to boost its supply of coronavirus shots.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 194.6 million; deaths surpass 4.16 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 3.89 billion doses administeredCovid delivers an unsettling reality check to the worldAn unusually deadly outbreak in Taiwan was driven by complacencyCovid Long-Haulers Get Disability Civil Rights ProtectionsCan I be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19?: QuickTakeWhy is the delta variant more dangerous? (Video)

Italy May Force Teachers to Get Shots (1:28 p.m. HK)

Italy’s government is evaluating making vaccinations for teachers mandatory, daily Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday, without citing any source. The measure may be approved by the end of this week, after a possible government-unions meeting, the newspaper said.

Biotech Billionaire to Trial Vaccine in South Africa (1 p.m. HK)

U.S. biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is backing a Covid-19 vaccine candidate that he sees as having potential as a universal booster of other pandemic shots.

ImmunityBio Inc., of which the 68-year-old holds about 13%, is developing a vaccine called hAd5 that’s intended to specifically activate T-cells that scientists believe are a key part of the immune response against Covid. This quarter, the South African-born biotech tycoon will begin trials in the country, the scene of what he calls a Covid-19 “firestorm.”

Olympics Records Seven New Cases (11:11 a.m. HK)

New cases of the coronavirus associated with the Tokyo Olympics fell to seven on Tuesday, including two athletes, one of them a tennis player from the Netherlands, organizers said.

The report brings to 155 the total number of cases confirmed through an extensive testing program being implemented to try to maintain safety during the unprecedented pandemic-era games. A total of 16 people had been confirmed positive the previous day.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has asked hospitals in the capital to curb regular medical treatments to devote more beds to treating Covid-19 patients, broadcaster TBS reported, without saying where it obtained the information. 

U.K. to Consider Relaxing Travel Restrictions (11:11 a.m. HK)

The U.K. government will this week consider relaxing restrictions for travelers from the EU and the U.S., the Financial Times reported, citing an unidentified government official and an airport executive. Officials are also looking at removing France from the newly created “amber plus” category, which requires travelers from the U.K. to quarantine after their return, the newspaper reported.

China Nanjing’s Covid Outbreak Due to Delta (10:52 a.m. HK)

A Covid-19 outbreak in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing is due to the delta variant, China Central Television reported, citing a briefing held by local government. Nanjing reported 31 new local confirmed infections on Monday, with total cases of the latest strain at 106.

Sydney’s Lockdown Show No Signs of Easing (10:14 a.m. HK)

Sydney’s month-long lockdown shows no signs of being eased as the city’s daily Covid-19 cases keep climbing, even as other Australian cities move to open back up after bringing their clusters under control.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Tuesday that the state had recorded 172 new cases from the day before, a record since the latest outbreak fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant emerged in mid-June. The new peak came as Adelaide and Melbourne — Australia’s second-largest city — announced that they would lift their own lockdowns at midnight.

Severity of Cases Increasing in Singapore (8:39 a.m. HK)

Singapore’s Covid-19 case numbers have remained steady at over a 100 infections daily, but the severity of cases is increasing, according to the Ministry of Health. There were 18 serious cases that require oxygen supplementation as of Monday and another two in the intensive care unit. That’s up from a total of 14 serious cases the day before. There are also rising numbers of seniors over the age of 60 who are critically ill, the ministry said. 

Thailand Transporting Patients Out of Bangkok (8:38 a.m. HK) 

Thailand has started transferring patients from Bangkok to the country’s northeast to reduce the strain on the capital’s medical facilities that have been overwhelmed by a surge in cases, government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul said. About 30% of Thai infections during the current wave of outbreak that started in early April have been in Bangkok.

The nation reported 14,150 new infections on Tuesday, taking cumulative cases to 526,828. There are 171,921 patients who are hospitalized, with 4,284 in critical condition and 954 on ventilators, according to Health Ministry data.

Moderna Notifies Seoul of Vaccine Setback (8:29 a.m. HK)

Moderna Inc. has notified South Korea that an adjustment of its vaccine supply schedule is “inevitable” due to a “production setback issue,” South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said. Seoul and Moderna are discussing details on shipments for July and August, he said. Around 14% of South Koreans have been fully vaccinated, while 34% have had one shot.

Indonesian Maternal Deaths Up on Covid-19 (7:57 a.m. HK)

Indonesian maternal deaths due to Covid-19 are accelerating and could worsen as infections keep spreading across the country, said Project Hope, a global health and humanitarian group. Mortality during pregnancy in the Central Java districts of Grobogan and Banyumas has more than doubled this year, it said in a statement. Nearly 70% of Indonesian maternal deaths this year have been the direct result of Covid-19 infection, Project Hope said. 

Missouri Attorney General Files Anti-Mask Suit (7:05 a.m. HK)

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, filed suit to stop the reimposition of a mask mandate in St. Louis County and St. Louis City, his office said in a press release. The lawsuit notes that St. Louis had some of the most restrictive orders in Missouri and yet still suffered some of the highest Covid-19 case and death rates. It also argues that mandating children to wear masks in school is arbitrary and capricious. 

DOJ Says Vaccine Mandates Are Legal (6:23 a.m. HK)

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a memorandum saying federal law allows governments, universities and private businesses to require their employees to be vaccinated. Although the Office of Legal Counsel memo isn’t binding authority and thus doesn’t guarantee court approval of a vaccine mandate, it provides a boost to employers and others that either have imposed such a requirement or are considering it.

The memo, dated July 6, became public as concern is growing that unvaccinated Americans are contributing to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. It signals that the White House is beginning to embrace vaccine mandates, a sharp departure from the Biden administration’s earlier hesitancy on the subject.

Reliance Inoculates Almost All Workers (5:20 p.m. NY)

Reliance Industries, helmed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is one of the big Indian corporations that have pulled off the feat of inoculating almost all of their employees in a chronically resource-crunched country that’s currently scrambling to boost its supply of coronavirus shots.

India’s largest company by market value said in a statement Friday that more than 98% of its employees have received at least one dose against Covid-19. The retail-to-refining conglomerate had more than 236,300 employees as of March 31.

The local unit of consumer giant Unilever Plc has given at least one shot to about 90% of its employees or more than 88,000 people, while technology titans, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and Infosys Ltd. have inoculated 70% and 59% of their workforce respectively.

Model Shows 60% of U.S. Cases Unreported (3:30 p.m. NY)

As many as 60% of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. have gone unreported, and the virus has infected nearly one in five Americans, a new University of Washington model shows.

The model, which aims to mitigate biases in data capture, estimates that 65 million people, or 19.7% of U.S. residents, had been infected as of March 7. The findings, which appear in Monday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate the U.S. is unlikely to reach community level protection without continuing an ambitious vaccination campaign.

Africa Must Build Vaccine Capacity: WTO (2:05 p.m. NY)

African nations should build capacity to produce vaccines on the continent and work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure the raw materials needed to produce the inoculations are available, according to World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

While a waiver on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, is seen as way a to improve the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s least inoculated continent, Okonjo-Iweala cautioned that only a handful of African countries have the capacity to produce the life-saving drugs.

“There a handful of countries — maybe Tunisia, Morocco to some extent, Senegal, South Africa — where we have some capacity,” Okonjo-Iweala said in a webinar hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. “If we get IP today, we won’t be able to do anything with it because we don’t have investment, we don’t have manufacturing capacity.”



a person standing next to a truck: Zimbabwe Receives Additional Sinopharm Vaccine Shipment


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Zimbabwe Receives Additional Sinopharm Vaccine Shipment

NYC Extends Mandate to All Employees (10:44 a.m. NY)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that all municipal workers will be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine or get tested weekly starting Sept. 13, when students return to classrooms.

The vaccine mandate is the first expansion of a policy announced last week that requires health care workers in public hospitals and clinics to be vaccinated by Aug. 2 or submit to weekly tests. About 60% of the city’s more than 42,000 public hospital employees have been vaccinated, according to Mitchell Katz, president and chief executive officer of the system. 

Singapore Finds 129 New Cases (6:42 p.m. HK)

Singaporean authorities found 129 new community-transmitted Covid-19 cases, the Health Ministry said in a statement Monday. Of those, 67 cases were linked to the existing KTV lounge and Jurong fishery port clusters, while 28 cases were unlinked. In addition, six imported cases were found, of which three were detected upon arrival to Singapore.

The city-state also said it aims to relax more virus curbs, including starting to allow quarantine-free travel in September, marking the first time it’s set out a timeline to reopen borders. Singapore expects to have fully vaccinated 80% of its population by then, putting it in a solid position to move forward with reopening, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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With virus surge, US to keep travel restrictions for now


WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will keep existing COVID-19 travel restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant, according to a White House official.

President Joe Biden earlier this month said that his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the U.S. could lift the ban on European travel bound for the U.S. after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said while the administration understands the importance of international travel, cases are rising in the U.S. — particularly among those who are unvaccinated and will likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans against travel to the United Kingdom this past Monday given a surge in cases there.

Most of continental Europe has relaxed restrictions on Americans who are fully vaccinated, although the United Kingdom still requires quarantines for most visitors arriving from the U.S. Airlines say, however, that the lack of two-way travel is limiting the number of flights they can offer and seats they can sell.

But the rise and prevalence of COVID-19 variants in Europe, especially the delta mutation that is also spreading throughout the U.S., has caused the Biden administration to tread slowly about increasing transatlantic travel.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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Delta Now 83% of New U.S. Cases; NYC Shots Drop: Virus Update


(Bloomberg) — The highly transmissible delta variant now makes up 83% of all sequenced Covid-19 cases in the U.S., up from 50% in early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that the country’s self-isolation rules aren’t optional following some mixed messaging from a government minister.

France has seen a jump in vaccinations since President Emmanuel Macron announced that passes showing proof of testing or immunization will be required in restaurants and cafes. Apple Inc. is pushing back its return-to-office deadline because of the resurgence in cases across many countries.

Tokyo’s infections continue to rise with just three days left until the Olympics, and more Japanese companies have decided against sending executives to Friday’s opening ceremony. Singapore will tighten restrictions on dining-in and social gatherings again, and half of Australia’s population is back in lockdown.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 191 million; deaths near 4.1 millionVaccine Tracker: More than 3.64 billion doses administeredDemocrats can’t make Facebook help win the Covid information warWomen are still suffering more than men in pandemic job hitVaccine and ventilator shortages show need for Africa free tradeA secretive body is making questionable Covid decisions in IndiaWhy the 2020 Olympics (in 2021) will be like no other: QuickTake

Delta Now Accounts for 83% of U.S. Cases (11:45 a.m. NY)

The delta variant now makes up 83% of all sequenced Covid-19 cases in the U.S., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in a Senate hearing. The new figure is up from 50% from the week of July 3. She said areas of the country with limited vaccination coverage are allowing spread of the highly transmissible variant, which was first identified in India.

“Each death is tragic and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths can be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine,” Walensky said.

NYC Daily Vaccination Rate Drops to 15,000 (10:30 a.m. NY)

New York City’s vaccine administration rate has plunged to less than 15,000 a day, from more than 100,000 a day in mid-April, as cases increase.

The city has fully vaccinated 4.5 million residents, data show, falling short of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal to have 5 million New Yorkers fully vaccinated by June.

The city reported a seven-day average of 576 confirmed and probable cases on July 18, more than double the average on July 6.

Hospitalizations have edged up just slightly. Almost all of those admitted for Covid-19 haven’t been vaccinated, according to Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi. “This is preventable suffering,” he said on Twitter.

Netherlands Weekly Cases Rise (9:10 a.m. NY)

The Netherlands reported 69,731 weekly cases on Tuesday, up from 51,957 last week. The number of hospitalizations has gone up in recent days, though at a slower pace than infections. Official figures showed 50 new admissions on Monday, the biggest daily increase since May 10.

The Dutch government has reintroduced some restrictions, including limiting opening hours for bars, while a recommendation for people to work from home if possible was reinstated from Monday.

Indonesia May Begin Easing Curbs (9:05 a.m. NY)

Indonesia may start to gradually ease nationwide emergency curbs if cases and levels of hospital occupancy decline. The government may relax the restrictions starting July 26 if cases continue to fall, according to President Joko Widodo. This will include allowing some eateries and shops to stay open for longer, Jokowi, as the president is known, said in a televised address on Tuesday.

Mauritius Outbreaks Among Vaccinated Workers (8:52 a.m. NY)

Mauritius recorded a record daily number of cases after outbreaks among vaccinated foreign factory workers living in hostels, according to the Health Ministry.

The Indian Ocean island nation, which reopened its borders to tourists last week, added 368 new infections on Monday, with 305 of them being factory workers and almost all asymptomatic. Foreign labor in the country’s export-oriented manufacturing industry accounts for 47% of total employment.

Mauritius is seeking to revive its tourism industry after ramping up vaccinations, and about a third of its 1.3 million people are fully inoculated.

French Shots Surge After Passes Announced (7:51 a.m. NY)

France’s vaccination rollout is accelerating after President Emmanuel Macron announced that “health passes” — showing proof of testing or immunization — will be required in restaurants and cafes.

A Health Ministry official said at a briefing that 4.3 million injections were administered last week, including 1.7 million first doses. In another record, 880,000 shots were administered on Friday. And this week saw the best Monday of the rollout, the official said.

French vaccinations are proceeding twice as much fast as the rollouts in Italy and Germany, the official said. After Macron’s speech, the number of online vaccine appointments climbed to 520,000 daily from 140,000 daily in early July. France will reach its target of 40 million first doses ahead of schedule, the official said.

U.K. Says Self-Isolation Crucial (7:20 a.m. NY)

The U.K. government insisted people told to isolate by the National Health Service contact-tracing mobile app can’t ignore the advice. Earlier, a minister had said it was “optional” and not legally binding.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Press Association that “isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus.” The mixed messaging came after Business Minister Paul Scully told Times Radio on Tuesday “it is up to individuals and employers” whether they isolate after being “pinged.”

Iran Reports Most Deaths in Two Months (6:27 a.m. NY)

Iran reported a record number of new cases, with 27,444 in the past 24 hours. The country also posted its highest daily death toll in two months, at 250. The latest figures bring Iran’s total infections to more than 3.5 million and its fatalities to 87,624. About 2% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to Health Ministry data.

Hong Kong, Singapore Travel Bubble Review (4:38 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong and Singapore agreed to conduct a review in late August on whether to implement a quarantine-free air travel bubble, the Hong Kong government said on its website. The condition for launching the bubble couldn’t be met for the time being given the recent surge of confirmed cases in Singapore.

Tokyo Cases Continue to Rise Before Olympics (4:27 p.m. HK)

With just three days left until the Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese capital’s cases continue to rise, with 1,387 confirmed on Tuesday, up from 830 a week earlier. The seven-day average, at 1,180, has roughly doubled over the past two weeks.

Infections among Olympics staff, athletes and others linked to the games are also increasing. Organizers say a total of 71 people have tested positive, including 31 who are among the tens of thousands of international visitors expected in Japan to compete or work at the Olympics.

Meanwhile, more Japanese companies have decided against sending executives to Friday’s opening ceremony.

Singapore Imposes Restrictions Again (3:28 p.m. HK)

Singapore will re-tighten restrictions on dining-in and social gatherings and halt indoor exercise from Thursday amid a record number of daily infections, fueled by highly transmissible strains spreading across Southeast Asia.

Group gatherings will be slashed from five people to just two through Aug. 18, authorities announced at a briefing, with the measures to be reviewed after two weeks. Singapore will also unveil a virus support package in the coming days. The new restrictions underscore Singapore’s struggle in shifting from the strict controls that have been part of its “Covid-zero” strategy toward a new normal that treats the disease as endemic.

Italy Passes 50% of Population Vaccinated (3:16 p.m HK)

The total number of people inoculated in Italy, who have completed the vaccination cycle with two doses or a single shot, are 27,581,936, or 51.07% of the population over 12, according to the government website.

Japan Clears Roche’s Ronapreve as Treatment (2:05 p.m. HK)

Roche Holding AG and Chugai Pharmaceutical Co.’s Ronapreve was cleared as an intravenous infusion for patients with mild to moderate infection. Japan is the first country to clear the antibody combination. The medicine has shown it can improve survival in high-risk patients.

Only 6% of India’s Population Fully Vaccinated (1:40 p.m. HK)

India added 30,093 cases Tuesday, pushing the total tally to 31.2 million. The country has administered almost 412 million vaccine doses so far, but only about 6% of the second-worst hit nation’s population is fully inoculated against the virus. Covid-related deaths rose by 374 in a day to 414,482 total fatalities.

The U.S. lowered its travel advisory to India after a drop in cases there, but scientists in the country say it is ill-prepared for a possible third wave. The Indian Council of Medical Research — a little known government body before the pandemic — has been criticized for its Covid management as India battled its biggest outbreak in May.

Apple Will Postpone Return to Office (11:35 a.m. HK)

Apple Inc. is pushing back its return-to-office deadline by at least a month to October at the earliest, responding to a resurgence of Covid variants across many countries, people familiar with the matter said.

The iPhone maker becomes one of the first U.S. tech giants to delay plans for a return to normality as Covid persists and cases involving a highly transmissible variant increase. Apple will give its employees at least a month’s warning before mandating a return to offices, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing internal policy.

Victoria Extends Lockdown, Shuts Sydney Border (10:07 a.m. HK)

Australia’s Victoria state extended its fifth lockdown since the pandemic began and tightened border restrictions with Sydney as authorities battle to contain an outbreak of the delta variant.

Stay-at-home orders will remain in place for another seven days until midnight July 27 after Victoria recorded 13 new locally-acquired cases for a second straight day, state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters Tuesday. The state will effectively shut its border to people from Sydney, with exceptions for essential workers such as freight drivers and for compassionate reasons, he said.

Authorities have issued stay-at-home orders for almost half of the nation’s population, hampering the country’s economic recovery after Australia slid into its first recession in about three decades last year.

Philippines May Return to Stricter Curbs (9:14 a.m. HK)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said more stringent movement restrictions may be needed after the country detected cases of the more transmissible delta coronavirus variant.

“We may need to reimpose stricter restrictions to avoid mass gathering and prevent superspreader events,” Duterte said in a recorded briefing aired late Monday. The reported local cases of the delta variant is “a cause for serious alarm and concern,” he said.

The Philippines, home to the second-worst Covid-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia, has recorded more than 1.5 million cases and 26,786 deaths as of July 19.

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COVID live updates: Virus ‘blind spot’ forces harsh new work and travel rules in NSW


NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the state’s coronavirus case numbers are “stubborn” and new restrictions will be put in place to drive infections down.

Follow all of Saturday’s COVID-19 updates in the live blog below.

Live updates

Pinned

NSW’s restrictions – explained 

Sooooo many questions about the NSW restrictions, we’ve got an article on things you need to know out of today’s press conference in NSW.

Regarding the three LGAs in Sydney that people cannot leave: 

Under the new rules, the only people who will be able to leave those areas for work are essential health and emergency services workers.

People who are employed in the aged-care and disability sectors are counted as health workers. 

Even then, people who are exempt and able to leave the suburbs must get COVID-19 tests every three days, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

And here’s some of the finer details:

  • You can only gather outside in groups of two (or, with members of your household) and it must be for exercise
  • If you’re exercising, you can only do so within 10km of your home
  • Carpooling is not allowed, unless you’re with members of your household
  • You must wear a face mask when indoors (unless you’re at home), or when you can’t socially distance outdoors
  • Only one person, per household, per day may leave home to shop

Read all about it here. 

By Caitlyn Davey

Potential exposure in Northern NSW

Dr Chant said today:

“We had three of today’s cases, are people who travel to Molong in the state’s Central West in the 16th of July and what happened is, we found the results of their testing and called them when they were just about to conclude some of their business. Unfortunately, those people had also worked in the Northern New South Wales on the 15th, and we will be releasing any information that is relevant about that. We’re just ascertaining some additional data.”

Keep an eye on the exposure sites here. 

By Caitlyn Davey

By Caitlyn Davey

Victoria’s outbreak in the Richmond Apartment Block 

Is there any additional info on the apartment block in Richmond Vic that is locked down?

-Vic Blog Fan

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton also confirmed there is a positive case at a Richmond apartment block.

Professor Sutton said the block was being treated with the same response that’s been used for other settings in apartment blocks where people need to get tested and isolate for 14 days.

There are 23 apartments in the seven-storey building on Burnley Street in Richmond.

He said residents have been notified. 

By Caitlyn Davey

A 70-year-old man who travelled from Indonesia to Darwin on his own yacht has tested positive to COVID-19

In a statement, a NT government spokesman said the man arrived in the NT on July 13 and had mild symptoms.

“The skipper and one passenger remained on [the] boat until they were transferred to CNR [Howard Springs quarantine facility] on 14 July, at no time did they enter into the community,” he said. 

“All necessary border arrival requirements were met.”

Via Lauren Roberts.

Read the full story here. 

By Caitlyn Davey

NSW: Are take-away food outlets still open? 

Non-essential retail can remain open for click-and-collect or takeaway but not face-to-face.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: 

“Anything which is regarded as non-critical retail will not be able to have face-to-face. We will be able to have click and collect, delivery or take away but please know we have considered carefully what is on the critical list.”

By Caitlyn Davey

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Play Video. Duration: 3 minutes 9 seconds

Chief Health Officer of Victoria, Brett Sutton speaks about the Victorian outbreak

By Caitlyn Davey

Some questions answered 

Getting the real hard questions today!

My partner and I have been together for 4 years. I live in Fairfield LGA, and he does not. Am I still allowed to visit him in his home (he lives alone)? Is he still allowed to visit me?

— Frustrated in Fairfield

Oh FiF, I’m sorry to hear your situation. While Dr Chant did say you can visit partners during lockdown, movement in and out of the LGAs is severely restricted now so I’d say no unless you locked down together and don’t leave. 

Do you have to wear a mask outdoors at all times in Victoria?

-thank you

  • Face masks must be worn indoors and outdoors by anyone aged 12 years and over, whenever you leave your home – unless a lawful exception applies. – that’s from Vic Health.

hi, where has brett sutton gone? we miss him :((

-anonymous

He was on leave but he’s BACK – gracing our screens today. I’ll have some video of him just for you shortly. 

What about manufacturing of construction industry items located in Sydney? Do we close or can stay open? Also what about freight drivers entering to deliver to other parts of Australia? This is very unclear as we fit in construction manufacturing. Thank you.

-Donna

Freight is considered essential – but I’m not sure if you’re in one of the three LGAs that are restricted. It would depend what your business is classified as. I’m sorry I can’t be more help but if construction is locked down, I’d assume you would be too unless an exemption is granted. 

Will golf courses be open in Greater Sydney with the new restrictions in place?

-golfer

Not likely. 

By Caitlyn Davey

By Caitlyn Davey

South Australia working with freight industry to find a workaround on COVID testing 

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens says the SA authorities are working with the freight industry to find a good outcome for drivers to cross the border.

He says that the removalists fall under the freight industry and that a rule for 48-hour border testing set-up was onerous. 

He says the authorities are working with the freight industry to find a suitable set-up to protect the community and continue to allow the industry to operate.

By Caitlyn Davey

By Nicholas McElroy

Key Event

South Australia blocks almost all Victorian travellers

South Australia has barred almost all Victorian residents from entering the state – and plans to prevent South Australians returning next week without specific exemptions.

Effective immediately, only SA residents, people genuinely relocating or those fleeing domestic violence can enter from Victoria.

There is still a 70km cross-border bubble zone but Victorians cannot go any further into SA.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has warned South Australian residents to come home now and do two weeks home quarantine, or risk being locked out early next week, due to the deteriorating situation in Victoria.

They would then need to apply for limited exemptions from SA Health as is currently the case for SA residents in New South Wales.

By Caitlyn Davey

By Caitlyn Davey

Victoria’s lockdown – will it get tighter or any end in sight? 

This was asked a lot throughout the press conference for Victoria. 

The prof, CHO Brett Sutton said it’s day-by-day and too early to say about lock-down changing, and contact tracing:

“We’re not far behind, we’re going as fast as we’ve ever gone but it is a challenge, when we’re seeing people exposed one day, and two days later already transmitting.”

They’re chasing the chains of transmissions, and say that the lockdown is giving the contact tracers time – and that it’s good news all cases are linked. 

“Lockdown does its job of limiting other exposures.”

Shout out to the contact tracers – it must be mayhem. 

By Nicholas McElroy

By Caitlyn Davey

Will NSW outbreak likely affect Victoria further? 

CHO Brett Sutton shared some words about the Sydney outbreak. 

“We’ve always said, any issue is the country’s issue. We have nothing but solidarity with health teams in NSW, and people of NSW. The risk will be across Australia when there are cases anywhere in Australia. Risk will remain everywhere until the risk can be driven right down.”

By Nicholas McElroy

All but one of Victoria’s new COVID cases were infectious while in the community

Victoria’s Health Minister says all but one of Victoria’s new coronavirus cases have been infectious while in the community.

The new cases include another person who went to the MCG. He infected two friends, who recently travelled to Phillip Island.

There are also two more staff members infected from Trinity Grammar, another student at St Patricks’ primary in Murrumbeena, two more Bacchus Marsh Grammar staff members and one student.

Martin Foley says there are now 10,000 primary close contacts, and more than 160 exposure alerts but fast contact tracing work and the lockdown have kept exposure times to a minimum.

“It is an average of 1.7 days of their infectious period in the community and that figure is a vindication of the going hard and going early strategy that the public health team have put to the government,” he said.

By Nicholas McElroy

Construction work on hold across Greater Sydney due to COVID-19

All construction work across Greater Sydney is on hold as authorities try to get on top of the growing COVID outbreak in New South Wales.

There are 111 new community transmitted cases in Sydney, with at least 29 of them infectious while in the community.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says deciding to pause construction work was difficult.

“We don’t underestimate the impact this has on our businesses. We appreciate that,” she said.

“But what is really important to us is to give business every chance to bounce back.

“This is our chance to quash this virus and to make sure that families and businesses can bounce back as quickly as possible.”

By Nicholas McElroy

Can bottle shops open in Sydney?  

Can bottle shops open in Sydney?

-Cheers

This is a very popular question on the blog today.

Probably because is isn’t explicitly mentioned on this NSW Government list of businesses can remain open:

  • Supermarkets
  • Stores that predominantly sell health, medical, maternity and infant supplies,
  • Pharmacies and chemists
  • Petrol stations
  • Car hire
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Hardware, nurseries and building supplies,
  • Agricultural and rural supplies
  • Pet supplies
  • Post offices and newsagents
  • Office supplies

 We will find out the answer and post it here as soon as we know.

By Caitlyn Davey

Posted , updated 



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Spain, Portugal frustrated by shifting virus travel policies


LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Spain’s top diplomat pushed back Friday against French cautions over vacationing in the Iberian peninsula, as southern Europe’s holiday hotspots worry that repeated changes to rules on who can visit is putting people off travel.

On Thursday, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, Clément Beaune, advised people to “avoid Spain and Portugal as destinations” when booking their holidays because the French government is considering restrictions on travel to the Iberian neighbors, where COVID-19 infections are surging.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the current surge is not translating into more hospitalizations and urged people to be “proportionate” in their response to pandemic trends.

“This is a time for prudence, not for panicking,” she said at a press conference in Madrid. “There is no reason at the moment to ask people to cancel their vacations.”

Visiting French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian urged people to have a COVID-19 jab before travelling.

“The vaccine is the door to Spain,” he said.

Millions of tourists arriving every year in Spain and Portugal are crucial for the Iberian countries’ economies and jobs. Both hope tourism will help drive an economic recovery after the pandemic.

French tourists staying away would be a major blow.

For Iberian tourism businesses, last year was mostly a washout due to COVID-19 lockdowns and local and international travel restrictions.

This year is turning out to be a wild ride, as rules have flip-flopped amid efforts to resume leisure travel.

Germany on Friday labelled the whole of Spain as a “risk area,” potentially discouraging travel there.

Portugal has also been clobbered by changing rules.

Last month, Portuguese companies cheered when the country was placed on the U.K.’s “green list,” permitting British tourists to skip quarantine when returning home. Three weeks later, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, Portugal was axed from the list and the British market dried up.

There are hopes this could change again after July 19, when the British government scraps the requirement for people going abroad to quarantine, as long as they are fully vaccinated.

Germany this week eased its recent strict restrictions on travel to Portugal, which had disheartened the Portuguese tourism sector. Now, a negative test is enough for Germans returning from holiday to avoid quarantining.

“Everyone keeps chopping and changing their rules,” Eliderico Viegas, head of Portugal’s Algarve Hotel and Resort Association, a representative body, said. “France, and before it Germany, are good examples of that.”

Portugal, like Spain, was expecting this summer to be less bad than last year. The French minister’s comments have changed that outlook, according to Viegas.

“There’s no doubt that demand will fall now,” he told the Associated Press.

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Spain, Portugal frustrated by shifting virus travel policies


Updated 9 minutes ago

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Spain’s top diplomat pushed back Friday against French cautions over vacationing in the Iberian peninsula, as southern Europe’s holiday hotspots worry that repeated changes to rules on who can visit is putting people off travel.

On Thursday, France’s secretary of state for European affairs, Clément Beaune, advised people to “avoid Spain and Portugal as destinations” when booking their holidays because the French government is considering restrictions on travel to the Iberian neighbors, where COVID-19 infections are surging.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said the current surge is not translating into more hospitalizations and urged people to be “proportionate” in their response to pandemic trends.

“This is a time for prudence, not for panicking,” she said at a press conference in Madrid. “There is no reason at the moment to ask people to cancel their vacations.”

Visiting French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian urged people to have a COVID-19 jab before travelling.

“The vaccine is the door to Spain,” he said.

Millions of tourists arriving every year in Spain and Portugal are crucial for the Iberian countries’ economies and jobs. Both hope tourism will help drive an economic recovery after the pandemic.

French tourists staying away would be a major blow.

For Iberian tourism businesses, last year was mostly a washout due to COVID-19 lockdowns and local and international travel restrictions.

This year is turning out to be a wild ride, as rules have flip-flopped amid efforts to resume leisure travel.

Germany on Friday labelled the whole of Spain as a “risk area,” potentially discouraging travel there.

Portugal has also been clobbered by changing rules.

Last month, Portuguese companies cheered when the country was placed on the U.K.’s “green list,” permitting British tourists to skip quarantine when returning home. Three weeks later, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, Portugal was axed from the list and the British market dried up.

There are hopes this could change again after July 19, when the British government scraps the requirement for people going abroad to quarantine, as long as they are fully vaccinated.

Germany this week eased its recent strict restrictions on travel to Portugal, which had disheartened the Portuguese tourism sector. Now, a negative test is enough for Germans returning from holiday to avoid quarantining.

“Everyone keeps chopping and changing their rules,” Eliderico Viegas, head of Portugal’s Algarve Hotel and Resort Association, a representative body, said. “France, and before it Germany, are good examples of that.”

Portugal, like Spain, was expecting this summer to be less bad than last year. The French minister’s comments have changed that outlook, according to Viegas.

“There’s no doubt that demand will fall now,” he told the Associated Press.





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