The WHO warned on Thursday of a risk of a new epidemic wave carried by the Delta variant in Europe, just as the EU is launching its health pass in the hope of reviving tourism. So what risk are we taking by choosing to go on a trip today?
While several European countries seemed to see the end of the tunnel and were gradually lifting their health measures, the European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday that the number of cases of Covid-19 had increased. again increased by 10% last week on the mainland.
And this “due to the increase in mixing, travel, gatherings and the easing of social restrictions”, specifies the WHO.
Sign of this relaxation: the European health certificate came into force on Thursday to facilitate travel and revive tourism within the European Union this summer. Free, it must be recognized in the 27 countries of the EU, as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway. Discussions are ongoing with a number of third countries, including the UK and the US, for mutual recognition and interoperability of documents.
The French can therefore now travel to most of Europe, and fewer and fewer countries require vaccinated tourists to be tested before departure. Children, however, must present PCR or antigen tests for certain destinations, such as Italy or Spain. But is this very reasonable, at the dawn of a possible fourth wave in France?
Consider your vaccination status
Are we really taking a risk by choosing to travel this summer, especially abroad? “It depends,” said Dr. Leana Wen, American emergency doctor, interviewed by the American channel CNN.
According to this professor of public health policy and management at the School of Public Health at the Milken Institute in Washington DC, “there are two factors to carefully consider” before leaving on a trip. “The first is your vaccination status. If you are fully vaccinated, you are well protected against Covid-19, unless you are severely immunocompromised.” So according to her, in the event of a complete vaccination schedule, you can consider “resuming the activities you enjoy, including international travel”.
“On the other hand, I would advise those who are not vaccinated to refrain from all non-essential travel, whether in their country or abroad,” says Dr Leana Wen. In the laboratory or in real life, all the studies converge on one point: receiving a single dose of vaccine only provides limited protection against the virus, in particular against the Delta variant.
“And during a trip, there is a significant probability that you will find yourself in the middle of a crowd indoors: for example in airports or train stations. So there is a good chance that you will find yourself with other people who are not vaccinated, or not yet fully vaccinated. By not being fully vaccinated yourself, these people would therefore represent a risk for you, and you would represent a risk for them”, explains the doctor.
In France, for example, 50% of French people have still not received their first dose of vaccine against Covid. On Tuesday, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran advised the French against waiting for the start of the school year to be vaccinated, noting that “if you are vaccinated in September, you will not be protected before mid-October”.
Find out about local restrictions
The World Health Organization has recently expressed concern about the easing of health restrictions in certain countries, in particular the hosts of major sporting events such as the Euro football championship. As cases increase in host cities (London, Baku and Saint Petersburg), WHO Europe has called for better monitoring of spectators, not just in stadiums.
For the American emergency physician, travelers must take their destination into account, and adapt accordingly – and the rules are far from being harmonized: “Some countries impose restrictive measures which can make you rethink your trip.” In Portugal, for example, a night curfew will be reinstated from Friday in 45 municipalities including Lisbon, due to the spread of the Delta variant.
“A mandatory quarantine period may be imposed in some places, and could possibly prevent you from visiting anything,” adds Leana Wen. You should also take into account the duration of the quarantine period, in case it corresponds more or less to the total duration of your trip.
“In this case, it may be worth thinking twice about it” before leaving, believes the specialist.
Watch for resurgences of the virus
The health professional also recommends finding out about the epidemic figures in the country and region where you plan to go, in particular hospital data or the number of new cases, so as not to find yourself stuck in the middle. of a large wave of cases.
“In addition to the risk of contracting the virus, you could face difficulties in accessing care”, also notes Dr. Leana Wen with the American television channel. Special Covid-19 insurance can be offered to you before departure, note The Parisian.
Around the world, the epidemic is resurging due to the more contagious Delta variant. In Spain for example, nearly 6,000 people were placed in quarantine in Palma de Mallorca after the discovery of a giant cluster caused by students who had come to celebrate the end of classes. At least 1,824 cases have since been reported positive for Covid-19, and the incidence rate has increased by 36% in one week in the country.
australia is also confronted with the Delta variant. Alice Springs, located in the huge and desert hinterland, became the fifth city in the country on Wednesday to be confined.
The situation is also very worrying in Africa, where, the WHO warned, “all records set by previous peaks” have been broken. “The rate of contamination and the magnitude of the third wave affecting Africa is nothing like what we have experienced so far”.
In Asiawhere the variant is also progressing, Thailand reopened the paradise island of Phuket to international tourists on Thursday, while the kingdom recorded its worst daily toll since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday with 53 dead.
Cruises, which have only just been relaunched and operate by definition in a vacuum, are also already affected by cases of resurgence of the virus. In early June, some passengers were infected on board the Celebrity Millenniumone of the first cruise ships to return to sea in North America after the pandemic.
Don’t give up on barrier gestures
If you decide to leave, “follow the health instructions”, starting with barrier gestures, insisted Thursday on RTL Didier Pittet, president of the independent evaluation mission on the management of the Covid-19 crisis in France. “It is obvious that this virus is ‘hyper-endemic’, that is to say that it is everywhere and that we can catch it at any time”, notes the specialist. “Following these guidelines will help and protect you.”
“We let go last summer, we paid a very high price for it in the fall,” recalls Didier Pittet. “This time we have the advantage of having a proportion of vaccinated in our populations, that’s why we can afford to relax, but if we start to have any attitudes, unfortunately we will pay it in the fall.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published advice for French travelers on its website according to their destination.