P.ortugal was the only classic travel destination in Europe that the British were allowed to visit (since mid-May). More than 10,000 have set out in the past two weeks, and many more have booked their summer vacation there. Now the government in London has surprisingly announced that it will put Portugal on the “yellow list” from Tuesday. If you don’t get back on time, you have to buy a ten-day quarantine and test packages that cost several hundred euros. According to the government, “yellow countries” (like Germany) should only be visited in “extreme circumstances”. The much-celebrated “vaccination success” has at least brought nothing for travelers, on the contrary. Last summer, traveling was less of a hassle.
Not only those affected and tourism companies express their indignation. The Portuguese government accused London of “health fundamentalism”. The location does not justify the strict measure, it said. The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees it differently. Several ministers justified the move on Friday with the recent doubling of the incidence value in Portugal to 66 – Great Britain is still below 40 – and the risk of a new variant that would have brought in returnees. This so-called Nepal variant is a mutation (“Delta + K417N”) of the Indian variant. Little is known about this, but caution is required.
Deterioration in numbers
Johnson’s priority is the so-called final easing step on June 21, when the contact restrictions are to be lifted and major events are to be allowed again. So far, the government has been “cautiously optimistic” that the schedule can be adhered to, but the pressure from academia and opposition parties is growing. The Indian variant is now dominant. It accounts for 73 percent of new infections and has been registered in just over 12,000 people.
In the past few months, the number of new corona infections had shrunk to a little more than 2,000 a day. Now it’s up 49 percent in a week. Mostly young people who have not been vaccinated are affected. The number of hospital admissions has increased slightly; it is now 110 people a day – three percent more than in the previous week. The number of deaths, however, continues to decline. It’s less than ten a day; On Monday, for the first time since the pandemic began, no one who tested positive at the time of death died.
Nevertheless, the first scientists are warning of a “deterioration in the numbers” and a “new wave in the early stages”. Probably the best-known British epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, doubted previous assumptions about the Indian variant on Friday. Contrary to earlier estimates, this is not 20 to 30 percent more contagious than the British variant, but rather 60 percent, he told the BBC. Models recently published by the government advisory body SAGE had made dire predictions when there was a 50 percent higher risk of infection from a new dominant variant. After that, in such a case, 10,000 to 20,000 people would be admitted every day until summer and 1,000 would die a day. Ferguson also mentioned “early indications” that people vaccinated against the Indian variant B.1.617.2 are less safe than previously assumed.
The SAGE committee, of which Ferguson belongs, spoke out on Friday in favor of postponing the next opening step. Occasionally, however, voices from science, politics and the media also spoke up, calling for a “proportionality” of the measures. Tory MP Mark Harper said the Prime Minister should stick to the announced easing date, refuting his former advisor Dominic Cummings, who recently compared Johnson to a rolling shopping cart.