As more cases of the Delta variant are reported in countries across the world, nations are restricting travel to stop the spread of infection. China is among the latest country to have done so, with mass domestic travel restrictions; all inter-city coach, taxi and online car hailing services suspended in medium-and high-risk areas.
The Delta variant, which first emerged in India, has been attributed to having more transmissibility and causing increased severity of Covid-19, compared to the earlier mutations, strains of the disease. The spur in cases have rung alarm bells across the world as domestic and international travel limitations becoming a relied upon method, as with previous waves of the disease, to limit infection spread.
China Tightens Domestic Travel, Light Curbs on Overseas Movement
China on Wednesday tightened overseas travel restrictions for its citizens. The movement of people is coming under more restriction inside China - with localised transport closures and stay-at-home orders in places in some cities - and beyond China’s borders.
China had previously boasted of its success in crushing Covid-19, with hard lockdowns in the early stages mixed with tight controls of its borders, but mass testing campaigns have uncovered Delta variant infections across the country. Local governments have tested entire cities and locked down millions, with the official figures on Wednesday revealing 71 new infections — the most since January, but still a low caseload despite the outbreak spreading to dozens of cities.
The outbreak, which began when an infection among passengers on a flight from Moscow spread to airport cleaners in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has exposed weaknesses in the country’s already strict border containment measures.
China’s immigration authority on Wednesday announced it would stop issuing ordinary passports and other documents needed for exiting the country in “non-essential and non-emergency" cases. That does not yet mean a blanket overseas travel ban for the Chinese public.
Immigration official Liu Haitao told a press briefing that those who “have real needs for studying abroad, employment and business" will still have their documents issued upon verification. Foreign crews on hundreds of ships have been stopped from disembarking and changing shifts at Chinese ports.
The central government has also ordered localities to cut off public transport and taxis in and out of areas hit by the outbreak, the transport ministry said at the same press conference.
US Warns Against Travel to Israel, Other European Nations; Restrictions on UK Continue
The US has issued a travel warning for Israel and numerous European nations, citing the more contagious delta form as a source of coronavirus epidemics, primarily among the unvaccinated.
The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new travel warnings for Israel, Cyprus, Portugal, and Spain, as well as Kyrgyzstan, on Monday, citing an increase in the number of cases in all five countries.
The warnings came as the White House stated it had no intentions to ease travel restrictions for tourists from the United Kingdom, Schengen countries, and other countries such as Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. Spain and Portugal have already reopened to American passengers, while Canada has announced that vaccinated Americans will be allowed entry starting next month.
However, “given where we are today… with the delta variant,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, “we will continue existing travel restrictions at this point.”
Phillipines Restricts Overseas Travel
To combat the spread of Delta variant, the Philippines extended its ban on travellers from India and nine other countries until Aug. 15.
Aside from India, travellers from Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are subject to the travel restrictions, which are in effect until July 31.
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the suggestion of the country’s anti-virus task team, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
In the Southeast Asian country, more than 1.57 million COVID-19 cases, including 216 of the Delta form, and 27,577 deaths have been reported. At least 7.27 million people, or 6.66 percent of the 109 million people in the country, are fully immunised.
Italy May Change Green Pass Requirements Amid Delta Concerns
According to Deputy Health Minister Perpaolo Sileri, Italy is set to change the regulations for its health pass in the coming weeks. TheLocal.it reported that Italy’s Deputy Health Minister said: “It is likely that the Delta variant will force us to remodel the green pass, releasing it after the second dose of a vaccine.”
Nonetheless, he stated that it is still too early to confirm any potential system adjustments because they must wait for data for another couple of weeks.
On June 17, Italy announced the launch of its travel health certificate, which will make it easier to travel within the country and throughout the bloc. Citizens of the country can now receive an electronic digital health certificate indicating that they have been vaccinated against the COVID-19, have tested negative, or have recovered from the disease.
After administering more than 50 million COVID-19 vaccines to date, Italy was designated as a low-risk country on Monday, and restrictions on wearing a mask while outside were loosened.
France Warns Nations Against Travel to Spain, Portugal
France had recently warned its nationals Thursday against travelling to Spain or Portugal on holiday because of a spike in Covid-19 cases caused by Delta.
People can currently travel to any other EU country as long as they are completely vaccinated or have a negative PCR or antigen test when they return. However, Clement Beaune, the French minister for Europe, cautioned citizens from crossing the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain or Portugal. “For those who have not yet booked their holidays, avoid Spain and Portugal as a destination," he told France 2 television. “It’s better to remain in France or go to other countries."
France, which anticipates a fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic this summer, is considering imposing travel restrictions across Europe to prevent the spread of the extremely virulent Delta mutant, according to Beaune.