Fears for summer holidays going ahead due to South African strain as France goes back into lockdown

Fears for summer holidays going ahead due to South African strain as France goes back into lockdown


SUMMER holidays are at risk of not going ahead, a leading scientist has warned, due to a spike in Covid cases which has forced France back into lockdown.

The country's prime minister Jean Castex announced a month-long lockdown tonight for 16 regions in France including Paris.

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London has warned that new travel restrictions may have to be enforced to due to the South African variant.

The Covid strain, which is 70 per cent more transmissible than the original coronavirus variant, spreads faster and is less easily controlled by typical Covid restrictions.

Prof Ferguson said there needed to be important decisions made on how the UK can trade with France as the country faces a third lockdown.

He said on BBC's Today programme: “I think there are important decisions coming up, and it’s always a balancing act.

“How much we relax the current ban on international travel except for essential services.

“As a lot of essential travel between ourselves and France for business, commerce and trade, how can we reduce the risks associated with that travel.

“Those are policy decisions, I’m just raising the issue that we are doing so well with the vaccination campaign, we are driving down deaths at a faster rate than I ever thought was possible and that will allow us to open up.”

Paris reported 35,000 new Covid cases in one day with as many as 10 per cent being the South African variant.

Prof Ferguson added: "Perhaps more concern for the UK though is that some countries are notably seeing a significant fraction, 5-10 per cent of cases, of the South African variant.

“When infection levels go up in France, 30,000 cases a day, that implies there’s at least 1,500-2,000 cases a day of the South African variant.

“That is the variant we really do want to keep out of the UK."

According to analysis by Morgan Stanley, Europe could be looking at another lost summer tourist season as COVID-19 cases are rising and the vaccine rollout has been so slow.

The study said: "Europe's high cases and slow vaccine drive could lead to a late reopening, putting a second summer at risk which would exacerbate the north-south divide and could trigger further policy easing."

Last year, Europe was able to save some of its summer season with the help of restrictions and hot weather that lowered transmission rates from spring.

But, the analysis added: "We are somewhat sceptical that this can happen again this year, given the emergence of new strains, which appear to be more transmissible and dangerous, and have driven an acceleration in cases recently in the euro area, e.g. in France and Italy."

Other countries are also seeing a third wave, triggering another lockdown.

Italy imposed new Covid restrictions on March 15 to slow another wave, while reporting around 22,000 cases a day. 

In Germany – where fewer than 10 per cent of people are vaccinated – a lockdown imposed in December has been extended to the end of March while Greece has seen the highest number of daily new Covid cases since the pandemic began.

Despite this, a number of countries wants Brits back as soon as May, including Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Portugal.

The UK is yet to give an official date for when holidays abroad can resume, with the earliest planned date from May 17.

The Global Travel Taskforce will announce on April 12 when this will be.

Europe is accelerating its plans for vaccine passports so Brits can hit beaches this summer.

The EU wants to make sure the system is up and running the moment Boris Johnson drops our ban on international travel.

Top eurocrat Margaritis Schinas said it will be "perfectly doable" to recognise travel documents issued in the UK.

Asked when the scheme will be ready, the Greek EU Commissioner said "there are grounds for optimism to be ready before summer".

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He told Euronews: "Summer starts on June 1 and we have another date, May 17, which is the date where our British friends have announced that they will resume international travel.

"I think this is a notion of time which realistically we should target."

Brussels boss Ursula bon der Leyen had previously warned it would take until the start of June just to put the systems in place for vaccine passports.

And even then, she said the documents would at first only be used for restarting internal travel within the EU.

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