The advance of the circulation of the Delta variant, known as “Indian”, in the Iberian peninsula worries the Portuguese and Spanish authorities. Hitherto reluctant to impose severe restrictive measures on British travelers, who represent nearly a quarter of international tourists in these two countries, they finally announced in quick succession, Sunday 27 and Monday 28 June, new measures aimed at tighten controls.
On June 27, the Portuguese government thus imposed, in addition to the mandatory negative PCR test of less than seventy-two hours already in force, that unvaccinated tourists from the United Kingdom observe fourteen days of quarantine. While the Delta variant represented only 4% of new cases in May, it would be the cause of 55% of these in June, according to the National Institute of Public Health Dr Ricardo Jorge (INSA).
Its distribution is still very heterogeneous – from 3% in the Azores, to 94% in the Alentejo. However, INSA expects it to become “Dominant throughout the territory in the coming weeks”. For the doctor and member of the pandemic monitoring committee Artur Paiva, group immunity would therefore only be achieved with a vaccination rate of nearly 85%. “For the second time, we may have reacted too slowly to the appearance of a new variant, in December, the Alpha and now the Delta”, he regretted Tuesday.
Severely confined between January and April, the Portuguese then began a very gradual deconfinement. On May 17, Portugal, classified as “green” – that is to say a safe destination – by the United Kingdom had become the only country in the European Union to welcome British tourists. Three weeks later, on June 3, the country had been reclassified in orange by London, which caused the hasty departure of hundreds of visitors eager to avoid the ten-day quarantine on their return. With an incidence rate of 124 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over fourteen days, the government of socialist Antonio Costa has decided to close the metropolitan area of Lisbon, home to 30% of the Portuguese population, during the weekends.
More than 5,000 people in quarantine
In Spain, where the incidence rate is just starting to pick up again slightly after two months of uninterrupted decline, the head of government, Pedro Sanchez, reversed the decision, taken on May 24, to leave the British, so with a very low incidence rate, enter the territory without tests or vaccines. From June 30, they will, like other Europeans, present a PCR test of less than seventy-two hours or be up to date in their vaccination. “The evolution of the incidence rate in the United Kingdom, well above 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, is negative. Therefore, we all need to take additional precautions ”, explained the head of the socialist executive on Monday. Tour operators and tourists have three days to adjust.
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