The Greek island of Mykonos instituted another curfew this week after a surge in cases, amounting to a buzzkill of the worst kind for an island that’s synonymous with partying. The Spanish island of Ibiza, too, is back on red lists, meaning most countries in Europe now warn citizens not to travel there after new infections quickly filled up hospitals.
But even places like New Zealand, which has led the way in staving off the worst of the pandemic, have had to close a travel bubble after it became clear the Delta variant had penetrated it. “There are now multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment, that have forced three states into lockdown,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday, as she closed the trans-Tasman bubble between Tasmania and Australia, urging all Australians to come home now. “The health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing.”
In Italy, which has seen a fivefold spike since European soccer championship celebrations lured fans to street parties, the government will require a green pass from early August for anyone to eat inside a restaurant, go to a movie, or attend a sporting event, essentially pushing the unvaccinated into a corner. Many businesses are planning to also make vaccines mandatory, which the government supports. The workaround in Italy is taking an expensive swab test within 48 hours of trying to book dinner, which isn’t exactly cost-effective. Discussions to make testing free were scuppered in order to push people to book vaccines. The number of people booking their jabs tripled within an hour of the government passing the decree, briefly crashing the online reservation system.
A similar system was passed last month in France, which led to massive protests that turned into superspreader events, and so far has done little to stop the spread.
On Monday, French government spokesman Gabrial Attal said the Delta variant was spreading at “lightning speed” and added sanctions to anyone breaching COVID rules after infections grew by 125 percent in just one week.
“We are seeing a wave faster than all the previous ones,” Attal said at a Monday press conference. “An increase so strong, so sudden that we had never known since the beginning of the epidemic in our country.”
On Friday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control issued a stark warning that the Delta variant is now dominant in most of Europe.
“We are far from out of the woods in terms of the pandemic ending and sadly in many countries in our region we’re seeing a significant rise in cases associated with the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant,” Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO/Europe’s regional director, said in a statement. “Despite tremendous efforts by Member States to vaccinate people across the region, millions more remain unvaccinated and therefore at risk of ending up in hospital.”
Vaccine hesitancy looms large across the world, even as most countries report the majority of people currently being hospitalized or dying are unvaccinated.