COVID Curbs Unwind in Europe: Is it safe to travel?
Millions to billions of people worldwide have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, straining health care systems, disrupting schooling, and wreaking havoc on the economy. Europe reported a reduction in COVID-19 infections in most of its countries in January 2022. However, the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the idea that the pandemic was finished resulted in another coronavirus outbreak. With the outstanding number of COVID-19 cases in Europe, the World Health Organization has expressed alarm about the second wave of the Omicron variation dubbed "stealth Omicron."
The Threat of Stealth Omicron
The BA.2 subvariant is frequently referred to as Stealth Omicron. Compared to its original omicron version, BA.1, it exhibits genetic alterations that make it more difficult to distinguish from the previous delta variant using polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests. As a result, they urged individuals to undergo a set of COVID tests to determine whether they were infected.
Officials in charge of public health and research closely monitor BA.2, a subvariant of the already highly transmissible omicron variant. It is also responsible for significant coronavirus cases in the United States and Asia. If you wish to travel, you can apply for a travel test or a fit to fly certificate. The subvariant is estimated to be 30% more transmissible than Omicron and so to supersede it as the prevalent variant worldwide.
Furthermore, about 5.1 million additional cases are associated with stealth Omicron. This virus should not be overlooked, and individuals, particularly travellers, should not become comfortable with the unwinding COVID limitations. If not addressed soon, Omicron's comeback could have disastrous effects.
Can I still travel to Europe?
Perhaps you're wondering whether you should alter your plans or cross them off your to-do list. Experts, on the other hand, say no. While BA.2 appears to have more infections than the original Omicron, it does not appear to be any more severe. BA.2 is associated with a similar level of hospitalization as BA.1, which is already associated with a lower risk of serious illness than the previously widespread Delta variant.
Travellers can begin planning their escape to Europe as Easter approaches. In fact, many countries have already simplified their entry criteria. While some EU member states dropped COVID-19 requirements for all tourists, others elected to impose less stringent rules or limits.
The following is a list of EU/EEA member states that have eliminated all entry restrictions and now allow any travellers, regardless of their country of origin, to enter freely:
Meanwhile, three other countries – Czechia, Estonia, and the Netherlands – have abolished entry restrictions on EU/EEA travellers. Before arranging your spring trip to Europe, be sure to verify the current entrance requirements in each country.
Whatever the country's travel rules, vaccination is the most critical factor to consider. Vaccines are a contentious issue, underscoring the importance of monitoring states requiring them. Governments are increasingly enforcing vaccinations to all visitors to keep everyone safe when new strains develop. When tourists depart from home, they expose themselves to further risk. Thus, it would be best to be vaccinated and receive booster shots to minimize risks and enjoy your trip safely.
Importantly, this serves as a reminder that the struggle against the pandemic is far from ending. Nonetheless, everyone is urged to maintain vigilance and hope for the pandemic's progress in the country. While professionals primarily address it, it also demands societal responsibility, allowing travellers to engage in leisure and commercial activities while safeguarding others from infection transmission.
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