Despite vaccination progress, Europe appears headed for a fourth wave of COVID-19, with many countries reporting the highest number of new cases in several months. Will the USA, where cases are currently falling, still open next month as planned?
Fourth Wave In Europe Threatens Transatlantic Travel Rebound
Last week, Morocco banned flights from Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Morocco’s Health Ministry noted “the need to avoid possible a relapse of serious and critical cases and COVID-19-related deaths, which have occurred in several European countries.”
Upon decisions of national authorities and following the pandemic situation, flights from/to Germany, Netherlands and the UK are suspended from today, Wednesday 20th Oct at 23:59.
— Royal Air Maroc (@RAM_Maroc) October 20, 2021
Yesterday, Germany reported its highest number of new daily cases since April (over 28,000). Cases are retreating a bit in the United Kingdom, but COVID-19 hospital admissions reached their highest level since February. In the Netherlands, cases are rising quickly and the government is looking into reintroducing restrictions, including new social distancing measures and restrictions on bars and restaurants.
With that backdrop, Politico offers an interesting analysis of the fourth wave likely hitting Europe, noting that countries like Malta, Portugal, and Spain, where more than 80% are fully vaccinated, are experiencing the lowest number of new cases. Those countries also enjoy warmer clients and the last 20 months have shown that COVID-19 appears to thrive in cooler environments when folks spend more time indoors.
Meanwhile, countries like Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and UK, which boast vaccination rates of 60-70%, are falling behind. Moving east, countries with lower vaccination rates are seeing more hospitalizations and deaths than their neighbors.
The point is simple: this is not over. And when a new wave hits Europe, it usually hits the United States after.
With these alarming numbers, will the Biden Administration delay the re-opening of U.S. borders on November 8, 2021? I tend to think the answer is no, because beyond direct health concerns are economic concerns that do impact health concerns (mental and emotional health).
But don’t view Morocco as merely an aberration. Here’s what I expect:
- We will see restrictions on movement and gathering re-introduced across Europe
- Tourism may restricted if case numbers continue to rise
- U.S. borders will open as planned, but are subject to closure if cases begin to spike in the USA as they did last winter
An interesting tidbit I hear from a friend in Vienna. Cases are rising in Austria too and a lockdown is being discussed…which would only impact unvaccinated people. While I fully support the rights of business owners to demand proof of vaccination from customers, I am wholly against locking people in their homes who refuse a vaccination. At the same time, the numbers do not lie: vaccination are not our salvation, but they work very well.
Watch Europe closely in the coming weeks. The trend line is not encouraging and I sense more lockdowns are restrictions are coming. And that means a rise in cases will hit the USA too as we enter the colder months. But folks, please also look at the vaccinated versus unvaccinated numbers. The story is clear: vaccinations are safe and vaccination work.
image: British Airways