Britain is poised to be the Covid Pariah State of Europe again, as many countries will follow France’s and Germany’s lead in imposing Omicron travel restrictions this week. This follows what they did last year with Alpha. 

Last week, Italy, Portugal and Ireland tightened travel restrictions for EU citizens to stop the spread of the disease. This raised concerns that they might now be looking to increase their protections against those who arrive from other countries.

While there are currently no EU-wide plans to ban travel – Ursula von der Leyen has suggested mandatory PCR tests for those entering the bloc instead – Belgium, Estonia, Finland and the Netherlands are understood to be lobbying in Brussels for a ‘timely’ revision of border rules in light of the rapid spread of Omicron.

After Germany had declared Britain an ‘virus variant region’ on Saturday, it effectively banned travel to the UK from its citizens. However, UK residents will be required to remain in quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. 

France took similar steps last week, even though the EU’s health response agency had issued guidance a day prior saying travel bans would be ineffective in Omicron-affected countries. All travel restrictions in the UK have been lifted due to similar guidance.

These actions echo those taken last year, when many countries, led by France and the UK, stopped all cross-border travel between the two countries over Christmas.

Even though the first measures came into effect in December, Alpha quickly became the dominant strain of Europe, before Delta overtook it in the spring.

Europe is seeing a rapid rise in Covid cases across the continent, spurred by a winter wave of the Delta variant and the arrival of the new and more-infectious Omicron variant that has prompted many countries to reimpose restrictions

Europe is experiencing a surge in Covid cases. It’s being driven by the arrival Omicron variant, which has been more infectious than the Delta variant.

Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands have all seen cases fall from record highs in recent weeks after reimposing tough lockdown measures while infections continue to rise in most other countries

After imposing strict lockdown measures, cases in Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands all fell from records in the past week. Infections continue to increase in other countries.

Britain is being singled out for travel curbs because of high case numbers and relatively high number of Omicron cases, but we are also carrying out substantially more tests and sequencing more of them for the presence of Omicron than most other European nations.

This causes a distortion of data as cases can’t be identified if not looked for.

The UK reported Sunday 83,000 Covid cases, while France had 43,000 and France 48,500, respectively. The UK conducted 1.3 million Covid tests on December 15, according to the most recent data. 

Similar data, from France and Germany, shows that the two countries carried out only 250,000 and 800,000. respectively on 12/12. This is despite Germany having a population that’s more than 20% larger than the UK and France having a population about equal to Britain’s. 

This will result in many cases being overlooked by official tolls. Data tracking Covid test results that come back positive confirms this. Germany is home to one fifth of all positive Covid tests in Western Europe, as opposed to one in 14 in France or one in 25 for the UK.

The UK sequences a greater number of Omicron cases than France, with latest statistics showing that one fifth of British Omicron tests is being tested. France sequences one out of every 30 tests while Germany has one in fifty.

The UK is the only country that has more Covid testing than Austria, while Sweden sequences a larger proportion of these tests. 

Germany’s health minister Karl Lauterbach admitted that Omicron will continue to spread in the UK despite the ban on travel from the UK.

“The more time Omicron takes to take control of Germany, the better,” he stated. 

Even though the European Centre for Disease Control issued updated guidance about Omicron last Wednesday, it reiterated the fact that border controls will likely make no difference in spreading the virus over the long-term.

ECDC issued a December 15 situation report stating that travel restrictions placed when Omicron was first discovered were “designed to buy time” to evaluate the severity and transmission rates of the virus. However, most European countries now have confirmed cases and are seeing community spread. 

However, it did not suggest travel bans. Instead, they suggested increasing social distancing at airports and testing pre-departure to make sure cases are caught. 

The UK is reporting some of the highest case rates in Europe, but is also testing far more than other nations in relation to the size of the population - with the notable exception of Austria (pictured above)

UK reports some of Europe’s highest cases rates. However, the UK also has higher population testing than most other countries. Austria is the exception (pictured above).

Test positivity rates suggest countries where large numbers of infections are being missed due to a lack of testing, with the Netherlands and Germany faring worst with the UK's figure holding steady since mid-July

According to the test positivity rates, countries with high numbers of infections may not be being tested. The Netherlands and Germany are worst off while the UK is at its lowest since July.

However, Omicron’s spread quickly meant that testing “will likely not be relevant much longer”, it said.

Travel bans are looming against the backdrop of increasing domestic Covid restrictions across the continent. The Netherlands is the latest to implement full lockdown in an effort to limit the spread of the cases.

As the country started a quick lockdown, Dutch cities became deserted. This ruined people’s plans for Christmas.

The shutdown was announced by Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Saturday. He ordered the closing of all essential shops, restaurants, hairdressers and gyms as well as other public spaces, from Sunday to at least January 14.

Omicron is a highly contagious variant that was first discovered last month in South Africa and Hong Kong. It has been reported in 89 countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday.

Omicron cases are increasing in communities with transmission. The WHO stated that Omicron is now a common disease. However, much more is not known, such as the extent of its severity.

Although the Netherlands decided to shut down many public services in an effort to protect its health system from overcrowding by an anticipated surge of cases, several European governments have begun considering additional curbs. This comes at a time where people normally spend money on travel, shopping and entertainment.

Britain witnessed a rise in Omicron-related cases, reaching 25,000 so far on Saturday. This could represent the beginning of Omicron’s rise, according to government advisors. Sajid Javid, the health minister declined to rule out any further COVID-19 restrictions prior Christmas.

Javid stated that the government is taking the “sobering” advice from its scientists very seriously and was monitoring the data on an almost daily basis. This would be balanced against the wider impact of restrictions in areas like education and businesses.

Protesters took to the streets of Belgium on Sunday to demonstrate against further Covid restrictions, though the country has not tightened its rules since late November when it enforced social distancing in indoor hospitality venues

Belgian protestors took to the streets on Sunday in opposition to further Covid restrictions. The country, however has not increased its regulations since the late November enforcement of social distancing at indoor venues.

Police faced off with protesters hurling flares and road signs in Brussels on Sunday, the latest in a series of anti-lockdown protests in the capital which have been going on for three weeks

On Sunday in Brussels, police confronted protesters who were throwing flares at the road and holding signs. This was the third in a string of anti-lockdown demonstrations that have been ongoing for the past three weeks.

Riot police arrest a protester in the Belgian capital of Brussels on Sunday after anti-lockdown demonstrations turned violent

After violent anti-lockdown protests, riot police arrested a demonstrator in Brussels.

Thousands of people marched through the Belgian capital carrying posters arguing against vaccine mandates and lockdowns

With posters against lockdowns and vaccine mandates, thousands marched through Brussels carrying signs.

A protester carrying a banner that quotes from the Nuremberg Code, and says: 'No one can be subjected without his free consent to a medical or scientific experiment'

Protester holding a banner with quotes from the Nuremberg Code and saying: “No one can be submitted without his free consent for a scientific or medical experiment.”

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is in a state of shock after several scandals and missteps. More than 100 Conservative legislators voted this week against government measures to combat COVID-19.

Javid claimed Johnson wasn’t too political weak to add curbs, if required.

According to local media reports, new precautions are being considered by the Italian government in order to reduce the number of infections that can occur during holiday periods.

On Dec. 23, Mario Draghi, Prime Minister, could direct that all people who are vaccinated, also have a negative blood test in order to gain access to crowded places such as discos, according daily Corriere della Sera.

In Belgium, protestors poured in from all corners. A third-time protest against the strengthened COVID-19 restrictions by the Belgian Government to stop an increase in infections caused by the spread of the omicron variant across Europe.

Placards with messages such as ‘freezone,’ “I’ve had my share” and “enough is sufficient” were carried by marchers who wanted to decry the strong government recommendation to get immunized. Belgian health workers were also represented. They will be given a 3-month window to get immunized against the virus starting January 1st or face losing their jobs.

Due to the history of violence, there was a large police presence at the march and extensive preventive control. Police spokesperson Ilse van de Keere said that only 13 people were arrested for the’rebellion’ and ‘possession of prohibited articles’ charges.

On Sunday, also in Brussels, the European Commission and Pfizer BioNTech agreed to expedite the delivery. It will begin within weeks. Between January and March 2017, the European Union’s 27 member nations will receive an additional 20,000,000 vaccine doses.

Protests were held in Belgium one day following similar demonstrations in London and Paris.

A few hundred protesters pelted police in Brussels last month and set garbage cans on fire. The police responded with water cannons and tear gas.

Streets in Amsterdam were deserted on Monday as the Netherlands began the first day of a new nationwide lockdown that will last until at least January 14

Amsterdam streets were empty Monday morning as the Netherlands started a nationwide lockdown, which will continue until January 14.

A shopping mall in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is deserted just a few days before Christmas as the country begins another nationwide shutdown over rising Covid cases

The Netherlands’s Covid case is causing a national shutdown of a Rotterdam mall just days before Christmas.