Madrid, Spain – Several European countries have ramped up restrictions in a bid to contain rising coronavirus infections.
Italy has extended its state of emergency, testing for returning travelers started in Germany on Wednesday August 5 and Britain’s largest tour operator extended its suspension of trips to Spain.
The Italian government is to extend the country’s state of emergency until at least October 15 after the move was approved by parliament on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the measure was justified by the worsening situation in several neighboring countries, including Spain, France, and Balkan nations, and said Italy needs to, “impose an attitude of vigilance.”
The country was one of the first and worst affected in Europe but has managed to bring its rate of COVID-19 infections under control.
Conte said the virus is “still in circulation” and that keeping the state of emergency in place allows the government to act quickly.
The extension allows a series of regulations approved during the emergency to continue.
It also allows thousands of people to work from home and for safety measures to be implemented when schools return in September.
Another important point is that it gives authorities the power to immediately suspend flights and travel to countries at risk.
Italy has vetoed arrivals from 14 countries, including Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Panama, and has imposed a quarantine on those returning from Bulgaria and Romania.
The measure will also make it easier to isolate any outbreaks, such as those that have emerged in the country in recent weeks.
There have been several infection clusters in the country, which has reported around 200 cases a day.
Italy has had more than 246,400 confirmed cases and 35,100 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
Britain’s biggest tour operator TUI announced on Wednesday it is extending the suspension of its holiday to Spain’s Canary and Balearic Islands until at least August 4.
Trips with the company to mainland Spain will be suspended until at least August 10.
It came after British authorities advised against travelling to the country and reimposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals from the destination.
The announcement on Sunday at short notice caused chaos for British holidaymakers and is a further blow to Spain’s economic troubles.
Parts of Spain have seen a surge of COVID-19 cases in the last week, with the regions of Aragon and Catalonia particularly badly affected, while others such as the Canaries and Balearics have a low rate of infections.
The move has been criticized by businesses in the tourism sector as well as by Spanish authorities.
Andrew Flintham, managing director for TUI UK and Ireland, said most customers affected by the measures have wanted to change their destination.
Seven flights have been added this weekend to destinations in Greece and Turkey.
The tour operator urged UK authorities to work more closely with the tourism industry, remove the quarantine approach and consider the rapid introduction of regional travel corridors to areas less affected by the virus, such as the Canary and Balearic Islands.
“The level of uncertainty and confusion created this week is damaging for business and customer confidence in travel,” Flintham added.
There have been 301,700 confirmed cases and 45,800 deaths in the UK and 278,700 infections and 28,400 fatalities in Spain.
Passengers returning from regions considered to be at high risk can undergo voluntary coronavirus testing at Berlin-Tegel airport from Wednesday.
Anyone with a negative result at the airport’s test center will be exempt from quarantine.
Another center is also being prepared at Schönefeld airport, the other commercial airport in the German capital.
It aims to identify people returning from high-risk regions who do not have any symptoms.
Germany’s health ministry has said it intends to make tests mandatory as soon as possible.
International arrivals in Berlin must undergo a 14-day quarantine or present a negative test performed less than 48 hours earlier.
There have been 206,900 confirmed infections in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic and 684 cases in the last 24 hours.
More than 191,300 people have overcome the disease and 9,297 have died, according to health officials.