The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.
Airports across Europe could face “chaos” this summer as countries struggle to coordinate the rollout of a covid-19 digital certificate intended to facilitate unrestricted travel across the continent, industry representatives warned European Union leaders this week.
The certificate, designed to show a traveler’s vaccination or infection status, will be available for all E.U. member states beginning July 1.
But a “worrying patchwork of approaches” by various governments threatens to cause long delays during the peak summer vacation months, according to a joint letter sent by industry groups and seen by the Reuters news agency.
The groups, including the International Air Transport Association, urged European governments to process the certificates remotely before a passenger’s arrival at the airport — or else grapple with hours-long lines as employees carry out extra document checks.
Here are some significant developments:
- President Biden will not attend the 2020 Tokyo Games, which begin in 24 days, although first lady Jill Biden may lead the U.S. delegation, the White House said. Infections are rising again in the Japanese capital, which is in a “quasi state of emergency.”
- The Red Cross in Indonesia is warning that the country’s covid outbreak is on the edge of a “catastrophe” as daily case numbers surge to 20,000, fueled by new variants and a relaxation of restrictions.
- The Australian cities of Perth and Brisbane went into lockdown in a bid to quash small delta variant outbreaks. Australia also made it easier people under 40 to ask to be vaccinated with Oxford-AstraZeneca shots, which had previously been offered to those over 60.
- Los Angeles County health officials are recommending all residents wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of their vaccination status, to protect against the more contagious delta variant circulating in the state. California has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
- Spanish authorities placed nearly 5,000 people in quarantine after a major outbreak on the resort island of Mallorca involving hundreds of students celebrating the end of the school year.
- A video emerged on social media Tuesday that appeared to show England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, who has helped lead Britain’s coronavirus response, being harassed by two men in a park. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “thugs” in the video, whom he accused of “despicable harassment” of a “hard-working public servant.”
The European digital certificates provide information on the passenger via QR code, which requires special scanning equipment. Without uniform implementation across the E.U., “the risk of chaos at European Airports is real,” Reuters quoted the letter as saying.
The African Union also warned of potential discrimination on Tuesday because the Covishield vaccine, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine that is being distributed through the global Covax initiative, is not among the four vaccines approved for the certificate. That means that people coming from poorer countries, including the majority of African Union member states, will effectively be considered unvaccinated and subject to potentially expensive testing and quarantine regimes.
The certificate’s launch comes as some European countries have imposed fresh travel restrictions to curb the spread of the highly contagious delta coronavirus variant. First identified in India, the variant is now dominant in Britain and Portugal and is gaining ground in countries such as Germany and France.
Last week, Germany barred entry for travelers from Portugal and said that only German citizens would be allowed to return, provided that they quarantine for 14 days — including those who are fully vaccinated. On Monday, citing a senior health official, Reuters reported that the delta variant now accounts for more than 50 percent of registered cases in Germany, up from just 15 percent earlier this month.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran said Tuesday that the variant accounts for about 20 percent of new cases in his country, doubling from just 10 percent last week. The variant is spreading mostly among unvaccinated populations in Europe, but also in Africa and the United States. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, more than 58 percent of adults in the 27-member bloc have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine — and more than 35 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Katerina Ang in Singapore contributed to this report.