Germany announced Tuesday it is lowering travel restrictions on Britain and four other European nations imposed due to the appearance of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health agency, said it has downgraded Britain, Portugal, Russia, India and Nepal from its highest risk category of “areas of variant concern” to “high-incidence areas.”
The change means travelers from those countries can avoid going into mandatory quarantine if they can prove they have received a COVID-19 vaccine, while those who have not been vaccinated must enter a 10-day isolation period. The quarantine period can be shortened to five days if a person tests negative for COVID-19.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday that the government is aiming to end its latest lockdown on July 19, despite a growing number of coronavirus cases caused by the highly transmissible delta variant.
Johnson said the mandatory mask wearing indoors and social distancing requirements will end, but said businesses could still mandate them along with facemasks.
He said a final decision on the reopening date would take place next week.
Meanwhile, Britain’s royal palace said Monday that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is self-isolating after coming into contact last week with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus.
On the vaccine front, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said his country will donate another 1.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan later this week. The new shipment comes a month after Tokyo donated 1.24 million doses of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine to the self-ruled island.
Taiwan had been held up as one of the world’s fewest success stories in containing the spread of the coronavirus at the start of the pandemic, but it has been dealing with a sudden outbreak of new infections that authorities have connected to outbreaks among flight crews with state-owned China Airlines and a hotel at Taoyuan International Airport. Taiwan has 15,061 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 689 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Japan will also donate 1 million AstraZeneca doses to both Thailand and the Philippines this week, following similar donations to Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Israel and South Korea have announced an even swap of COVID-19 vaccines as both countries seek to jumpstart their vaccination campaigns.
The deal calls for Israel to send 700,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to South Korea later this month, with South Korea sending back an equal amount of Pfizer vaccines it has already ordered as soon as September.
“This is a win-win deal,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a written statement Tuesday announcing the deal.
The spread of the delta variant, first identified in India, has led to a jump in cases in countries around the world, including in South Korea. Health officials in Seoul reported 711 new cases in the county on Monday, the third consecutive day of more than 700 cases. Most cases came from the populated Seoul metropolitan area.
Indonesia said Monday that it is seeking more oxygen supplies as it battles a surge of COVID-19 cases, fueled by the spread of the Delta variant. The government said it is asking oxygen producers to allocate their entire supply for use by COVID-19 patients and said it will import more oxygen if needed.
In Luxembourg, officials said Monday that Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is in serious but stable condition after contracting COVID-19 and will remain hospitalized for now. Bettel was admitted to the hospital on Sunday after testing positive for the virus following a two-day EU summit in Brussels.
International sports affected
The pandemic continues to affect the international sports world, with organizers of the Australian Grand Prix auto racing announcing Tuesday that it is cancelling the Formula One race for the second year in a row due to Australia’s strict travel and quarantine issues.
The race was initially scheduled for March 21, but was pushed back to November 21, just two weeks after the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, making it impossible for the drivers and their teams to complete Australia’s mandatory 14-day quarantine and prepare for the race. The 2020 race at Melbourne’s Albert Park street circuit was abruptly cancelled as the pandemic began to take hold globally.
The Australian MotoGP, scheduled to be held in October on Phillip Island’s street circuit, has also been scrapped for a second consecutive year.
As of early Tuesday, there are more than 185.1 million global COVID cases, including 3.9 billion deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. The United States continues to lead both categories with 33.7 million total cases and 605,567 deaths.
Johns Hopkins is also reporting more than 3.2 billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world.
This report includes information from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.