THOUSANDS of Brits face having their holidays cancelled after the WHO warned the Delta variant was “poised to take hold” in Europe.
A WHO senior official said case numbers of the Delta variant – also known as B.1.617.2 – were steadily rising on the continent.
“The new Delta variant of concern, which shows increased transmissibility and some immune escape, is poised to take hold in the region,” Hans Henri Kluge, regional director of the Europe office, said during a press conference.
“Many among vulnerable populations above the age of 60 remain unprotected.”
The WHO compared Europe’s current pandemic levels to where it was a year ago, noting it had “been here before”.
“Over the course of last summer, cases gradually rose in younger age groups and then moved into older age groups, contributing to a devastating resurgence, lockdowns and loss of life in the autumn and winter of 2020,” Hans said.
“Let’s not make that mistake again.”
This comes as coronavirus cases in the UK tripled within a week – jumping an astonishing 63.2 per cent – or 44,008 new infections – while hospital admissions and deaths also rose.
The UK government said the Delta strain was now the dominant in the country.
The U.S.’s top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the disease was most prominent among 12- to 20-year-olds.
A study from Public Health England found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines are 88 per cent and 60 per cent effective, respectively, against the Delta variant.
However, they are only 33 per cent effective against symptomatic cases.
Hans warned holidaymakers on their way to Europe to travel “responsibly, apply common sense and do not jeopardize hard earned gains” EU nations have made in getting case numbers down over the winter months.
“A combination of public health measures and vaccination, not one or the other, is the way out of the pandemic,” he added said.
“Although we have come far, we have not come far enough.
“Vaccination coverage is far from sufficient to protect the region from resurgence.”
This follows stark warnings from travel experts that holidays to Europe or the US are unlikely to return until August.
PC Agency’s Paul Charles said that despite many countries meeting the UK government’s criteria, the threat of the Delta variant was likely to stop destinations being added to the green list.
He said: “My clear understanding is that UK Government Ministers do not intend to open up travel to mainland Europe or the USA before the end of July.”
This means families may miss out on the first few weeks of the summer holiday period – and face further uncertainty for the remaining August holidays.
Instead, it is likely that travel will only reopen when the vaccine rollout “hits 18-year-olds,” he warned, and when the Delta variant (previously known as the Indian variant) has been eradicated.
Brits have already faced travel chaos after Portugal, one of the few countries on the UK’s green list, was removed at short notice.
Frantic holidaymakers were forced to cut their trips short to rush back to the UK to avoid the quarantine restrictions, prompting flights to hit prices of £800.
There are just 11 countries, which include Gibraltar and Iceland, on the green list right now, although the majority of them require a mandatory quarantine on arrival or have their borders closed to Brits.
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