• Britons will need negative Covid test or both jabs to travel to Balearics | Spain | The Guardian

    Britons will need negative Covid test or both jabs to travel to Balearics
    Britons travelling to the Balearic islands will need to show either a negative PCR test or proof they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said on Monday.The rules – which come into effect on Friday – were announced two days before the Balearics are due to move on to the UK’s green list for quarantine-free travel, and amid growing concerns over what Sánchez called “the negative evolution” of the virus in the UK.Spain had planned initially to let British visitors enter the country without the need for a negative PCR test, but pressure has been mounting on the central government following rising case numbers in the UK and clusters of cases in Spain that were traced back to an end-of-year school trip to Mallorca.
    “We’ve been seeing a negative evolution of the accumulated incidence in the UK over recent weeks,” Sánchez told Cadena Ser radio. The number of cases per 100,000 people over the past week stands at 123 in the UK and 46 in Spain.“We’re going to apply the same requirements for British tourists in the Balearics that we apply to those from the rest of Europe,” the prime minister added.“They will need to be fully vaccinated or have a negative PCR test to travel to the Balearics. This will take effect in 72 hours so that tour operators and British tourists can adapt to this new rule.”
    Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, later explained that the entry requirements would be published in the official state gazette on Tuesday, and come into force three days later. She also suggested the new rules would apply to the whole of Spain and not just the Balearic islands.
    The regional government of the Balearic islands – the only part of Spain to be included on the green list – had expressed concerns over rising case numbers in the UK and called for “strict and safer entry controls” for UK visitors.Although Spain is gearing up for the summer season and recently revoked its rules on wearing masks outdoors, the more contagious Delta variant and the 600 new cases traced back to the school trip have set alarm bells ringing.Spain has logged a total of 3,782,463 Covid cases and registered 80,779 deaths. More than half of the country’s 47 million people have received a single dose of the vaccine, while about a third – 15.9 million – have received both doses.On Sunday, the Portuguese government announced that British visitors would have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival if they were not fully vaccinated against Covid. The rule – which will remain in place until at least 11 July – stipulates that Britons arriving by land, air or sea must show evidence they are fully vaccinated or self-isolate for 14 days at “home or at a place indicated by health authorities”.
    The move came as case numbers in Portugal continued to surge, putting the number of new daily infections back to February levels, when the country of just over 10 million was still under a strict lockdown. Health authorities have blamed the Delta variant, which was first identified in India but is now spreading rapidly in Britain, for the recent rise in infections. More than 70% of Covid-19 cases in the Lisbon area are from the Delta variant.


  • Ireland to double quarantine period for unvaccinated UK arrivals | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Ireland to double quarantine period for unvaccinated UK arrivals. Travellers not fully vaccinated face 10 days in quarantine amid concerns over spread of Delta variant. Ireland is to double to 10 days its quarantine period for travellers from the UK who are not fully vaccinated, joining a growing list of countries imposing stricter travel rules on British arrivals due to concerns over the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
    The announcement came after Boris Johnson on Monday delayed by a month the final stage of England’s exit from lockdown amid accusations the government should have acted faster by placing India, where the variant was first detected, on its red restricted-travel list before 23 April.
    Neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh had been added to the UK’s red list on 9 April, with India following a fortnight later, four days after a visit to the country during which Johnson hoped to announce a new trade deal was called off. The Delta variant accounts for 90% of new UK cases and critics have argued that since half of early infections involved international travel, a ban on all arrivals except UK citizens and residents should, as some argued at the time, have been imposed earlier. In fact, Britain was one of the first major western countries to severely restrict travel from India over Delta variant concerns. The French government announced a mandatory 10-day quarantine and test for all arrivals from India on 22 April, with Germany following suit four days later.Berlin designated India as a “virus variant area with a significantly elevated risk of infection”, in effect barring entry to the country, even with a valid visa, for almost everyone – except German nationals – who visited India during the last 10 days.


  • Taiwan factory forces migrant workers back into dormitories amid Covid outbreak | Taiwan | The Guardian

    Taiwan factory forces migrant workers back into dormitories amid Covid outbreakManufacturer ASE defends imposing rules that do not apply to the broader community in Taiwan, drawing accusations of discrimination
    A major manufacturer in Taiwan is forcing some migrant workers out of private homes and back into shared accommodation at the height of the island’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, drawing accusations of discrimination and double standards.ASE, a semiconductor manufacturer, told its workers in the Taoyuan district of Chungli, about 50km (30 miles) from capital Taipei, that those who live independently in private rentals, must “move back to their dormitories immediately”, or be given “a major demerit”. Three such demerits are punishable by dismissal, the notice says.It stipulates residents will be banned from leaving the dorms except to go straight to and from work. Those who are late face being locked out and penalised. The workers cannot do their own shopping or have visitors.Such restrictions do not apply to the broader Taiwanese community. The island is currently under a level 3 alert, which allows gatherings and freedom of movement.Taiwan has recorded more than 12,000 local cases and 360 deaths since mid April. Hundreds of cases have been detected at four factories in Miaoli county, mostly among migrant workers and linked to crowded dormitory conditions.
    Central government orders require that the number of people per room in migrant worker accommodation be significantly reduced to cut the threat of infection among residents but offer no further detail, such as a maximum number per room.Footage seen by the Guardian purported to be of one of the ASE workers’ dorm rooms show rows of bunk beds on each side of the narrow room, with sheets hung around the edges to give occupants some privacy. Residents said they share bathroom facilities, sometimes with workers on different shifts or workers from other companies. Many migrant workers opt to live in private homes in which one or two people share a room.When asked about accusations it was discriminating against its migrant workers, she said: “ASE will do our best to follow the regulation. We are working under a lot of pressure and policies which may sound draconian and unfair but we appeal to our colleagues to abide by the regulations until the case numbers have come down. We appeal to their understanding. The rules are tight for a reason.”She said the company was not in breach of any rules, and was pulling people back to dorms “to protect them from further exposure outside, as well as to prevent cross-infections”. She said the company was also arranging other accommodation, including nearby university hostel rooms, aiming to have a maximum of four people per room.Similar restrictions on dorm-living migrant workers have been ordered by the Miaoli county government, prompting the health and welfare minister, Chen Chih-shung, to “remind” local authorities they can only implement measures in line with level 3 restrictions, which permit freedom of movement.
    The Guardian spoke to dozens of workers who fear that speaking out could see them fired or sent home. They stressed they had no issue with the job or the pandemic safety measures on the factory floor but they believed the accommodation order put them all in far greater danger than if they stayed in their own homes and practised social distancing. (...)
    The spokeswoman for ASE said the company had also increased cleaning and disinfection of the dorms, implemented social distancing measures, and was providing in-house counselling for distressed employees and financial incentives to not break rules “as a gesture of support”. Taiwan’s migrant worker population is considered vulnerable and unlikely to speak up against employers, according to rights groups, who also note weak labour laws in Taiwan.The situation is drawing comparisons to Singapore in early 2020, when officials were accused of overlooking migrant dormitories as part of their otherwise lauded pandemic response, leading to massive outbreaks among workers. “We know from Singapore’s situation that migrant workers who are confined to their dorms and not allowed to leave also face psychological adjustment issues, and some of them were known to have taken their lives in Singapore,” said Roy Ngerg, a Taipei-based writer covering human rights and labor issues. He said Taiwan had ample warning of the dangers. Lennon Ying-dah Wong, director of migrant worker policies at Taoyuan labor organisation Serve the People Association, said the decision to send workers back to dorms was “very questionable”. “The Covid-19 virus won’t be controlled merely by locking the migrant workers inside the factory.” Wong said.“It’s totally unfair and unjustifiable to continue this double standard for migrant and Taiwanese workers in the factory.”The ASEspokeswoman said the company was working closely with government to protect all employees “regardless of nationalities”.
    “We have already strengthened precautionary measures to ensure their safety and are following strict directives from the Taiwan health and labor ministry,” she said.“ASE is committed to international standards … that governs employee welfare and safeguards their rights. Our customers conduct audits at our sites on a regular basis, and we have always been transparent with our policies and conduct.”


  • China locks down part of Guangzhou amid outbreak of Indian Covid variant | China | The Guardian

    China locks down part of Guangzhou amid outbreak of Indian Covid variant. Chinese authorities in Guangdong province have cancelled flights and locked down communities in response to what is believed to be the first community outbreak of the Indian variant in China. Guangdong province had been reporting daily single figures of local cases, including asymptomatic cases, for more than a week, until the case load suddenly jumped to 23 on Monday, including three asymptomatic cases, and 11 on Tuesday. Most of Guandong’s cases are in the city of Guangzhou, with some in nearby Foshan, which has a population of 7.2 million.
    Authorities said all cases were found to be the strain commonly known as the Indian variant of the virus, now renamed by the WHO as the “Delta” variant.“In this race against the virus, we must run a bit ahead and run faster than before in order to block the spread of the virus and cut off the infection chain in time,” said Huang Guanglie, director of the Guangzhou municipal health commission.Guangzhou deputy mayor, Li Ming, said the strain had a short incubation period, a high viral load, and spread quickly. However she said that the trajectory was “under control”.
    In response hundreds of flights at the busy Guangdong Baiyun international airport have been cancelled, and authorities ordered some streets in the Liwan neighbourhood of Guangzhou city to isolate at home, with only one person per household allowed out to buy daily necessities.On Sunday all 15.3 million Guangzhou residents were barred from leaving via bus, air or train without a green code on the health management app and a negative Covid test taken in the preceding 72 hours.Restaurants have shifted to takeaway only and entertainment venues closed, while senior high school classes have been moved online, and vaccinations have been temporarily suspended. Authorities also placed reduced limits on gatherings at public venues, and visiting rights to care and medical institutions.The outbreak also prompted a temporary suspension of imports at Yantian port in Shenzhen last week, one of the world’s busiest export hubs. On Friday authorities launched compulsory Covid-testing for all Yantian residents.
    After the Covid-19 pandemic began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, prompting a long and strict lockdown which would later be emulated around the world, authorities have largely contained the virus. Sporadic outbreaks of varying sizes have prompted localised lockdowns and transport suspensions, most recently in Anhui, which also prompted a huge increase in people seeking to get vaccinated


  • Covid-19 variants to be given Greek alphabet names to avoid stigma | Coronavirus | The Guardian

    Covid-19 variants to be given Greek alphabet names to avoid stigma. WHO unveils new names for variants of concern to replace ones linked to where they were discovered. Coronavirus variants are to be named after letters of the Greek alphabet instead of their place of first discovery, the World Health Organization has announced, in a move to avoid stigma.The WHO has named four variants of concern, known to the public as the UK/Kent (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1) and India (B.1.617.2) variants. They will now be given the letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta respectively, to reflect their order of detection, with any new variants following the pattern down the Greek alphabet.
    The decision to go for this naming system came after months of deliberations with experts considering a range of other possibilities such as Greek Gods, according to bacteriologist Mark Pallen who was involved in the talks.The organisation said the labels do not replace existing scientific names involving numbers, Roman letters and full stops, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research.
    The WHO said: “While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall and are prone to misreporting … As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory.“To avoid this and to simplify public communications, [the] WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels.”Historically, diseases have frequently been named after the locations they were thought to have developed, such as the Ebola virus, which takes its name from the Congolese river. However, such associations can be damaging for those places and are often inaccurate, as is the case with the “Spanish flu” of 1918, whose origins are unknown.Earlier this month, the Indian government ordered social media platforms to take down content that referred to the “Indian variant”. The government order was cited as an example of its sensitivity to accusations that it had mishandled the latest outbreak.Anti-Asian hate crime has risen as a result of the pandemic and associations between Covid and the site of its first outbreak in Wuhan, China.
    US anti-extremist groups said a rise in attacks on Asian-Americans was partly down to Donald Trump, who referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus”.Trump’s successor as president, Joe Biden, signed a hate crimes law this month to protect those who have suffered a surge in attacks during the pandemic. With US anti-extremist groups saying that the rise in hate crimes was partly due to former president Donald Trump who referred to Covid-19 as the “China virus”.The WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said of adopting new variant names: “No country should be stigmatised for detecting and reporting variants.”