Anti-health protestor at anti-COVID vaccine in Besançon, France. Protestor holds sign translated into English saying, “Non-vaccinated nurse.” In cities around Europe, demonstrators are holding rallies against strict vaccination rules. Photo credit: Jordan Bracco on Unsplash

COVID-19 to the fourth power

Many countries are on the precipice of COVID-19’s fourth wave. Italy and France are among those currently battling an upward trend of the Delta variant. How on earth did we get to this point?

Wellness ambassador for Discover Long Island, Dr. Michele C. Reed told Ark Republic the issue with the latest spike of coronavirus infection numbers: vaccinated people are contracting the mutation, spreading it to unvaccinated people and vice versa.

“As I’ve said many, many times, and I would like to say it again so people could understand it. The best way to prevent the evolution of mutations is to suppress the replication of the virus in the community, which means that we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we possibly can and as efficiently as we possibly can,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci.

How concerned should we be?

“Our country is facing a surge in the epidemic across our territory, in mainland France as well as overseas,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), France is at a Level 3 which is denoted as high. At this time, the Delta variant is the more dominant strain with an average of 5,000 new cases a week in the nation. Over 74 million vaccines have been administered in France according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In Italy, the numbers are increasing as well. Like France, the CDC reports that the COVID-19 cases are at a Level 3. Further, Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) recently said that there was a reverse in the country’s previous downtrend. Vaccination rates in Italy are near the 70.6 million mark. The WHO reports that over 67 million vaccine doses have been administered in Italy.

Still, Dr. Fauci estimates that we should have at least 70 to 85 percent vaccination rates before we can achieve herd immunity.

“If we do get [herd immunity], there will be very few mutations [of COVID-19] because the virus is not going to mutate if it doesn’t have a playing field to replicate. So vaccine hesitancy is critical and we are addressing it,” said Fauci.

Presently, the CDC recommends people avoid nonessential travel to both countries. If unavoidable, it is recommended that travelers are fully vaccinated before traveling to either nation.

In kind, there are quite a few other countries around the world who are mulling their way through the fourth wave of this public health crisis. In the Middle East, 15 out of 22 countries are now experiencing their fourth wave of COVID-19. Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, and Libya are the countries worst hit by the recent surge in cases with only 5.5 percent of the region’s population being fully vaccinated, according to the Hindustan Times.

In the United States, the surge  is expected to increase throughout the fall and peaking in mid-October. It is expected that daily deaths will potentially more than triple what they are now.

Immigrants

To add more concern, vaccination rates among the immigrant populations are low. Namely, in the United States. Just over 1,300 immigrants were detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Last month, 8,221 immigrants received one dose. In light of Moderna’s recent claims that a third booster shot may help combat variants, access remains an obstacle looming over immigrant populations.

“People think that these people wouldn’t need a vaccine passport . . . they often need to access public places for housing, administrative processes,” said the Doctors Without Borders Overseer, Cristiana Castro. The idea that vaccine passports could become required to access places creates anxiety for them according to Castro.

Social workers in Paris concerned with access to vaccines for migrants and poor people had their minds eased by a ‘Doctors Without Borders’ aid group. They set up a tent in northeast Paris to vaccinate migrants, homeless people as well as the disenfranchised.

This comes just in time as France only opened its borders to travelers who have received the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccinations.

Travel

Travel options are dwindling for the unvaccinated. In the United States, all international arrivals must be fully vaccinated so they can be allowed to travel into the country. Plus, the U.S. State  Department issued a “do not travel” advisory for the U.K.

“Given where we are today…with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

France has decided to handle the spiking cases of COVID-19 by splitting travelers up into color-coded categories ranging from green to red. While unvaccinated travelers in greenlist countries or territories can enter France with a negative COVID-19 test result, conversely, vaccinated visitors in these same places can enter France without restrictions. Unvaccinated travelers from Amber and Red countries can travel to France provided that they have compelling reasons or pressing grounds. Unvaccinated travelers from here must have compelling reasons or pressing grounds to travel to France.

In Italy, citizens and residents of European countries in the Schengen area, Israel, Andorra and the Principality of Monaco can enter Italy without quarantining. Moreover, travelers from the United States, Canada and Japan can enter the country provided that they are fully vaccinated, have a negative COVID-19 test or have recovered from the virus.

Vaccinations Required by Law

Beginning September 15, vaccinations will be required by law for healthcare workers in France. “For health and non-health workers in hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, establishments for people with disabilities, for all professionals and volunteers who work in contact with elderly or vulnerable people, including in their homes, the vaccine will become obligatory,” explained President Macron.

In addition, French citizens can expect stricter border controls and the extension of the health passport requirements. It will be expanded until it is required for entry to movie theatres, restaurants, cafés, bars, nursing homes as well as for long-distance train and bus travel.

As COVID-19 cases rise, whether or not other countries will follow suit remains to be seen. Bloomberg tweeted, French President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-Covid-19 policies appear to be working.

Journalist established in 2001, inspired by transformative leads.

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