Germany is banning most travel from Britain starting on Sunday amid concerns about the spread of a coronavirus variant first discovered in India, the German authorities said on Friday.
German citizens and residents will still be allowed to enter the country from Britain but will be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, Germany’s public health institution said as it classified Britain as an area of concern because of the variant.
The move came just days after Britain reopened its museums and cinemas and resumed allowing indoor service in pubs and restaurants. Many people in Britain have been looking forward to traveling abroad in the coming months, and Spain is set to welcome visitors arriving from Britain without a coronavirus test starting on Monday.
The spread in Britain of the variant first detected in India, known as B.1.617, could serve as an early warning for other European countries that have relaxed restrictions. This month, the World Health Organization declared the mutation a “variant of concern,” and although scientists’ knowledge about it remains limited, it is believed to be more transmissible than the virus’s initial form.
Brazil, India and South Africa are among the dozen or so other countries that Germany considers areas of concern because of variants. As of Thursday, Britain has reported 3,424 cases of the variant first discovered in India, according to government data, up from 1,313 cases the previous week.
Dozens of nations, including European countries and the United States, suspended travel from Britain or imposed strict restrictions earlier in the pandemic amid concerns about the spread of the highly contagious and deadly B.1.1.7 variant, which began surging in Britain in December and is now dominant in the United States.
In India, the B.1.617 variant has been blamed for a devastating second virus wave. But researchers outside of India say the limited data so far suggests instead that B.1.1.7 may be a more considerable factor.
The B.1.617 variant seems to be taking off outside India but its growth can be studied in countries like Britain with genetic sequencing, said Stacia Wyman, a senior genomics scientist at the University of California, Berkley and a member of the Innovative Genomics Institute.
“I’m of the camp where I think we need to monitor all the variants very carefully and be really vigilant, but not freak out about them and blow them out of proportion,” she said. “With sufficient sequencing, we’re able to monitor them and watch the trajectory much more carefully.”
The Office for National Statistics in the United Kingdom said on Friday that the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Britain had showed “early signs of a potential increase” in the week ending on May 15, although it said rates remained low compared with earlier this year.
The country’s inoculation campaign is continuing apace, with an increased focus on second doses in an effort to thwart the sort of spikes that led to restrictions imposed this year.
More than 37 million people, or 56 percent of the country’s population, have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Britain. Yet most people under 30 have yet to receive a dose, and less than a third of the population has been fully vaccinated. Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Saturday that people over 32 could now book an appointment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to proceed with a plan to lift all restrictions by June 21, although scientists have warned that the spread of the B.1.617 variant could delay such plans. Most cases of the variant have been found in northwestern England, with some in London.
In Germany, the restrictions on travel from Britain come as outdoor service resumed on Friday in cafes, restaurants and beer gardens after months of closure. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged people to “treat these opportunities very responsibly.”
“The virus,” she said, “has not disappeared.”
Vaccinations in many American prisons, jails and detention centers are lagging far behind the United States as a whole, prompting public health officials to worry that these settings will remain fertile ground for frequent, fast-spreading coronavirus outbreaks for a long time to come.
Nationally, more than 61 percent of people ages 18 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine so far. But only about 40 percent of federal prison inmates, and half of those in the largest state prison systems, have done so. And in immigration detention centers, the figure is just 20 percent.
With the overall pace of vaccinations slowing in the United States — down to about 1.87 million doses a day on average, according to federal data — the Biden administration has been stepping up efforts to win over the hesitant and to reach people in underserved and vulnerable communities and those facing access issues.
Over the course of the pandemic, prison inmates have been more than three times as likely as other Americans to become infected with the virus, according to a New York Times database. The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 have died in custody.
No racial breakdown is available for coronavirus cases in prisons, but health officials say African-Americans are likely to be overrepresented, since they account for a much larger share of inmates (33 percent) than they do of the overall population (13 percent), and the pandemic has disproportionately hit Black Americans in general.
Black and Hispanic people across the United States have received a disproportionately smaller share of vaccinations to date, according to a New York Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information, though some progress has been made.
High vaccination rates in another kind of high-risk setting, nursing homes, have greatly reduced the spread of the virus there. But unlike nursing home residents, prisoners were generally not a high priority for early vaccination. By April 19, the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico had expanded eligibility to all adults. Still, refusal rates in prisons have been high.
Many inmates say they mistrust both the vaccine and the prison authorities who try to persuade them to get inoculated. Beyond that, some prison vaccination efforts have been hampered by mistakes.
Prison officials in some states have tried offering inmates incentives to be vaccinated, including extra food — with varying degrees of success.
Jonathan Brooks, who is incarcerated at Wake Correctional Center in North Carolina, said incentives like free phone calls and approval priority for family visits were insulting.
“That’s something that we are required to have anyway — phone calls and receiving visits from our loved ones — so to actually recommend something like that to get us to take the vac
cine, I feel like that’s really a slap in the face,” he said. Mr. Brooks said he did not intend to get the vaccine.