World Europe calls for maintaining "firm" restrictions on variants

Europe calls for maintaining “firm” restrictions on variants


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648x415 lors sommet virtuel president conseil europeen charles michel haut gauche appele dirigeants relacher restrictions contre coronavirus 25 fevrier 2021

At a virtual summit, European Council President Charles Michel (top left) called on leaders not to ease restrictions against the coronavirus on February 25, 2021. – Olivier Hoslet / AP / SIPA

It is too early to let our guard down. European leaders at the summit called on Thursday to “maintain firm restrictions” while accelerating vaccination campaigns to stem the variants of the coronavirus, but did not settle their differences on the future “vaccine passport”.

“The epidemiological situation remains serious, and the new variants pose additional challenges. We must therefore maintain firm restrictions while stepping up our efforts “to speed up vaccination, the Twenty-Seven said in their conclusions after a videoconference summit.

Vaccination still in slow motion

While the rise of the British and South African variants hovers the specter of new outbreaks of contamination across the continent, vaccination campaigns remain sluggish, still penalized by significant delivery delays.

“The next few weeks will remain difficult in the field of vaccination”, acknowledged the President of the European Council Charles Michel during a press conference. “But I would like to display a message of optimism (…) We have the means to ensure that the EU plays a key role in (…) getting out of this crisis in the coming months”, he added.

The European Commission has promised a sharp increase in available doses in the second quarter – with deliveries from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna significantly increased, vaccine approval from Johnson & Johnson, and close oversight to address failures in production lines .

Charles Michel also called for “improving the sequencing capacities” of the virus to quickly identify its mutations – a complex procedure unevenly carried out across the Union but for which Brussels has released funds. Worried about the push for variants, around ten EU states have restricted the crossing of their borders. The Commission has summoned six of them, including Belgium and Germany, to explain the restrictions it considers disproportionate, fearing the disruption of production chains.

“Green passport”

France, for its part, announced Thursday that it would require recent PCR tests for non-professional journeys of cross-border workers from Germany to the Moselle. The 27 had initially promised to adopt only “proportionate” and “non-discriminatory” measures. But the variants have changed the situation, prompting some governments to close their borders.

Regarding the issue of a European vaccination certificate to facilitate travel, the leaders contented themselves in their conclusions with “calling for a common approach”.

“There are still scientific questions: it is not yet certain that you stop transmitting the virus after having been vaccinated”, argued Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The question of the rights attached to this “passport” had been judged “conflicting” and “irrelevant” by certain Member States, at a time when only 4.2% of Europeans had received at least one dose of vaccine.

Paris and Berlin consider the question premature, rejecting any inequality of treatment between a privileged minority and the others. But other states – especially those most dependent on tourism – want accelerated adoption to save their summer season, like Greece which, like Cyprus, has already concluded a tourism agreement with Israel.

Supported by Bulgaria, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz advocated him “a green passport” allowing travel or access to restaurants, for people vaccinated but also for those considered “immune” after having contracted the virus.

The 27 finally entrusted the Commission with the task of drawing up the technical conditions for a vaccination certificate (element to be taken into account, IT support, interoperability, etc.) The European executive “will need three months to achieve this” German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed to the press, while assuring that after its implementation, “this does not mean that only holders of a vaccination passport will be able to travel”.



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