The European Union has called for avoiding non-essential travel between the countries of the bloc to face the threat of new variants of the coronavirus, deeming the health situation “very serious”, at the end of a summit of Twenty-Seven by videoconference Thursday.
France announced in the wake that it would impose from Sunday to travelers from other European countries the presentation of a PCR test carried out 72 hours before departure. An obligation that does not, however, concern essential travel, frontier workers.
Echoing the European Epidemics Agency (ECDC), European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday evening that “all non-essential travel” should “be strongly discouraged”. “We are increasingly worried about the different variants” of the coronavirus, acknowledged Ms. von der Leyen.
It proposed a new, more precise definition of risk areas from a health point of view, with a new category “dark red”. Within the EU, travelers from these regions may be required to undergo a pre-departure test and self-quarantine upon arrival.
Regarding non-EU countries, “we will offer additional security measures for essential travel to Europe, for example by requiring a test before departure”, she added.
Border control is a national prerogative, but Europeans are trying to coordinate to preserve the functioning of the internal market, the transport of goods and the daily life of cross-border workers. They want to avoid the chaos that followed the scattered border closures when the epidemic arrived last spring.
Faced with variants of the coronavirus (British, South African), more contagious, several countries have already tightened restrictions in recent days, such as Germany on Tuesday. The Netherlands announced a curfew from 9 p.m. on Thursday evening, Portugal a closure of its schools.
On the eve of the summit, the Europeans had finally reached an agreement on mutual recognition of the results of the tests, both PCR and rapid antigens, an advance validated Thursday evening.
To detect coronavirus mutations, the European Commission has urged EU states to increase sequencing, deeming the current level to be insufficient. She also called on them to speed up vaccination, protecting 70% of the adult population by the end of the summer and 80% of health workers and those over 80 by March.
Objectives supported by the 27, according to Ursula von der Leyen. “It’s a huge effort but it is doable”, she hammered.
The President of the European Council Charles Michel assured that “all possible means” would be “examined to ensure a rapid supply” of vaccines, while the delays in deliveries of Pfizer-BioNTech – one of the two authorized in the EU – have forced several countries to slow down their initial timetable.
In addition to Pfizer-BioNTech, the Moderna vaccine is also authorized in the EU and the opinion of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on that of AstraZeneca, already in use in the United Kingdom, is due before the end of the month.
The EU has signed a total of six vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical companies and is in discussions with two others (Novavax and Valneva), for more than 2.5 billion potential doses.
As a sign of growing impatience, four countries – Austria, Greece, Czech Republic and Denmark – wrote a letter to Charles Michel demanding that the EMA vaccine approval process be faster.
Athens also pleaded for the establishment of a “standardized” vaccination certificate within the EU, a proposal discussed at the summit.
Greece wants to save its tourism industry, but the idea of using this certificate to allow vaccinated people to travel is considered premature by several member states, due to the low proportion of the vaccinated population and uncertainties about the effect. vaccine on virus transmission.
“We should be able to agree” on common standards for these certificates, said Charles Michel. “In a second step we will be able to see if and under what circumstances this certificate can be used”.