“Given the evidence of substantially higher transmissibility of new coronavirus variants, national authorities should be prepared to apply even more stringent measures.” With this message, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) accompanied this Thursday its latest evaluation on the impact of the three mutations of the pathogen detected to date (the British, the South African and the Brazilian) on the continent .
There is no evidence that its effects are more serious, but there is evidence of its greater ability to spread. So the intense red is spreading throughout Europe and with it, the ECDC raised this Thursday the alert on the risk of community transmission to “very high”. He advises more rigorous confinements, preparing laboratories for massive (and accurate) testing with variant genome sequencing, “hardened” traces, and a ban on non-essential travel.
The forceful message was made public minutes before European leaders began their ninth videoconference summit since the outbreak of the pandemic. An appointment dedicated exclusively to the coronavirus in which those two magic verbs turned into a mantra were conjugated: “Share” and “coordinate.”
- Charles Michel – President of the Council.
“We must keep borders open, but non-essential travel must be restricted”
- ECDC – Higher risk of mutations.
“The authorities must be prepared to adopt stricter measures”
- Pedro Sánchez – President of the Government.
“The vaccination certificate must be homologated and approved by the Twenty-seven”
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, gave priority to the debate on the need to speed up vaccination rates. And Ursula von der Leyen brought to the table the recommendations launched this week by the European Commission; that in March 80% of those over 80 years of age and the health and care personnel on the front line are immunized. And facing the summer, 70% of adult Europeans.
The leaders assumed these levels as possible although it will be necessary to accelerate the production of roads. In fact, there were “many questions about transparency and delivery schedule” of the different formulas. With the two vaccines already authorized in Europe, 80% of the European population could be immunized. In this sense, BionTech-Pfizer seems to return to the initial distribution rhythm next week and in two more weeks the first doses of the Oxford serum could be distributed, which on the 29th would receive authorization from the European Medicines Agency.
The “unanimous” agreement was quick on one of the measures that has been in debate for months: the common framework for the use of rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of the results of the Covid-19 tests throughout the EU.
“The mutual recognition of the results of the SARS-CoV2 infection tests issued by certified health organizations is essential to facilitate cross-border movement, the location and treatment of contacts,” was underlined in a communication released by the Council just one hour after starting the summit.
Test and quarantines
But the discussions about mobility had a greater background: the convenience or not of imposing more restrictive controls at the borders and the absolute veto of non-essential movements, both intra-European and outside the Schengen area. “At this stage, the total closure of the borders does not make any sense,” Von der Leyen had claimed the day before in the European Parliament before the possibility of a new chaotic bolt like the one experienced in the first wave.
- Vaccination rate.
Increase production to immunize 70% of the population in summer.
- Vaccination certificate.
Just as “one more medical document”, not as a travel pass.
Only the “essentials”. It is committed to limiting trips considered non-essential.
Preliminary tests and mandatory quarantines seem to be reinforced as a general rule. But without ruling out the absolute ban on travel to the areas with the greatest proven expansion of the new mutations (it is already the case in the United Kingdom). The other debate is the one that revolves around a kind of ‘vaccination passport’.
Here the majority criterion was that the certificate in question should be more “a medical document” than a safe-conduct to travel within the EU. At least in this incipient phase of the immunization process in which there is no massive distribution of serum and this without losing sight of the fact that vaccination is not mandatory in the bulk of the Union. The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, supported that in any case “the approval and its potential use” should be “coordinated and approved by the 27”.
Support to the Western Balkans, Africa and Latin America
Another point that was brought to the discussion of the Twenty-seven was the support to neighboring countries with the vaccination process. The leaders underscored their willingness to uphold this principle of solidarity. “Europe is not an island,” said the president, Pedro Sánchez, who advocated that the citizens of the Western Balkans, Africa or Latin America, “a region that has suffered terribly, both in terms of deaths and the economic and social consequences of the crisis ”, have access to the vaccine. The Commission has come up with a mechanism to share some of the 2.3 billion vaccines with neighbors and partners around the world.