Festive Covid-Season: First Vaccine Approved as UK is Locked off Amid Fear Over New Corona-Strain

Written by | Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

The European Commission approved, on Monday (21 December), the use of the Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, paving the way for member states to start vaccination programs possibly within days. The move came shortly after the European Medicine Agency (EMA) issued a positive scientific assessment, recommending conditional marketing authorisation for the vaccine known by the brand-name Comirnaty. The president of the executive Ursula von der Leyen said that the first batches will be shipped from the manufacturing site in the coming days to be distributed across the EU. “This is a very good way to finally start turning the page on COVID-19,” she noted, adding that this first vaccine is “a true European success story.”
Meanwhile, a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 is already in the EU, which has prompted some countries to close borders, with Sweden closing its border to Denmark, on top of a UK cordon sanitaire. “The new mutated virus has also been confirmed in Denmark and some other countries,” Swedish home affairs minister Mikael Damberg said on Monday (21 December), announcing the border closure. But the European Commission has called on EU countries to lift full travel bans on the UK to allow for essential travel of UK and EU citizens “Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” said Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders.
The Commission said it fully appreciates that member countries must take precautions to control the spread of the new virus variant, but called for coordinated exemptions for “citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers”. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that all measures taken ” need to be harmonised and coordinated across the member states.“ In response to the Commission’s statement, France is expected to reopen its border with the UK but only to its own nationals, French residents and professionals such as truck drivers, all of whom will have to provide a recent negative test, France’s public broadcaster has reported. Britons or other non-French nationals with a permanent residence in France will be able to return, but the border is set to remain closed to all other non-French citizens in the UK, France Info said. It was not yet clear how long the measures would be in place.

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