At ‚Tipping Point’: EU Leaders to Discuss Vaccine Roll-Out as WHO Warns of COVID-19 Running Rampant

Written by | Monday, January 11th, 2021

EU leaders will discuss the vaccine roll-out and the management of the COVID-19 crisis at a video conference before the end of January, European Council president Charles Michel said on Tuesday (5 January) after he met with Portuguese prime minister António Costa, whose country took over the EU’s presidency this month. But although some countries in Europe, including the UK and EU member states, have already begun rolling out vaccines, World Health Organization (WHO) officials have warned that the continent is at a “tipping point” of the pandemic, with infections rising rapidly and the threat of a mutated version of the virus spreading looming.
“We remain in the grip of COVID-19 as cases surge across Europe and we tackle new challenges brought by the mutating virus. This moment represents a tipping point in the course of the pandemic,” Hans Kluge, WTO regional director, said. The more transmissible variant has already been detected in 22 European countries, Kluge said, emphasizing that countries needed to “intensify” measures to prevent further spread. To prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa, the UK said it will extend a ban on travellers entering England to southern African countries. The restriction will go into effect on Saturday (9 January) and remain in place for two weeks, the government said.
Meanwhile, as Europe has surpassed over 25 million cases of COVID-19, several countries are reinstating or extending lockdowns as a resurgence in the pandemic threatens to overwhelm health services. France reported 21,703 new confirmed cases on Thursday (7 January) and also 277 new virus deaths in hospitals. Germany reports over 1,000 Covid-linked deaths Health authorities registered 26,391 new coronavirus infections and 1,070 deaths on the same day. UK has recorded the highest number of daily deaths since 21 April that has led to 1,162 new deaths within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday. It brings the UK total number of deaths to 78,508.
Following its approval by the European Medicines Agency on 6 January, the first doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed next week. This comes amid growing tensions among EU member states over the distribution of the 100 million additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booked by the European Commission. First doses of the jab developed and produced by the American biotechnological company will be distributed next week on a pro-rata basis among all member states. “The first thing that the vaccination rollout will change will not be transmission but it will be that the most vulnerable people, the ones that we’re vaccinating first, won’t go on to have severe disease and won’t end up in hospital and won’t die,” said Catherine Smallwood, WTO’s senior emergency officer.

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