No End in Sight: Europe in Grips of Fresh COVID-19 Crisis

Written by | Friday, March 19th, 2021
@Eubulletin

The European Commission has warned that the bloc would reconsider vaccine deals if they did not get what was promised, as Germany, France and Italy have reported a rising death rate and fresh lockdown measures. The executive’s President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would not hesitate to restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines in order to receive the doses that it was promised. Von der Leyen had previously said that the EU approved the export of some 41 million doses to 33 countries in the last six weeks and said that the EU was at the forefront of international vaccine-sharing efforts. “Open roads run in both directions,” said von der Leyen. “We want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports, and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that.” While she did not mention any countries directly, the comments appeared at least partly aimed at the UK, where the development process of the AstraZeneca vaccine was spearheaded. Given the vaccine’s multinational production, however, the EU has been exporting doses to Britain for use. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed surprise at her statements.
Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new, month-long lockdown measures in Paris and several other regions. Non-essential businesses will close and movement outside of the home will be restricted, such as outdoor exercise will be allowed up to 10 kilometers from home. “We are adopting a third way, a way that should allow braking [of the pandemic] without locking [people] up,” said Castex. Also Poland will enter a three-week partial lockdown beginning on Saturday (20 March), in order to try to contain the spread of the illness. The neighbouring Germany has also reported highest daily COVID-19 cases for two months, according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. Cases in Germany have been on the rise after the government began to relax lockdown restrictions at the beginning of March. The RKI has said that Germany is now in a third wave of infections — made worse by the spread of more contagious variants of the virus — and predicted a big jump in cases. With a rising death rate, Italian government declared fresh lockdown measures on Monday (15 March) across half of Italy’s 20 regions.
On a more positive note, the EU‘s drug regulator has said it has come to a “clear scientific conclusion” that the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is “safe and effective” and “is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots,” after several European countries suspended its use following reports of blood clots among some recipients. Following the safety guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Germany, France and several other European countries have decided to lift suspensions on the AstraZeneca jab. While Germany has resumed administering the jab today (19 March), the vaccine will, however, come with new advice on potential side effects. France, Italy, Latvia and Bulgaria will also move forward with the AstraZeneca vaccine following the EMA’s guidance.

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