COVID-19 Third Wave: EU Fails to Show Unity Over AstraZeneca Jab, as Brits Ponder Foreign Vacation

Written by | Thursday, April 8th, 2021

EU governments are divided over whether and what restrictions, if any, should be imposed on the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This became clear at a recent meeting of health ministers and officials from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brussels had urged the EU’s 27 member states to bolster public confidence by coming up with a unified response to the finding by regulators that blood clots are a rare side-effect of the jab. Following the meeting, the EU’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, said that it was vital that a common policy was formed, given the faltering confidence among the public in the vaccine. But despite the EMA‘ assurance on Wednesday (7 April) that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks, about 17 EU members have put restrictions on its use, with Belgium being the latest to say it will only administer the jab to those over 55 in the next month.
Meanwhile, with Germany’s health care system being under growing pressure, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is in favor of a “short uniform lockdown” to rein in the continuing spread of the coronavirus. Much like many other EU member states, also Germany struggles to tackle a third wave of COVID-19 cases during a sluggish vaccination campaign. This has led several state leaders to back calls for a period of strict restrictions. “Every call for a short, uniform lockdown is right,” said Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer. “Also, a common nationwide approach would be important here.” The differing rules across the country’s 16 states “is not contributing to security and acceptance at the moment,” she added. “The health system is under intense pressure,” she said, underlining a 5% increase in intensive care bed occupancy in just 24 hours.
While many European countries continue to struggle to curb the third wave of COVID-19 cases, some others are getting ready for the summer holiday. The UK government has confirmed the introduction of a three-tier traffic light system designed to allow Brits to travel internationally. Non-essential foreign trips will be organised into green, orange, and red zones with varying requirements for travel. Travellers returning to the UK from ‚green zone‘ countries will not have to quarantine. Those returning from orange zone countries will be expected to isolate only upon return. It is expected that pre and post-arrival COVID-19 testing will still be a requirement. The obligation to pay for a 10-day quarantine in a hotel in case of ‚red list‘ countries will continue.
In a separate but related development, Denmark has launched a COVID-19 “passport” scheme on Tuesday (6 April) that will help to allow non-essential businesses to reopen to customers. The “coronapas” is available via a secure application or in paper format to people who have either been fully vaccinated, have tested positive for COVID-19 two to 12 weeks previously or negative over the previous 72 hours. It currently allows people to enter certain businesses — including hairdressers, beauty salons and driving schools — with the aim to gradually reopen the economy by the end of May. It will later be expanded to include terraces, restaurants, museums, theatres and cinemas, as they regularly open throughout April and May. The country is scheduled to be fully reopened on 21 May when the government estimates it will have vaccinated people over the age of 50.

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