Friday, 16 Apr 2021

Europe holiday ban: UK forced to wait months for EU trips – Merkel kills off summer plans

Belgium: Health inspector on 'disappointing' vaccine rollout

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel poured cold water on plans to open Europe’s borders to Britons amid growing concerns over the European Union’s slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines. She warned the bloc’s sluggish scheme means it will be a “few months” at best before widespread immunity is achieved. At a virtual summit, the bloc’s leaders will shelve plans for the creation of vaccination passports until more Europeans have received jabs than not.

They will say it is still too early to make a decision on ditching travel restrictions, including a ban on British holidaymakers, because infection rates remain still stubbornly high across EU states.

It will come as a significant blow to Greece, Spain, Portugal and Croatia who are banking on welcoming hordes of Britons this summer to help kickstart their economies after devastating lockdowns.

Germany and France believe it is more important to focus on reopening the bloc’s internal market before welcoming overseas visitors.

Plans for vaccine certificates to reopen tourism are moving slowly due to bitter infighting among European countries over their use. 

Influential leader Mrs Merkel said the EU should hold off on the plans until more than half of adults have received a Covid jab.

“First it must actually be clearly resolved that vaccinated people are no longer infectious,” the Chancellor said.

“As long as the number of those who have been vaccinated is still so much smaller than the number who are waiting for vaccination, the state should not treat the two groups differently.”

Overall the EU has only vaccinated around six percent of its population, while the UK has delivered doses to one in three adults.

It is understood the bloc may not lift travel restrictions until it has administered jabs to at least 70 percent of all adults, a target it hopes to reach by September 21.

EU leaders are expected to agree to hold further talks on the issue in the coming months.

“The epidemiological situation remains serious, and the new variants pose additional challenges,” a draft joint statement reads.

“We must therefore uphold tight restrictions while stepping up efforts to accelerate the provisions of vaccines.

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“We call for work to continue on a common approach to vaccination certificates and will come back to this issue.”

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said “green passports” could be used to allow vaccinated people to travel freely within the EU.

He said: “We want to get back to normal as quickly as possible, have our old lives back and maximum freedom.”

EU insiders have suggested such a scheme could be extended to Britain if our infection rates drop significantly.

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One diplomat said: “If the British vaccination plans work out then we could have that discussion.

“If Britain would be successful, there would be a willingness to do so.”

But eurocrats said there are still deep divisions between member states on how to use vaccination certificates.

One senior EU officials said the Mediterranean countries’ bid to use the documents to reopen tourism is “complicated” given the differences.

They said: “Politically it’s perhaps too much to digest right now with more immediate issues to resolve first.”

A second source said applying them to international travel poses “many, many more difficulties” than keeping traffic flowing within the bloc.

The senior diplomat added: “We still don’t have advice from the health authorities on what the vaccine does and does not do.” 

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