Leaders talked about vaccinations, lockdowns and ‘dark red' zones

There are still many open questions about other possible uses of the immunisation certificates besides purely medical ones

The video conference of EU leaders dedicated to the coordination in the fight against the virus did not give the long-awaited hope that with the vaccines the life of Europeans will gradually return to normal. On the contrary, the debate was focused on additional urgent containment measures. The rapidly spreading new variants of the virus were among the major causes for concern.

Given the seriousness of the current situation, EU leaders expressed determination to limit the spread of the virus by adopting similar measures.

Increasing our sequencing capacity is key, underlined European Council President Charles Michel, in his conclusions after the meeting. He also specified that borders need to stay open to ensure the functioning of the Single Market and “no indiscriminate travel bans should be imposed”.

However, immediately afterwards he added that “measures restricting non-essential travel in the EU may be needed to contain the spread of the virus”.

The Council may need to review its recommendations on intra-EU travel and non-essential travels into the EU in light of the risks posed by the new virus variants.

Welcoming the work achieved so far and the agreement on rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of test results, heads of state and government stressed that vaccination should be accelerated and commitments on deliveries made by companies must be respected. 

The participants in the VTC reaffirmed that vaccines should be distributed at the same time and must be on a pro rata basis and that a close follow-up of the vaccination process is needed.

I am glad that we agreed with Member States to administer as many doses as possible over the next weeks and months, EC President Ursula von der Leyen outlined.  Saying that in this respect the Commission is working hand in hand with EMA and the companies to provide more predictability and stability to the delivery process. We look forward to more vaccines and more doses coming on stream soon, she said.

For curbing the spread of the virus cross border the Commission proposes a new category - a ‘dark red' zone. As President von der Leyen explained it would show that in this zone the virus is circulating at a very high level.

Persons travelling within the EU from dark red areas could be required to do a test before departure as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival, she said adding that “in view of the very serious health situation, all non-essential travel should be strongly discouraged both within the country and of course across borders”.

Von der Leyen stressed that essential workers and goods,  must continue to cross borders smoothly. This is of utmost importance.

Additional safety measures will be proposed with regard to the external borders. For those travelling from third countries on essential travel to Europe, we would, for example, require testing before departure, the EC chief said.

About the certificates to be issued to people who have received the vaccines, von der Leyen commented that this is a medical necessity and the global standard is the WHO's yellow international certification.

Some media call this certificate a vaccination passport, which will almost be a document ensuring free travel across borders.

The use to be made of this certificate must be very carefully considered, the EC President said, as it is not known yet does vaccination inhibit transmission of the virus by the vaccinated person and how long is the vaccination effective.

She also said that there are open questions concerning respecting the rights of those who have not had access to a vaccine. What other alternatives do you offer to those who have legitimate reasons for not getting the vaccine, she asked as well, noting that when the time is right, “we will need a thorough debate and a consensus among Member States on possible other uses of the certificate”.

When it comes to solidarity with third countries, EU leaders reiterated that effective support should be delivered as soon as possible. 

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