Denmark and Austria to agree partnership with Israel on Covid-19 vaccines

The prime ministers of Denmark and Austria are to agree a plan for common production of future vaccines and co-operation on research treatments with Israel, moving away from sole reliance on the EU.

Denmark and Austria to agree partnership with Israel on Covid-19 vaccines
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen on Tuesday. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Monday criticised the EU’s medicine regulator for being “too slow” in approving coronavirus vaccines as he outlined plans to co-ordinate more closely with Israel on inoculations.

Kurz said in a statement that while the EU’s common procurement and licensing policy for vaccines was “right in principle”, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) “is too slow in approving vaccines and there have been supply bottlenecks at manufacturers”.

He said that in order to prepare for possible mutations of the coronavirus and to develop “second generation” vaccines, “we should not be solely dependent on the EU anymore”.

To that end Kurz is travelling to Israel on Thursday together with his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen to agree a plan for common production of future vaccines and co-operation on research treatments.

Kurz said that experts estimate “that in the coming years we will have to vaccinate two-thirds of the population every year — that’s more than six million Austrians”.

For her part Frederiksen said the world was “crying out” for increased vaccine production but that “we also have to make sure that we have enough vaccines in a year’s time, and in two, three, five and ten years”.

“One of the partners I have a lot of faith in is Israel, which is currently ahead in the field of vaccination,” she told the Ritzau press agency.

Ahead of the trip to Israel Kurz is to discuss the country’s vaccination strategy with domestic pharmaceutical companies and researchers.

The president of Austria’s association of vaccine manufacturers Renee Gallo-Daniel defended the EMA’s handling of the approval process.

“The highest priority of the EMA has been not to make any shortcuts in the process of approval,” she said.

“The important thing is that the safety, efficacy and quality of all vaccines we are supplied with is checked, and this simply takes time,” she told Ö1 public radio, adding that the EMA had introduced a new “rolling review” process to speed up approval.

She praised Kurz’s “innovative” suggestion of more domestic vaccine production but cautioned that setting up a vaccine production chain can take “five to ten years”.

Austria’s neighbours Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have bypassed the EMA in order to issue their own approvals for Russian and Chinese coronavirus vaccines.

READ ALSO: What is Denmark’s current schedule for Covid-19 vaccination?

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”