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COVID-19

Europe’s Covid-19 ‘hotspots’ to be sent four million more vaccine doses

The European Union will receive an extra four million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses over the next two weeks to be deployed to Covid-19 "hotspots", European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

Europe's Covid-19 'hotspots' to be sent four million more vaccine doses
Photo: AFP/ ECDC

The delivery — over and above already agreed supplies from the vaccine-maker — will go to affected border regions within the bloc to “help ensure or restore free movement of goods and people”, she said in a statement.

The announcement came as the commission attempted to persuade at least six member states — including her home country Germany — to lift virus-related border restrictions deemed by Brussels to be excessive.

It also follows a trip by the leaders of Austria and Denmark to Israel toform a vaccine-producing alliance that exemplified broad criticism of the lack of deliveries so far under the commission’s pre-purchasing scheme.

Von der Leyen said the four million extra BioNTech/Pfizer doses will be delivered “before the end of March” and will help member states deploy “their targeted use where they are most needed, in particular in border regions”.

She said they would go to “tackle aggressive variants of the virus and to improve the situation in hotspots”.

Von der Leyen pointed to steep rises in infections and hospitalisations in Austria’s Tyrol region, France’s Nice and Moselle regions, Bolzano in Italy, and parts of Germany’s Bavaria and Saxony regions.

Those had led to “stringent measures” by some member states “and even in certain cases to impose new border controls,” it said.

The statement pointed out that BioNTech/Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine was showing itself to be “highly effective” against the new variants.

It added that the four million extra doses would be made available for member states to buy according to their population size.

Image by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

Escalation plans

Von der Leyen called the additional agreement “quick and decisive action” on the part of her commission, and emphasised that restoring freedom of movement within the EU was “key for the functioning of health systems and the Single Market”.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed von der Leyen’s announcement, saying it would mean an additional 46,500 BioNTech/Pfizer doses for his country.

“When they get here, they will be administered quickly,” he tweeted.

The Netherlands’ Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted that the extra delivery would mean 169,000 more doses of that vaccine for his country.

France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said the agreement meant “nearly 600,000” extra doses for his country.

EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton, who heads a task force to clear vaccine production bottlenecks, said on Tuesday — before von der Leyen’s announcement — that the bloc was expecting delivery of 55 million doses of different vaccines in March.

Von der Leyen has said that deliveries would jump to 100 million doses per month in April, May and June. Her goal is to have 70 percent of adults in the EU fully vaccinated by mid-September.

Member comments

  1. I do not think there is a need for more vaccines in France, they will just stay in the freezer as France can not even efficiently poke away the doses they already have. France is so far behind, with their bureaucratie. They look and say ‘Oops this is a hotspot, just lock the place down’ instead of ‘Emergency here, get pokers organised and start vaccinating everyone who wants in this area’.

  2. No need to give bureaucrate France more vaccines, they can not even poke away the vaccines they already have. Look how far behind France is……. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Hotspot? Every logic person has the solution, Mobilise pokers and vaccinate everyone in this area as a matter of urgency. Those 20 year olds are superspreaders, not the 80 year olds. Not even the naughty ones who stick their nose above their mask. Those masks who if they were the solution would have reduced cases by now! Yesterday 30000 again. Probably a good idea in public transport, now you see single people in cars and outside wear them in areas where there is fine, how much people love their masks……. Sigh.

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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