The subject had not completely disappeared from their discussions, but it had taken a back seat since this summer. Thursday, December 16, the Covid-19 pandemic was once again at the heart of discussions between European heads of state and government, who met in Brussels for their last meeting of the year. The appearance of the Omicron variant, which, according to the Commission, could become dominant in Europe by mid-January, has shaken up the semblance of a return to normal on the Old Continent, made possible by the rise in power of the vaccination.
“Omicron blew up the agenda”exclaims a diplomat. Thursday morning, in fact, the Twenty-Seven, who were supposed to address three subjects – the health situation, the resilience of the European Union (EU) and the rise in energy prices -, spoke exclusively about Covid. “It’s a race against time”Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis commented as the new variant spreads at high speed and vaccination remains the main weapon. Today, 67% of the European population has received two injections, but this rate is lower than 50% in three countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia), Croatia being for its part barely above (50.4% ). As for the administration of a booster dose, it is progressing but only concerns 18% of Europeans to date.
” The answer ” to the variant, it is “The acceleration of our vaccination programs”, continued Mr. Mitsotakis. The day before, the Greek leader had sent another message, announcing that, from now on, to come to his country, one would have to present a PCR test, whether one had previously been immunized or not. A decision which amounts, in fact, to denying the usefulness of the European health pass, set up to allow its holders to circulate freely within the EU. On Thursday, he clarified that these new constraints would only apply during the Christmas period, “In order to save time and inject as many third doses as possible”.
Athens is not alone, in recent days, to have undermined the European health certificate and free movement within the community. Earlier in December, Portugal and Ireland had already made similar announcements. Earlier this week, Rome also decided that those vaccinated will now have to perform a PCR test or rapid test upon arrival; the others will have, in addition, to carry out an isolation of five days. Mario Draghi’s government did not consider it useful to warn the Commission, nor the neighboring countries, which minimal European coordination would have required.
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Covid-19: the Twenty-Seven are trying to save the European health pass