Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Delta variant poses 'mandatory' vaccination dilemma for EU

Thousands of French citizens rushed to book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment on Tuesday (13 July), after president Emmanuel Macron warned that unvaccinated people would be refused access to a variety of events, venues - and even some careers.

Macron announced on Monday evening that vaccines would become mandatory for health and care workers - with penalties for those who refuse to get the jab by mid-September.

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He also said that a health pass (proving vaccination status or recent negative test) will be required to attend festivals, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, hospitals, long-distance trains and planes from the beginning of August.

"If we do not act today, the number of cases will continue to rise sharply, and will inevitably lead to increased hospitalisations from the month of August," Macron said in a televised address.

More than one million French people made a vaccination appointment after Macron's announcement.

Similarly, Greece also announced on Monday that vaccines would be obligatory for nursing home staff and health workers - who face suspension if they refused to get vaccinated.

Additionally, unvaccinated people would not be allowed indoors in cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and other enclosed spaces.

"The country will not shut down again because of some," said prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Earlier this year, Italy became the first member state to make vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for healthcare workers, after several small outbreaks were discovered in hospitals where staff had refused to get the jab.

For her part, German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that vaccination in Germany will remain voluntary, saying that forcing people to get the jab could undermine trust in vaccination.

Nevertheless, she warned citizens that the rate of vaccination in the country needs to increase before the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, since the government wants to prevent yet another lockdown in the autumn.

"The more people are vaccinated, the more free we will all be again," she said.

At least 85 percent of people among the 12-to-59 age group and 90 percent of those over 60 should get vaccinated to tackle variants and the virus spreading, Merkel said.

By contrast, the British government confirmed on Monday its decision to lift all Covid-19 restrictions from 19 July - dubbed by the prime minister as "Freedom Day" - despite the surge of cases in the country.

Teleworking, mask-wearing and social distance will become voluntary, while all kinds of businesses will be able to open without capacity limits. Presently, nearly 70-percent of British adults are fully-vaccinated.

For its part, the European Commission has avoided positioning itself in favour or against making vaccination mandatory, arguing that vaccination campaigns are a national competence.

However, a resolution of the Council of Europe, adopted by its 47 members (including the 27 EU countries) in January, states that vaccination should not be mandatory and no one should be discriminated against for not having been vaccinated.

In the resolution, the Strasbourg-based watchdog urges the EU to "ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is not mandatory and that no one is under political, social or other pressure to be vaccinated if they do not wish to do so".

The Delta variant, first found in India, is expected to make up 90-percent of infections in Europe by the end of August.

The EU has already delivered enough Covid-19 vaccines to fully vaccinate 70 percent of the adult population in the 27 member states.

EU failing on tracking new Covid-19 variants, MEPs told

The majority of countries in Europe are falling short on tracking coronavirus variants. Only seven member states have increased genome sequencing to the level recommended for detecting and monitoring the emergence and dominance of these strains.

Covid variants put Schengen under pressure

The EU Commission also raised concerns about the proportionality of Belgium's ban on non-essential travel, for people wishing to leave the country.

Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar

The surge of Covid-19 cases due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant has prompted a debate in Germany over whether people who have not yet been vaccinated should face restrictions - after other countries made similar moves.

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