EU leaders agreed on the need to further restrict non-essential travel.
During the online pandemic management summit, the 27 EU leaders decided to maintain restrictions on public life and free movement. EU member states are trying to prevent the spread of new strains of coronavirus that could stop the economic recovery, according to Reuters.
EU heads of state and government meet on Thursday and Friday at a special videoconference summit on health, defense and security. Thursday's session was dedicated to coordinating and managing the pandemic, and on Friday the virtual meeting will be dedicated to security and defense.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the European Union must also prepare for vaccination against the new strains. EU leaders also discussed how immunization can help the economy recover, including the tourism industry.
Only 5% of European citizens received the second dose of vaccine.
The European Commission has told European leaders that 51.5 million doses of vaccine have so far been delivered to the European Union, and 29.17 million doses have already been administered. At present, 5% of European citizens have already received the second dose.
The European Commission and EU Member States have been sharply criticized for existing problems in the immunization program and for the cumbersome delivery of vaccine doses, following Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"The epidemiological situation remains serious, the new variants bring additional challenges. We must maintain firm restrictions as we step up our efforts to accelerate vaccination. " was the statement of the European Commission.
The infection rate has fallen in almost 20 EU Member States, but there are still fears of a sharp rise in the number of cases of coronavirus variants found in the UK and Africa, which are spreading much faster.
Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, said the British strain is present in 26 EU countries, the South African strain in 14 countries and the Brazilian strain can be identified in seven countries. However, vaccination campaigns in the EU remain slow, affected by significant delays in the delivery of doses.
By the end of the summer, 225 million European citizens will be vaccinated.
The European Commission promised an increase in the number of doses available in the second quarter, with more deliveries from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna laboratories, as well as approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The process will also be closely monitored in order to address deficiencies in the production chain.
"We are optimistic about our ability to reach our target of vaccinating 70% of the EU's population (225 million people) by the end of the summer.", said Ursula von der Leyen.
If initially the 27 had promised to adopt only proportionate and non-discriminatory restrictions, the mutations suffered by the virus changed the situation, leading several Member States to limit access to borders.
The European Commission has called on Belgium, Germany and four other countries to explain the adoption of restrictive measures, which the European executive considers disproportionate, for fear of disruptions in production chains.
The meeting of European leaders also ended with an important announcement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said European partners will launch a coronavirus vaccination passport that could make the trip to the European Union (EU) possible.