EU leaders call for coordinated travel rules and booster shots

BRUSSELS, (AP) -- European Union leaders affirmed Thursday that booster shots are necessary and crucial to combat the rising number of coronavirus cases across Europe and the emergence the new omicron strain.

EU leaders call for coordinated travel rules and booster shots

The festive season is fast approaching, so the leaders of the bloc stressed the need for coordinated action to avoid confusion among the 27 member countries and to ensure that COVID-19 certificates will continue to provide unrestricted travel.

Leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss the conclusions of their summit. They stressed the need for a coordinated approach to prevent restrictions to travel between members or to hamper travel to the region.

However, alarming increases in infections have prompted many European countries to take new precautions and implement public health measures in the last few weeks.

France will limit British arrivals due to fast-spreading micron cases. This will place restrictions on travel and require 48-hour isolation upon arrival. These new measures will be in effect from Saturday morning.

Italy required that all visitors to the country be tested negative for vaccination. This raises concerns about the possibility of similar moves elsewhere in the EU, which could limit citizens' ability to travel to visit family and friends over the holidays.

Portugal adopted a similar measure Dec. 1. It requires all arriving passengers to undergo a mandatory negative screening regardless of their nationality, vaccination status, or point of origin. If they've spent less than 48 hours in Greece, all arriving travelers will need to undergo a negative test beginning Sunday.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister, stated that additional restrictions, such as extra testing for visitors should be applied only during Christmas "in order to gain additional time for as many people possible." It's a fight against the clock.

He stated that booster doses were key to halting the spread of the new strain.

Mitsotakis stated that the only solution to the omicron is to accelerate our vaccination program with a special emphasis on booster shots. "Greece is one of the first European nations to offer booster shots to all its citizens.

Micheal Martin, the Irish Prime Minister, stated that leaders are concerned about the potential spread of omicrons and how they could put pressure on healthcare systems.

According to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Omicron will be the predominant coronavirus variant within the 27 European Union countries by mid-January. With 66% of EU's population fully vaccinated, she said that the bloc was well-prepared to fight it.

However, this figure does not give a complete picture of the EU contrast. Other countries are far behind, despite the fact that nations like Portugal or Spain have immunized their vast majority of their population. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, only 26.6% of Bulgaria's population is fully vaccinated.

To achieve global vaccination, leaders also promised to export more doses to countries outside the bloc. The EU is the largest exporter and importer of COVID-19 shots, with more than 1,000,000 doses being sent around the globe.

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