Merkel, Macron Back Travel Curbs, Scold Greece for Lax Rules
(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron blasted Greece and other tourism-dependent nations for freely accepting visitors who were inoculated with less effective Chinese and Russian vaccines, signaling the possibility of additional curbs on travel ahead of the peak tourist season.
During a summit of European Union leaders behind closed doors in Brussels, the German chancellor said Thursday that member states such as Greece welcome travelers who have been vaccinated with the Sputnik shot against Covid-19, even though it hasn’t been approved by the bloc’s regulatory agency and it’s unclear whether it works against the more dangerous delta variant of the coronavirus.
These visitors can then freely move within the EU’s border-free zone, Merkel told leaders, according to two officials familiar with the conversation.
Her comments add to signs of increasing alarm in Berlin and other EU capitals over the spread of more contagious virus mutations that could trigger another wave of hospitalizations and deaths, even as some EU nations rush to restart tourism and bolster their struggling economies. Asked about Merkel’s remarks, a Greek official said that the majority of leaders took a more pragmatic approach, acknowledging that the delta variant has already spread to the EU and there’s no reason to be jittery about travel.
French President Macron also backed the German chancellor, with both of them discussing a potential blanket ban on travel from countries where the delta variant of the illness is rampant, interpreted as a reference to the U.K., according to the officials. In Britain, the spread of the delta variant prompted an extension of social-distancing requirements into mid-July. Both Greece and Cyprus have waived quarantine requirements for visitors offering proof of vaccination with Russia’s Sputnik and China’s Sinopharm shots.
Merkel told the German parliament that she would address problems in the border regimes of some EU member states, particularly when it comes to non-EU countries.
“Even today, member states still fail to coordinate entries from third countries, especially from variant virus areas, in a sufficient way,” she said. “I will also address this problem critically at the summit.”
EU leaders agreed that vaccinations should be sped up, and that the bloc’s internal and external borders should be opened up cautiously and in a coordinated way. They urged the swift adoption of the bloc’s Covid-19 certificate to ease travel, and requested a coherent implementation by all member states.
There is growing concern that not everyone in the EU is vaccinated to the same standards, and that the bloc may find itself fighting another flare-up in infections, one of the diplomats familiar with the summit discussion said. Merkel told leaders that the spread of the mutations means that the start of inoculations with booster vaccine shots may have to be brought forward to early autumn, the diplomat said.
Macron’s spokesman declined to comment. Merkel’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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