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COVID-19

EU vaccinates 70% of its adult population

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Today (31 August) the EU has reached a target of 70% of the adult population fully vaccinated. More than 256 million adults in the EU have now received a full vaccine course. 

The Commission already announced that it had met its target to deliver enough vaccines to vaccinate this proportion of the population at the end of July; today’s announcement confirms that these vaccines have been administered. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The full vaccination of 70% of adults in the EU already in August is a great achievement. The EU's strategy of moving forward together is paying off and is putting Europe at the vanguard of the global fight against COVID-19.”

Given the prevalence of the more virulent Delta variant, von der Leyen is urging EU countries and its partners to continue vaccinating at a pace. 

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Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “I am very pleased that as of today we have reached our goal to vaccinate 70% of EU adults before the end of the summer. This is a collective achievement of the EU and its member states that shows what is possible when we work together with solidarity and in co-ordination. Our efforts to further increase vaccinations across the EU will continue unabated. We will continue to support in particular those states that are continuing to face challenges.”

The picture across the EU varies enormously; the good news hides significant differences between EU members, with Romania (26%) and Bulgaria (17%) having very low rates of vaccination. Ireland, which has a very high rate of vaccination, has been able to purchase vaccines from Romania, despite its low rate of vaccination. 

Council removes 5 countries and one entity/territorial authority travel restrictions list 

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The Council has updated the list of countries, special administrative regions and other entities and territorial authorities for which travel restrictions should be lifted. In particular, Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and the United States of America were removed from the list.

Non-essential travel to the EU from countries or entities is subject to temporary travel restriction. Member states can lift the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for fully vaccinated travellers.

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Ensuring smooth air travel while checking EU Digital COVID Certificates: New guidelines for member states

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Following the launch of the EU Digital COVID Certificate on 1 July, the European Commission has issued guidelines for EU member states on the best ways to check them before travel, ensuring the smoothest possible experience for air passengers and staff alike. The non-mandatory EU Digital COVID Certificate provides either proof of vaccination, shows if a person holds a negative SARS-COV-2 test result, or has recovered from COVID-19. Therefore, the EU Digital COVID Certificate is essential to support the re-opening of safe travel.

As passenger numbers will rise over the summer, an increased number of Certificates will need to be checked. The airline sector is particularly concerned by this since, in July for example, air traffic is expected to reach more than 60% of 2019 levels, and will rise thereafter. Currently, how and how often passenger's Certificates are checked, depends on the holder's departure, transit and arrival points.

A better-coordinated approach would help avoid congestion at airports and unnecessary stress for passengers and staff. Transport CommissionerAdina Vălean said: “Reaping the full benefits of the EU Digital COVID Certificate requires the harmonization of the verification protocol. Cooperating for a ‘one-stop' system to check the certificates makes for a seamless travel experience for the passengers across the Union.”

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To avoid duplication, i.e. checks by more than one actor (airline operators, public authorities etc.), the Commission recommends a ‘one-stop' verification process prior to departure, involving co-ordination between authorities, airports and airlines. Moreover, EU member states should ensure that the verification is carried out as early as possible and preferably before the passenger arrives at the departure airport. This should ensure smoother travel and less burden for all involved.

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EU agrees to recognize Swiss COVID certificates

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Today (8 July) the European Commission adopted a decision recognizing Swiss COVID-19 certificates as equivalent to the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This should considerably ease travel between Switzerland and its neighbours.

Switzerland is the first country from outside the 30 countries of the EU and EEA area, to be connected to the EU’s system. The Swiss COVID certificates will be accepted in the EU under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Swiss nationals, EU citizens, and third-country nationals legally staying or residing in Switzerland will be able to travel inside the EU under the same conditions as holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate. 

Justice Commissioner, Didier Reynders, said: “I warmly welcome that the Swiss authorities have decided to implement a system based on the EU Digital COVID Certificate. This will allow EU citizens and Swiss nationals to travel safely and more freely this summer.” 

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Switzerland shall be connected to the EU Digital COVID Certificate trust framework.

Talks are still ongoing with the UK and other third countries.

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COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy: Commission identifies five promising candidate therapeutics

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The EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics has delivered its first outcome, with the announcement of the first portfolio of five therapeutics that could soon be available to treat patients across the EU. Four of these therapeutics are monoclonal antibodies under rolling review by the European Medicines Agency. Another one is an immunosuppressant, which has a marketing authorisation that could be extended to include the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said:“We are taking the first step towards a broad portfolio of therapeutics to treat COVID-19. Whilst vaccination is progressing at increasing speed, the virus will not disappear and patients will need safe and effective treatments to reduce the burden of COVID-19. Our goal is clear, we aim to identify more front-runner candidates under development and authorise at least three new therapeutics by the end of the year. This is the European Health Union in action.”

The five products are in an advanced stage of development and have a high potential to be among the three new COVID-19 therapeutics to receive authorisation by October 2021, the target set under the Strategy, provided the final data demonstrate their safety, quality and efficacy. See the Press Release and a Questions and Answers for further details.

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