How the EU is preparing for the end of the pandemic

The EU hopes for a quick end to the Covid restrictions. Almost half of adults should be vaccinated at least once by the end of May.

Ursula von der Leyen and Angela Merkel at the EU summit

IIn the EU, the pandemic-related restrictions can be eased considerably in the coming weeks and uncomplicated travel can become possible again. The EU heads of state and government expressed this hope on Tuesday at their summit in Brussels. “Today we are cautiously optimistic for the first time in a long time,” said EU Council President Charles Michel after the meeting.

In view of the progress in vaccination and the improved epidemiological situation, the EU states could “slowly open up again”, said the final declaration of the heads of state and government. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) warned against recklessness. The EU must coordinate the fight against virus variants even better.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen reported at the summit that 300 million vaccine doses had been delivered by the end of this week, of which 245 million were then also vaccinated. 170 million people, 46 percent of adult EU citizens, would have received at least one dose of vaccine by the end of May. Germany is about average: According to the EU health authority ECDC, 44 percent of adult Germans were vaccinated on Tuesday.

Digital Covid certificate

Another 200 million cans would be delivered in June, significantly more than in any previous month, said von der Leyen. The EU will meet the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by the end of July. She expects the EU Medicines Agency EMA to recommend BioNTech-Pfizer’s vaccine for the age group from 12 to 15 years for approval soon, said the head of the Commission. She left it open when the young people could be vaccinated.

So far, vaccines from four manufacturers – BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson – have been approved for people aged 16 and over. The EU expects around 1.5 billion cans from these manufacturers by the end of the year. Other preparations, for example from the Tübingen manufacturer Curevac, are still in the approval process.

The heads of state and government reiterated the goal that the EU should provide at least 100 million doses of vaccine to developing countries by the end of the year. This quota is to be diverted from supplies to which the Member States are entitled under existing contracts in the autumn.

Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron each promised 30 million cans, and several other countries have also announced a contribution, it said in Brussels. At the G20 health summit in Rome on Friday, the Commission also announced that it would use funds from the EU budget to support the development of vaccine production capacities in Africa. Von der Leyen had also announced in Rome that her authority would submit a compromise proposal to the World Trade Organization in the dispute over the release of vaccine patents. This is intended to protect the intellectual property of the manufacturer and to make it easier for countries that do not yet have a chance of getting sufficient vaccines. This proposal, which boils down to the issuing of compulsory licenses in return for compensation, was not discussed in detail on Tuesday.

Last week, the member states agreed with the EU Parliament on a digital Covid certificate as proof of vaccinations, tests or an infection that had been overcome. The certificate must now be ready for use as soon as possible, the final declaration said.

The previous travel restrictions within the EU could then be relaxed by mid-June at the latest. Von der Leyen said the digital infrastructure for the certificate will be operational by June 1st. In mid-June, all states would have the opportunity to use the EU system “in real time”. Merkel added that Germany still has “a bit of work to do” until then.