EU countries could receive Covid vaccine by April, as second wave ravages Europe

Jane Dalton
·3-min read
Belgium has the highest rate of the virus in Europe; nurses in one of the country’s hospitals turn a patient (EPA)
Belgium has the highest rate of the virus in Europe; nurses in one of the country’s hospitals turn a patient (EPA)

The delivery of potential Covid-19 vaccines to European Union countries could begin in earnest in April, the head of the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says.

"The big numbers of supplies are due to start in April," Ms von der Leyen said, adding that in the best-case scenario companies could deliver up to 50 million vaccines a month to the EU.

The commission is proposing a series of new measures to fight the pandemic, saying the new spike in infections on the continent is "alarming".

Europe again appears to be the epicentre of the pandemic worldwide. Belgium is a hot spot, and many countries are also suffering record daily rates of infection.

The virus is spreading rapidly in the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic, and Germany and France are bracing for new lockdowns.

Belgium has the highest 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 citizens, just surpassing the Czech Republic, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

At 1,390.9 per 100,000 people, it far outstrips even France and Spain. In all, 11,038 people have died so far in the pandemic in Belgium.

On Tuesday, 689 people were rushed to hospital with Covid-19, 60 more than the record during the March peak.

The European Commission has urged the 27 EU governments to do more and in a more coordinated fashion to tackle the virus.

Brussels said EU governments should coordinate their testing strategies and make greater use of rapid antigen tests, despite the fact that the global supply for these kits is now tightening.

"The situation is very serious, but we can still slow down the spread of the virus if everybody takes (their) responsibility," Ms von der Leyen said.

In the Czech Republic, health officials said the country’s day-to-day case increase hit a new record high of 15,663 on Tuesday — as many as Germany, which has eight times the population.

The country had 284,033 confirmed cases in all, more than half of them registered in the past two weeks. So far, 2,547 people have died, with a record 139 deaths registered on Monday. The Czech government has further tightened regulations, imposing a nationwide curfew between 9pm and 6am.

In Germany, the number of newly recorded infections in one day has hit another record high. The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease-control agency, said 14,964 new cases were recorded in the past days, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 449,275.

Germany also suffered a further 27 Covid-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098.

Poland has also hit a new record in daily infections, with at least 18,800 cases, and 236 new Covid-related deaths were recorded.

Italy on Tuesday registered its highest one-day total in the pandemic - nearly 22,000 new coronavirus cases - and 221 more deaths.

Protests have been staged in some Italian cities against overnight curfews in some regions. Nationwide restrictions began this week, closing down gyms, pools, cinemas and theatres. Restaurants are required to close before dinner hour.

Italy's total confirmed cases rose to 564,778 and the death toll reached 37,700. The Northern Lombardy and southern Campania regions have been experiencing the highest daily caseloads in recent days.

Even Sweden, which avoided a national lockdown and generally imposed far lighter measures than other European countries, is now urging people to avoid shopping centres and shops, and to stay away from public transport.

Last week, the commission said it would buy up to 22 million antigen tests to meet EU countries' "immediate needs". It is now urging states to buy more through a joint procurement scheme.

It also said states should have common testing requirements for incoming travellers, including tests on arrival if tests were not available in the country of departure. It called for coordinated rules on quarantines.

Brussels also urged governments to share more data on outbreaks in their countries and on the situation in their healthcare settings.

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