European Union leaders failed to settle a dispute about the distribution of COVID-19 shots among member states Thursday but pledged to strengthen vaccine export controls and production on EU soil amid a shortage of doses and spikes in new cases.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a statement after a video conference of EU leaders at the Chancellery in Berlin on Thursday. Merkel says the EU’s problems with getting deliveries of coronavirus vaccines have underscored the need for the bloc to redouble its efforts to produce its own doses. (Michael Kappeler/Reuters)The latest:
Yukon reports its 1st case of a variant of concern. B.C.’s COVID-19 surge continues, with 800 new cases and 5 more deaths. Alberta’s top doctor says at least 4 in 10 new COVID-19 cases were contracted at home. Quebec pours money into health care, delays balancing books in pandemic budget. N.B. imposes tighter restrictions on part of Edmundston region amid spike in COVID-19 cases. Public Health Agency was unprepared for pandemic, ‘underestimated’ danger, auditor general says. N.S. budget has big increases for long-term care, mental health, income assistance. Hundreds of ICU patients transferred between Ontario hospitals as COVID-19 admissions rise. Have a question about the COVID-19 pandemic? Send your questions to [email protected] European Union leaders failed to settle a dispute about the distribution of COVID-19 shots among member states Thursday but pledged to strengthen vaccine export controls and production on EU soil amid a shortage of doses and spikes in new cases.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz criticized the allocation of shots in the EU, saying that some countries were receiving more than their fair share at the cost of others. As the leader of a coalition of six countries, he demanded a correction mechanism, raising tensions between capitals from where the leaders were holding their remote summit.
“When member states have a lot less vaccines available to them than others, then I think this is a big issue for Europe,” Kurz said. “This could cause damage to the European Union like we haven’t seen in a long time.”
At the end of the summit, the EU’s 27 nations were still locked in a dispute over how an upcoming batch of 10 million doses could be allocated to narrow the vaccine gap between member states. The leaders decided to push the talks to a future meeting of their ambassadors.
INTERACTIVE | Where is the coronavirus pandemic getting better or worse? Under the joint procurement program set up by the European Commission, doses are allocated on a pro rata basis, but some nations are taking less than their share. A large majority of EU members think the system is working well but said some nations made a mistake to focus on AstraZeneca shots instead of diversifying their vaccine portfolios.
AstraZeneca shots are cheaper and easier to handle than vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna but the Anglo-Swedish company has been at loggerheads with the bloc over repeated failures to deliver doses agreed in their contract.
French President Emmanuel Macron attends a European Union summit over video conference in Paris on Thursday. Vaccine delivery has been a point of contention, with particular concern in Europe around shipments of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. (Michel Euler/AFP/Getty Images)
The spread of more contagious virus variants has pushed hospitals in some EU countries to their limit. That, combined with the lack of vaccines available in Europe, has pushed several EU nations to impose strict lockdown measures over the Easter holidays.
Three months after vaccination campaigns started, Our World In Data showed that only 14 per cent of the EU’s 450 million residents has had a shot, while the figure stood at 46 per cent in Britain.
Concern over vaccine export controls An EU source said while the bloc had allowed 21 million vaccine doses to be exported to the U.K. since Dec. 1, none had come to the EU from Britain.
“We can see clearly that British facilities are producing for Great Britain,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, yet she joined Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in seeking to calm the choppy waters between both sides. “We also want to assume a win-win situation here, that is, we want to act in a politically sensible way, because it is in part somewhat more complicated than one thinks at first glance.”
Rutte said that talks with the U.K. on getting a more equitable share of vaccines would resume Saturday.
A woman is seen at a walk-in portable testing centre for COVID-19 operated by the ambulance service in Dublin, Ireland, on Thursday, as the country struggles to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. (Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)
The accusations of EU protectionism came when EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen strengthened export controls for coronavirus shots this week. Even if the move is detrimental to non-EU nations, the European Commission’s goal is to force vaccine manufacturers, especially AstraZeneca, to deliver the doses they agreed to in their contracts. The commission also wants to make sure that export reciprocity is enforced with countries that are producing vaccines or the raw materials needed for them.
Overall, von der Leyen said the EU had allowed exports totalling 77 million vaccine doses, proof that the bloc should not be accused of vaccine nationalism. Only 62 million vaccine doses have been administered across the EU.
A spokesperson for Canada’s international trade minister, Mary Ng, said earlier this week that Canada would work with the EU to ensure the country’s essential medical supply chains remained open.
“Our expected shipments of vaccines have been arriving in Canada,” Youmy Han said in a statement late Tuesday.
– From The Associated Press and The Canadian Press, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada WATCH | Canadian medical experts weigh in on debate over COVID-19 vaccine dose intervals:
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, says fatigue, variants and people not following public health measures are the reasons for the recent rise in cases in Alberta. 2:37
In Alberta, health officials reported 764 new cases of COVID-19 and three new deaths on Thursday. There were 294 patients being treated in hospitals for the illness, including 55 in ICU beds.
At least four in 10 new cases in the province were acquired at home, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference.
“The No. 1 riskiest activity is living in a household with someone who’s infectious,” Hinshaw said as she reminded Albertans that anyone with symptoms should stay away from other members of the household and get tested as soon as possible. She noted that free hotel rooms are available so people who need to can isolate outside the family home.
British Columbia, meanwhile, is continuing to see a spike in cases, reporting 800 new cases and five new deaths on Thursday. The province hasn’t seen numbers above 800 since Dec. 2, and the rolling seven-day average of new cases is now up 25 per cent over the last eight days.
Officials put the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at 306 people, 79 of whom are in intensive care.
The update came just hours after provincial officials loosened restrictions for visitors to long-term care homes and made temporary allowances for indoor religious services.
In the North, Yukon confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including the territory’s first case of a variant of concern.
The case is a Yukon resident who lives in Whitehorse and is linked to international travel. It is a presumptive positive for one variant of concern, a release from the territory stated. The specific variant is not yet known and will undergo further testing.
The second case is not considered a Yukon case as it is a non-Yukon resident who arrived in the territory on March 21 and is linked to an outbreak in another jurisdiction. That person tested positive for the B117 variant that was first detected in the U.K.
The Northwest Territories and Nunavut reported no new cases on Thursday.
– From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 8 p.m. ET
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