As the European Union (EU) prepares to approve the Pfizer vaccine and use it as of Dec. 21, most of its 27 countries tighten epidemiological restrictions on fears that the Christmas holidays will increase the number of new COVID-19 cases.
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"To get to the end of the pandemic, we will need up to 70 percent of the population vaccinated. This is a huge task, a big task. So let's start as soon as possible with the vaccination together, as 27, with a start on the same day," European Commission (EC) chief Ursula von der Leyen said.
“EU states have the option of individually going ahead with vaccinations earlier under EMA emergency rules, but the EC wants a coordinated roll-out across the bloc to ensure no member state is left behind,” outlet RTE commented.
Meanwhile, Germany began the implementation of more restrictive measures that will last until January 10. Authorities request that private meetings respect the limit of five people from two homes. Between December 24 and 26, however, those meetings may include four more people.
The Czech Republic began doing rapid antigen testing of its population to detect asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. Over the last 24 hours, this European country registered 7,889 new coronavirus infections, 35 percent more than a week ago.
Portugal, which will remain in a state of emergency until December 23, will ease epidemiological restrictions during Christmas. However, mobility between municipalities will be prohibited during the end of the year festivities.
While EU countries could begin COVID-19 vaccination next Monday, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health warned that a fifth of the world's population may not have access to the vaccine until 2022 as rich countries have already reserved more than half of the doses initially available by 2021.