New Kind of Corona Panic in Europe: Borders Are Closing

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British, South African and Brazilian versions of the new type of Corona virus, which is spreading rapidly in Europe, continue to cause panic in Europe. Following the EU leaders’ summit, the member states of the Union started to take new measures regarding entry and exit within and outside the Schengen borders. Belgium has banned travels abroad, EU countries have made testing at the borders, France has called for fabric masks not to be used. Pfizer’s increase of 5 doses of vaccine to 6 doses and significant delays in vaccine distribution brought the pharmaceutical company against the European Union.

According to the latest report published by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Corona virus outbreak has cost the lives of 2 million 92 thousand people since its appearance in Wuhan, China. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK variant of the Corona virus continues to spread, affecting at least 60 countries and regions, while the slower spreading South African variant was seen in 23 countries.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement that the new type of virus is more lethal also increased the panic. Additional preventive measures have begun to be taken in all EU countries as well as in the UK.

Travel ban in Belgium

In the face of the Covid-19 outbreak and Corona virus variants, Belgium has banned all non-compulsory international travel, including EU countries, for 1 month from next Wednesday until March 1. The government counted trips for tourism and recreational purposes among those that are not considered mandatory. Announcing that controls will be made at the borders, the government also stated that those who do not comply with this ban will be fined.

France, in coordination with Germany and Italy, will require “negative PCR test” and a 1-week quarantine for passengers entering France from EU member states by air and sea starting on Saturday, January 23rd.

Exceeded 50 thousand threshold in Germany

Officials in the German state of Hesse (west) announced on Friday that for the first time in Germany, a Brazilian variant virus was detected in a German citizen returning from Brazil. Regional Social Affairs Minister Kai Klose told reporters that this person was infected with the Brazilian-type virus, which was thought to be highly contagious, during a test on the day he returned from Brazil by plane.

It was announced by the Robert Koch Health Monitoring Institute (RKI) that the total number of deaths caused by Covid-19 in Germany crossed the 50,000 threshold on Friday. The institute noted that a total of 50 thousand 642 people have died since the beginning of the epidemic. A total of 859 people died in the last 24 hours compared to last week. Germany extended anti-Covid measures until February 14, including the closure of schools, non-compulsory businesses, bars, restaurants and cultural venues, and the obligation to wear a medical mask.

Prime Minister Angela Merkel said Friday after the EU leaders’ summit where the issue of combating the Corona virus was discussed, stating that she could make even more drastic decisions to stop the epidemic, “We cannot ignore the issue of closing the borders. However, we want to prevent this in cooperation with the EU.”

9 people died in France vaccinated

The French National Medicines Agency (ANSM), tasked with monitoring the results of the vaccination campaign, died in the country, who received the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech. However, ANSM announced that these deaths were “elderly and severely treated” and there was no data to show that the deaths were related to vaccination.

Noting that nearly 300 new types of British mutated viruses are encountered in the country every day, Minister of Health Olivier Veran stated that “The filtering effect of fabric masks is insufficient due to the emergence of faster infectious types of the virus”, and asked that these masks not to be used. The Doctors Academy also advised passengers who use the subway to go to work, “not to talk in the subways to prevent the virus from spreading”. Doctors suggested that the social distance should also be increased from 1 meter to 2 meters in order to protect against the new type of virus.

In the country where the spread rate of the virus could not be reduced, 323 people died in hospitals in the last 24 hours, 23 thousand 292 new cases were detected. Thus, the number of cases in the country exceeded the 3 million threshold and reached 3 million 11 thousand 257. The death toll was 72 thousand 647. The number of schools closed due to the virus also tripled with the new type of virus.

Restrictions also in Spain and Portugal

The Madrid region in Spain has declared a curfew after 22:00. It has also reduced the closing time for bars and restaurants to 21:00. Following the year-end celebrations, epidemic figures in the country also started to rise. Health officials have found a sharp increase in hospitalizations of 82 percent and intensive care admissions by 60 percent in the past two weeks.

Nurseries, schools and universities in Portugal will be closed for two weeks, and flights to and from the UK will be suspended from Saturday to reduce the risk of transmission through the new variant.

Vaccine fight with Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca

Meanwhile, the Pfizer-BioNTech companies’ distribution of vaccines at a lower level than the agreement with the EU caused reaction in EU countries. Announcing the delay in delivery, the American pharmaceutical company announced that “there were delays in delivery due to a series of changes made to increase production capacity at its factory in Puurs, Belgium, but they will ensure that the promised doses will be delivered as planned in the first quarter of 2021”.

Some members, such as Italy, announced that they were preparing to file a criminal complaint against the company due to the delay that caused long discussions at the summit held by EU leaders via video conferencing.

Pfizer’s statement that not 5 doses but 6 doses of vaccine can be obtained from a vaccine bottle, and that these doses should be used to prevent waste, also created a reaction in the EU. The company made 6 doses instead of 5 and announced that 20 percent lower number of vaccine deliveries would be made.

On Friday, after Pfizer, British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said the first vaccine shipments to the European Union would be lower than the amounts agreed with Brussels.

“In a production facility in our supply chain in Europe, initial volumes will be lower than expected due to low yields. However, we will send tens of millions of doses to the European Union in February and March. Because we are increasing our production capacity,” the Anglo-Swedish laboratory spokesperson said.

EU Medicines Agency to meet next week to approve AstraZeneca vaccine

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