If there is one lesson the coronavirus should have taught, it is that it multiplies when the guard is lowered. And the arrival of winter, with more activities behind closed doors and less outdoors, together with the effect of the cold and the relaxation of restrictions in the EU, contribute to an advance of the pandemic that has turned into panic with the discovery of the omicron variant, in principle more contagious and classified as “high or very high risk” by the European Union. This is so much the case that the first analyzes advance that “in a few months” most infections can be from omicron.
New wave, winter, Christmas Eve and uncontrolled mutation. With this scenario, the European Commission tries, as always, to maintain coherence in the approaches and responses of the 27. It gives guidance, but sometimes these guidelines are more the result of where the appetite of the 27 goes than with what it has been defending months ago.RELATED
The advance of the pandemic and omicron threaten the unity of the 27 to the extent that, one of the most important values of the European Union, the free movement of goods and people is being unequally limited at the moment in which Portugal requires PCR tests to enter the country, regardless of the vaccination certificate.
Lisbon has the legal spring of the “emergency brake” foreseen in the Brussels guidelines, coupled with the fact that the powers at borders belong to the States.
Moreover, a few hours after Brussels, on Thursday, November 25, defended common criteria for third countries, it rushed to request the suspension of flights with seven southern African countries for fear of the omicron variant. The European Commission’s request came after some member states, at their own risk and expense, had already announced that decision, which ended up agreeing on 27 on Friday afternoon.
And if the competences at borders belong to the States, it turns out that the same thing happens with regard to health. Thus, last summer France was one of the first to require a vaccination certificate to enter public places, something that has spread to more countries and is still generating controversy in some Spanish courts.
But in that there is no common criterion. The same as there is not in terms of the closure or not of public places: Belgium, with an incidence ten times higher than Spain, for example, keeps restaurants and bars open until 11pm, but not nightlife. However, between last October and May, the restoration remained completely closed.
The debate is open. There are countries in which it can generate constitutional problems, but the evidence that vaccines reduce the number of serious cases and deaths is pushing many governments to impose mandatory vaccination or, at least, to tighten the fence of the unvaccinated.
The last case is that of the largest country in the EU, Germany. The federal government has proposed to implement mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 next February, as announced by the outgoing Chancellor, Angela Merkel, as well as other restrictive measures for people who have not been vaccinated.
The measure will have to be decided by the German lower house, although the future German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, already was in favor of the obligatory nature of the anti COVID doses.
Regarding the toughening of the measures: nightlife will be closed when the incidence exceeds certain levels, and vaccinated citizens will only be able to maintain contact in a limited way with people outside their family nucleus. In this way, the private encounters of the unvaccinated will only take place between their family nucleus and two other people from another bubble of coexistence.
“There are 150 million Europeans who are not vaccinated,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, bluntly this week, during the presentation of a communication in response to the omicron variant that repeats what has already been said by the Community Executive in the past.
“Get vaccinated, get the booster dose, keep your social distance and wear a mask,” summarized Von der Leyen on Wednesday, in addition to announcing that the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five and over will be available in the EU from 13 December. In addition, he has said that between now and March there will be plenty of vaccines in the 27 to vaccinate all of Europe with the booster dose.
“On a personal basis,” said Von der Leyen when asked about mandatory vaccination, which some countries are imposing, “two years ago we would not have imagined this horrible pandemic, we have vaccines that save lives but are not used, and this comes at a cost. enormous health. 66% of the European population is vaccinated, that means that there are a third, 150 million, who are not. It is true that there are small children and other people who cannot be vaccinated for some disease. But it is true that This is an understandable and appropriate debate that we must face. It needs a discussion, a common approach and a discussion that we must have. “
A vaccination that is also essential to keep the European certificate alive, which continues to open the doors to mobility within the EU and that Brussels wants to expire nine months after the full schedule if the booster dose is not applied. . Of course, just three months ago, the European Commission said that it was not “urgent” to apply booster doses, regardless of for people with immune problems or over 65 years.
And what is the global photo? That the majority of immunized people, now with third doses, are mainly from rich nations, very advanced in coverage and with ample supply, which contrasts with vaccination still lagging in some of the poorest parts of the world and reflects a new edge of the disparities that have marked the advance of global vaccination.
By the end of November, more than 170 million booster doses had been administered worldwide, the vast majority in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to elDiario.es’s analysis of figures compiled by Our World in Data (OWID ). According to figures provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), 92 nations have so far confirmed booster programs or additional doses, including those that have not started them yet. None are low-income.
The agile rhythm of administration of the third doses contrasts with the slow advance of vaccination in the poorest regions. To date, in high-income countries, a boost has been administered to almost 7% of the population. This percentage exceeds that of inhabitants in low-income countries who have received at least one dose of the vaccine (5.3%) and even doubles the proportion of citizens of poor countries who have completed the basic regimen (3%).
In absolute terms, there are 84 million vaccinated with extra doses in rich countries and 34 million with at least one injection in poor countries. In percentage terms, the differences narrow because there is more population in rich countries than in poor ones. In those with greater resources there is also a larger aging population, which is usually the priority for reinforcements.