The U.K. and the European Union said on Wednesday they had begun talks to work toward a negotiated solution of their quarrel over the export of COVID-19 vaccines, in an attempt to avoid bans and countermeasures that would have slowed down inoculation campaigns on both sides of the English Channel.
- The two sides pledged in a joint statement to “create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all [their] citizens.”
- The news came as a video summit of EU leaders was about to discuss a proposal giving member states new powers to ban the export of COVID-19 vaccines to countries that don’t reciprocate.
- Europeans’ criticism is mostly focused on U.K.-Swedish pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca AZN, +1.15% AZN, +1.12%, which only provided 30 million doses of its vaccine to the EU in the first quarter of the year, out of the 120 million it had promised in its contract with the Union.
- The pandemic keeps spreading in France, with daily hospitalizations in Paris now as high as the level reached during the first wave of the pandemic a year ago, according to the chief executive of the Paris hospitals system.
- The number of new coronavirus cases in Germany jumped on Thursday to the highest rate since early January, while the government is trying to overcome differences with the country’s regions and among the ruling coalition parties on which new restrictive measures should be taken.
- The U.K. government is considering putting France, and possibly even Germany, on the list of countries whose residents would need a strict quarantine, in designated hotels, before being allowed into the country, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.
The outlook: COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have hardly accelerated in Europe in the last weeks. Only 14% of EU residents have received a shot so far, compared with 46% in the U.K. (and 39% in the U.S.) And the third wave of the pandemic will delay the recovery further in most of Europe.