BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron pleaded Thursday for a tougher common line on the entry into the European Union of travelers from outside the bloc, especially those from Great Britain, amid fears of a spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
On her arrival in Brussels for the summit of heads of state and government of the bloc this Thursday and Friday, the German Chancellor said she would press other EU leaders for a more coordinated approach in the matter, especially for tourists from regions where variants of the coronavirus are actively circulating.
“We are obviously concerned about the Delta variant,” she told reporters, referring to the strain that first appeared in India, the most contagious known to date.
The French president for his part called on EU countries to be particularly vigilant on the Delta variant, considered more contagious and, it seems, able to infect people not fully vaccinated.
“We all have to be vigilant because the famous Delta variant is coming, which diffuses much faster than the previous variants, and we see it affecting people who are not vaccinated or who have had only one dose, which forces us to be even faster in this vaccination campaign “, he said on his arrival in Brussels.
According to him, the Twenty-Seven must take coordinated decisions on opening the borders to people outside the bloc.
Paris and Berlin have issued the warnings as the British Prime Minister has hinted that the UK is on the verge of allowing unrestricted overseas travel for people on a full vaccination schedule.
EU member states have established a “white list” of 13 countries, including Australia and the United States, for which travel restrictions are to be lifted. Great Britain is not on this list.
France and Germany require British tourists to quarantine to enter their territory. Portugal and Spain, very dependent on tourism, do not apply such a measure. In the Lisbon region, the Delta variant represents more than half of new cases of contamination.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Costa, however, on Wednesday rejected criticism that Lisbon had been reckless in opening its borders to British tourists. Angela Merkel attributed the rise in contamination in Portugal to lax travel rules. British tourists traveling to Portugal must test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival.
Antonio Costa, however, deemed necessary coordinated EU action on the subject.
(Philip Blenkinsop report in Brussels, with contributions from Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Patricia Rua and Andrey Khalip in Lisbon; French version Claude Chendjou, edited by Sophie Louet)