European Commission President warns older people may need to isolate until end of year

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EU citizens have been asked to suspend their summer vacation plans, France urging European countries to keep their borders closed until September.

The elderly and those with underlying medical conditions may have to remain isolated until the end of the year, warned Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

“I would advise everyone to wait before planning their vacation,” said von der Leyen in an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag published on Sunday. “At the moment, no one can make a reliable forecast for July and August.”

She said the elderly should prepare for several months of isolation until a vaccine is developed. “I know it is difficult and that isolation is a burden, but it is a matter of life and death. We must remain disciplined and patient. We will have to learn to live with this virus for several months, probably until next year, “she said.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, asked that the external borders of the travel area without a Schengen passport remain closed until September, indicating that EU restrictions should remain in place for months.

France told the European Commission this weekend that it will maintain strict border controls until October 30 due to the pandemic and the continuing threat of terrorism.

Macron told French employers and union leaders that overseas travel will remain limited to stem the pandemic. Elisabeth Borne, his Minister of Transport, said: “This is not the right time to buy a ticket to travel to the other side of the world with all the uncertainty about the state of the epidemic in France and in the world. “

Macron is expected to announce an extension of France’s strict lockout for at least another month, perhaps until the end of May, when he addresses the nation on television Monday evening. He can also keep schools closed until September.

Macron is in favor of keeping travel and movement restrictions, even if the number of deaths and infections is decreasing, to avoid a “second wave” of the epidemic.

Von der Leyen said she was reluctant to define an EU-wide exit strategy because European countries faced different problems.

“I don’t want to make a central decision, because the situation in Milan is very different from that in Münster, and also between urban and rural areas,” she said.

Falling death rates in Germany have sparked hostility towards thousands of French workers who commute across the border.

Heiko Maas, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, condemned the insults and ill-treatment inflicted on the French in Germany, who, according to them, spread the virus. “It hurts to see how insulted and attached our French friends are sometimes because of Covid-19,” he tweeted.

Anke Rehlinger, Minister of the Economy of the Saar State, which borders France, apologized to “our French friends” for what she called “isolated incidents”.

She declared: “Our hearts are bleeding for the closing of the borders with France and Luxembourg. We have heard that French people have been insulted and eggs have been thrown at them. People who do such things sin against the friendship between our nations. “

Michael Clivot, the mayor of the German border town of Gersheim, said French people said they had been spit in supermarket queues or on the street. Clivot said Germany’s decision to close the border last month, with the exception of freight and cross-border workers, was wrong. “What we needed was joint action with France. “

The coronavirus has revealed the EU’s lack of unity. The bloc was accused of having stumbled upon the coronavirus crisis as it did when it was faced with previous migration and financial crises.

Italy is furious with Germany and France for refusing to export personal protective equipment. Italy and Spain are angry with their wealthier neighbors in the north for not being able to help them at the start of the epidemic.

Maas agreed that the EU needs to improve joint procurement and production of medical equipment.

Some European countries are taking interim steps to relax the lock-in restrictions. Denmark is due to reopen primary and kindergarten schools on Wednesday.

Von der Leyen said the main factor in determining when restrictions can be lifted for the most vulnerable is not when the coronavirus appears to be under control, but whether or not a vaccine is widely available.

“Without a vaccine, we must limit contact with the elderly as much as possible,” she said, adding that two European research teams are planning to start clinical trials soon.

“Children and youth will have more freedom of movement sooner than the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.”

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