Covid-19 testing will have to continue ‘forever’, infectious disease expert says

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Covid-19 testing will have to continue 'forever', infectious disease expert says


Vaccines administer the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a medical center in Bridport, England on March 20. Finnbarr Webster / Getty Images

A senior European diplomat calls for caution in the use of the proposed new rules that would govern Covid-19 vaccine exports outside the EU. The rules were announced by the European Commission earlier on Wednesday.

The stricter export controls proposed by the Commission would result in an assessment of vaccine shipments based on the vaccination rate and vaccine export rate of the destination country.

In a briefing to journalists, the diplomat said the EU and European countries must “be careful of the nuclear option even of a pure export ban”. And if it is not used correctly in “the right situations it will backfire.”

“We speak like – I would say – of a pharmaceutical superpower, we have a huge concentration of pharmacological companies on our territory”, whose presence “accounts for several percentages of our jobs, of the GNP”, explained the diplomat.

“We are very aware of the interdependence of these supply chains, and we believe that, using an export blocking tool could backfire very quickly on ourselves,” the diplomat said, adding that he fears “that this clearly exposes us to retaliatory measures, breach of trust and reduced future investment and trade opportunities. “

The existing export mechanism – which focuses on pharmaceutical companies – has been in place since the end of January and requires every company making the Covid-19 vaccine to register its intention to export doses outside the EU. European countries, together with the Commission, decide whether to approve or deny shipments.

According to figures released today by the Commission, more than 300 applications have been lodged, with 43 million vaccines exported to 33 countries. A single shipment of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Italy to Australia has been blocked.

The diplomat welcomed this “excellent by-product” of the current mechanism. “We understand of course the need for greater transparency, we fully support the Commission in this regard”, adding that “we now have a very precise vision of the organization of export flows. “

Asked why the expanded legislation was being proposed now, the diplomat said he felt it, “it is probably a sign of some nervousness that reigns” in some European countries.

“The Commission is not deaf to what is going on in the Member States, it hears calls for help or outrage, and it is up to the Commission to reflect on this and put proposals on the table “, he added.

European leaders will meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss this proposal and the wider coronavirus crisis in Europe. If approved, the expanded export mechanism “would apply for up to six weeks after its entry into force”, according to the Commission’s draft text.

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