The European Union on Wednesday (March 17) threatened to ban exports of COVID-19 vaccines to Britain to safeguard scarce doses for its own citizens facing a third wave of the pandemic that would jeopardise plans to restart travel this summer.
“We are in the crisis of the century and I’m not ruling out anything for now because we have to make sure that Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.
She called for more reciprocity from countries that are also vaccine producers and singled out Britain, airing frustration over lack of deliveries from AstraZeneca.
“We’re still waiting for doses to come from the U.K.,” von der Leyen said in the latest sign of souring ties between Britain and the 27-nation bloc since Brexit.
She warned further restrictive measures on vaccine exports were on the table.
“If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness,” von der Leyen said.
The situation threatens plans announced by the Commission to launch a “green digital certificate” which von der Leyen said would help member states bring back the freedom of movement safely.
Southern EU countries reliant on tourism and other proponents of the new COVID-19 certificate hope it would win final approvals in June and go online in time for the peak season. But countries including France, Belgium and Germany have voiced scepticism.