COVID-19 response discussed at European Council

EU Heads of State or Government discussed the coordination on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They shared best practices and exchanged views on testing, vaccinations and detecting new variants of the virus.

The leaders welcomed the adoption by the Council earlier in the day, a recommendation on a common framework for the use, validation and strengthening the use of rapid antigen tests and on the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results.

Member states had unanimously agreed on a common framework to help mitigate the spread of the virus and contribute to the smooth functioning of the internal market. The mutual recognition of test results for SARS-CoV2 infection carried by certified health bodies is essential in order to facilitate cross-border movement, cross-border contact tracing and treatment.

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The leaders expressed their will to accelerate vaccination and highlighted that commitments on deliveries made by companies must be respected.

Leaders reaffirmed the need to have a close follow-up of the vaccination process. All possible means will be examined to ensure rapid supply, including early distribution to avoid delays.

New virus variants
The leaders showed determination to limit the spread of the virus by adopting similar measures among the Member States and highlighted the importance of increasing the sequencing capacity.

Borders and the single market
The leaders discussed the importance of keeping borders open to ensure the functioning of the EU’s single market. No indiscriminate travel bans should be imposed. However, measures restricting non-essential travel in the EU may be needed to contain the spread of the virus.

The leaders acknowledged that the Council may need to review its recommendations on non-essential travels into the EU in light of the risks posed by the new virus variants.

Vaccine certificates
The European Council members agreed to work on a standardised and inter-operable form of proof of vaccination for medical purposes, agree on common elements to include in certificates for medical purposes and decide in which circumstances these certificates can be used.

International solidarity
Defending that vaccines should be treated as a global common good, the leaders reaffirmed their solidarity with third countries. They highlighted the importance of the Covax initiative and Team Europe. The members of the European Council agreed that effective support should be delivered as soon as possible.

On January 19, the European Commission issued a communication setting out suggestions for a range of measures to be taken to contain the pandemic while preserving the functioning of the EU Single Market.

Commission communication “A united front to beat COVID-19”, January 19, 2021

Main results:
Oral conclusions by President Charles Michel following the video conference of the members of the European Council on January 21, 2021

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