Vaccine Delivery Delays Will Only Be Bumps Down the Road, Not Roadblocks
The European Union is mulling the reopening of its border after a year-long closure. Sources say the block may soon allow passengers from countries where the pandemic is under control, and fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter without having to be put under quarantine.
France has said the EU plans to confirm a third party list for reopening borders on June 9th. Spain has announced plans to open its borders to travelers from a batch of non-EU countries including China, Britain and Thailand.
For more on this topic, Guo Yan invited Adjunct Professor Ivo Ganchev of Beijing Union University to join her on The Beijing Hour. You can listen to the full episode of the show from May 26, 2021 on the China Plus website, skip to the interview excerpt which begins at 20:00, or read a full transcript of the excerpt below.
Guo Yan: Many view the reopening of borders as a silver lining for economies in the bloc after a year of closure. But concerns over health risks and vaccination rates are mounting. To what extent will this weigh on the EU’s schedule for reopening?
Ivo Ganchev: Health concerns always weigh in to a large extent when taking this type of measures. But there is a also a need for the EU to start allowing some visitors in: for instance, the European economy has just started to recover in the past few months, and the new measures could help to take further steps in this direction. Recently, we saw discussions on expanding the list of areas from which non-essential travel is allowed by adjusting the criteria that’s used to evaluate them. So, the threshold was shifted from below 25 infection cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period to below 75 for the same number of people, for the same period. So this is where the EU policy will stand in the short term.
But, it’s still important to note that the current plan for opening the border to third countries includes a so-called “emergency brake mechanism”, which allows member states to adopt an urgent, temporary restriction on all travel from third-countries.
Guo Yan: The specific reopening policies vary among the economies within the bloc. Getting vaccinated is key in the decision to allow a traveler to enter. What does this mean for vaccine supplies which are already under enormous strain, with inoculations going up across the world?
Ivo Ganchev: Of course, we can reasonably expect that this will lead to a slight increase in the demand for certain types of vaccines, especially the ones that allow entry into the EU. One of the challenges here is that the EU has made it easier for one to enter if they’ve received a certain type of vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency, so certainly these types of vaccines might be in greater demand in the coming weeks, or the coming months but in order to alleviate this issue at the moment the European Medicines Agency is considering other types of vaccines as well. Now, the production lines of all of these vaccines are, of course, affected by a number of things, for instance new studies on their effects and of course, pandemic outbursts and economic fluctuations. So we’ve seen, in a number of cases, deliveries getting delayed but luckily so far, especially when it comes to for instance that of deliveries to the EU, they have got there in the end, so this is what we expect to happen. Most countries have got their vaccination plan in place so even if there are some delays, we hope that these will be bumps on the road, rather than roadblocks.
Guo Yan: Some counties in the bloc such as Spain have announced open borders to some non-EU countries including China. What does this mean for personnel exchanges and businesses activities?
Ivo Ganchev: This is hopefully good news, of course, as long as we don’t see another big COVID outbreak. Spain is a particularly interesting case because, as we know, it is second most visited country in the world behind France – or at least it was before the pandemic. And after we saw COVID cases rising, tourism and visitor numbers plunged down, but tourism in Spain is very important for the economy, making up over 12% of the country’s GDP, and this also creates a lot of workplaces. At the moment, one of the largest tourism fairs is taking place in Spain with over 50,000 people attending, and even though that’s significantly less than what we usually see at this type of event there, if it goes through successfully without causing a major outbreak, and they have safety protocols in place and travel protocols in place, hopefully Spain and other countries will be in a position to open up further.
Shane Bigham (Host): That was Ivo Ganchev, Adjunct Professor of Beijing Union University, talking about the prospects for reopening the EU borders.