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Travel restrictions have no end in sight as European leaders worry about new variants

Looking to holiday in Greece or Spain? You could be waiting some time. European leaders are expected to say on Thursday that all non-essential travel needs to remain restricted as the Covid health situation remains “serious” across the continent, according to a document seen by CNBC.

The European Union’s 27 heads of state will gather virtually on Thursday afternoon to discuss the current state of the pandemic in the region. The EU is still one of the worst hit parts of the world by the coronavirus, with a number of nations still in lockdown or with strict social restrictions in place. At the same time, vaccination efforts have faced a bumpy start and some question whether the EU will reach its target of vaccinating 70% of its adult population by the summer.

“The epidemiological situation remains serious, and the new variants pose additional challenges. We must therefore uphold tight restrictions while stepping up efforts to accelerate the provision of vaccines,” European leaders are expected to say, according to the draft document.

There have been more than 21 million cases and over 515,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Europe so far, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Since late 2020, health authorities have identified a number of new variants of the virus, deemed more spreadable and infectious.

The ongoing health emergency is particularly acute in the Czech Republic and parts of Latvia, Sweden, Spain and Portugal.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs the summits, said: “The new variants have become the dominant strains in many member states. This implies enhancing our sequencing capacity, and preparing the groundwork for vaccine updates.” Given the health crisis, European leaders are not yet inclined to ease travel restrictions.

Travel restrictions have no end in sight as European leaders worry about new variants, CNBC, Feb 25

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