Boris Johnson has been “reassured” EU leaders “don’t want to see blockades” on the export of COVID vaccines – as he warned a third wave of infections in Europe would likely hit the UK as well.
Amid a dispute over a possible block on exports of coronavirus jabs to the UK, the prime minister said he had been “reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don’t want to see blockades”.
He stressed the UK was “on course” to vaccinate the top nine priority groups – including all over-50s – by 15 April, while the government would “bash on” with its roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions over the next three months.
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Mr Johnson said he had talked to EU leaders “repeatedly over the period”, adding: “We’re all facing the same pandemic, we all have the same problems.”
And the prime minister, speaking on a visit to Preston, Lancashire, on Monday, also warned a recent surge in COVID cases across Europe would impact Britain.
“I think one thing worth stressing is that on the continent right now, you can see sadly there is a third wave under way,” he said.
“And people in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well.
“I suspect we will feel those effects in due course, that’s why we’re getting on with our vaccination programme as fast as we can.
“A vaccination campaign, developing vaccines, rolling them out, these are international projects and they require international cooperation.”
Both France and Italy have recently been forced into new coronavirus restrictions amid a rise in cases and the slow rollout of vaccines across the EU – an issue that has heaped huge pressure on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
EU leaders will hold a video conference on Thursday to discuss the bloc’s vaccine rollout and the fresh spike in cases in many member states.
Ms von der Leyen spoke at the weekend of the “possibility to forbid planned exports” of COVID vaccines, as she demanded AstraZeneca fulfil its delivery of doses to the bloc before delivering to other countries.
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