The European Commission on Wednesday recommended a daily review and revisions of travel restrictions to help stop the spread of the new omicron coronavirus variant.
“We are facing again a very worrying epidemiological situation,” EU commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides told a news conference presenting the EU executive body’s latest guidance for EU member states amid the steeply rising COVID-19 cases and the appearance of the omicron variant across the bloc.
In a new statement adopted on Wednesday, the European Commission advised EU countries to continue to keep their borders open with daily reviews of essential travel restrictions, to coordinate with each other to track the eventual spread of the new variant, and to stay ready for all necessary controls.
“Every single day counts in this situation,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president.
She explained that the bloc faces a double challenge with a surge of delta variant cases accompanied by increased hospitalizations and laboratories overwhelmed by test demands, while the new omicron variant has also been detected in the EU.
“We should hope for the best, and prepare for the worst,” she said.
The EU institution also called on national governments to strengthen their efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy, as well as quickly roll out booster shots nine months’ maximum after the first vaccination series.
“Sixty-six percent of the total EU population is not fully vaccinated, so we still need to move forward with fully vaccinating and also with the boosters,” Kyriakides explained.
As of Dec. 13, Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines developed for children aged 5 to 12 will be available for EU countries, the European Commission announced.