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Statement of the members of the European Council on COVID-19 and health

I. COVID 19

1. We are determined to continue to work together and coordinate our action to tackle the pandemic and its consequences. 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.

2. For the time being, non-essential travel needs to be restricted. We welcome the adoption of the two Council recommendations on travel within, and into, the EU, according to which restrictions can be introduced in accordance with the principles of proportionality and non-discrimination and taking into account the specific situation of cross-border communities. The unhindered flow of goods and services within the Single Market must be ensured, including by making use of Green Lanes.

3. Vaccination has now begun in all our Member States and our vaccine strategy has ensured that all Member States have access to vaccines. Even so, we need to urgently accelerate the authorisation, production and distribution of vaccines, as well as vaccination. We also need to enhance our surveillance and detection capacity in order to identify variants as early as possible so as to control their spread, as set out in the Commission Communication on the ‘HERA Incubator: Anticipating together the threat of COVID-19 variants’. We support the additional efforts by the Commission to work with industry and Member States to increase the capacity of current vaccine production as well as to adjust vaccines to the new variants as necessary. We also support the Commission’s ongoing efforts to accelerate the availability of raw materials, facilitate agreements between manufacturers across supply chains, scope existing facilities so as to help production scale-up in the EU and further the research and development efforts. Companies must ensure predictability of their vaccine production and respect contractual delivery deadlines. Transparency with regard to the overall efforts should be enhanced.

4. We call for work to continue on a common approach to vaccination certificates and will come back to this issue.

5. We reaffirm our solidarity with third countries and underline our determination to step up our global response to the pandemic. We remain committed to improving access to vaccines for priority groups in our neighbourhood and beyond, based on common principles, and to supporting a global approach through the COVAX Facility. We welcome COVAX’s first plans to distribute vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries. We commit to contributing the EU’s fair share to the funding of ACT-A.

6. We will continue to keep the overall situation under close review and take action as needed.

II. HEALTH

7. Although the COVID-19 crisis is not yet over, it is time to start strengthening our future health resilience now.

8. We will work to improve EU coordination, in line with the Union competences under the Treaties, to ensure better prevention, preparedness for and response to future health emergencies. As a matter of priority, work is needed to ensure that the EU will have the means to secure enough vaccines and critical supplies for all its Member States, to support the entire process of developing safe and effective vaccines and medicines including through early investment in production capacity, and to make best use of big data and digital technologies for medical research and healthcare. Work on the Health Union proposals and on the Pharmaceutical Strategy, including as regards access to medicines across Member States, should also be taken forward.

9. We invite the Commission to present a report by June 2021 on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so far. The report should also address information-sharing, coordination, communication and joint public procurement, as well as how to ensure adequate production capacity in the EU and build up strategic reserves while supporting the diversification and resilience of global medical supply chains. This work should be followed up in the second semester of 2021.

10. Global multilateral cooperation is essential to address current and future health threats. We are committed to advancing global health security, including by strengthening the World Health Organization and working towards an international treaty on pandemics within its framework. In this context, we look forward to the G20 Global Health Summit in Rome.