EU tensions as Covid sweeps bloc: Key conference cancelled as leaders likely disagree

Omicron variant: Holidaymaker says travel rules are ‘unfair’

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Charles Michel, the European Council President, had called for a video meeting to discuss the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. It comes as European nations take preventative steps to deal with the new strain as it spreads, with cases already confirmed in several continental nations.

The EU decided against holding a special remote summit for the time being, an official said today (Wednesday).

The bloc’s 27 health ministers will now first asses the situation next Tuesday, before the issue is put to European leaders on December 16 at a regularly planned summit, an official said on condition of anonymity as the meeting had not been officially announced.

An emergency summit had reportedly been discussed for days, but it was hard for health ministers to find a time that suited everyone.

Joe Barnes, the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, tweeted this morning that Mr Michel “has abandoned his idea of a video conference for EU leaders to discuss Covid, most likely because there isn’t a great deal of support for coordination on restrictions and measures at an EU-level.”

James Crisp, the paper’s Europe editor, quipped: “Or maybe EU leaders just sick of sight of him by now?”

According to reports, it was also unclear as to what leaders could agree, since there still remains little information on the new strain of the virus.

The EU nations and the European Council will monitor the developments on a daily basis.

As of Tuesday, there were 44 cases of Omicron reported in 11 EU member states, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

It added the majority involved a history of travel to Africa – where the variant is believed to have originated.

Last week, the UK was one of the first nations to place restrictions on travel from southern African nations.

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Britain has placed six nations in the region – including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe – on the red list for travel.

The EU announced the same day that it was suspending air travel to and from southern African nations, after a case of the new variant was confirmed in Belgium.

Earlier this week, the Omicron variant was detected in 13 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa.

The Netherlands has tightened restrictions amid a surge in Covid cases and concerns over the new variant.

It includes early closing for hospitality venues, and limits on gatherings in homes.

Poland has announced a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming from outside the Schengen area.

Meanwhile, Spain has tightened its travel rules, requiring people from the UK to be double vaccinated.

The German government is currently considering making vaccinations mandatory for residents.

Greece, on the other hand, has said it will make jabs mandatory for over-60s.

As of Tuesday, there were 22 confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the UK.

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