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COVID-19

Europe’s Covid-19 ‘hotspots’ to be sent four million more vaccine doses

The European Union will receive an extra four million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses over the next two weeks to be deployed to Covid-19 "hotspots", European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

Europe's Covid-19 'hotspots' to be sent four million more vaccine doses
Photo: AFP/ ECDC

The delivery — over and above already agreed supplies from the vaccine-maker — will go to affected border regions within the bloc to “help ensure or restore free movement of goods and people”, she said in a statement.

The announcement came as the commission attempted to persuade at least six member states — including her home country Germany — to lift virus-related border restrictions deemed by Brussels to be excessive.

It also follows a trip by the leaders of Austria and Denmark to Israel toform a vaccine-producing alliance that exemplified broad criticism of the lack of deliveries so far under the commission’s pre-purchasing scheme.

Von der Leyen said the four million extra BioNTech/Pfizer doses will be delivered “before the end of March” and will help member states deploy “their targeted use where they are most needed, in particular in border regions”.

She said they would go to “tackle aggressive variants of the virus and to improve the situation in hotspots”.

Von der Leyen pointed to steep rises in infections and hospitalisations in Austria’s Tyrol region, France’s Nice and Moselle regions, Bolzano in Italy, and parts of Germany’s Bavaria and Saxony regions.

Those had led to “stringent measures” by some member states “and even in certain cases to impose new border controls,” it said.

The statement pointed out that BioNTech/Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine was showing itself to be “highly effective” against the new variants.

It added that the four million extra doses would be made available for member states to buy according to their population size.

Image by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

Escalation plans

Von der Leyen called the additional agreement “quick and decisive action” on the part of her commission, and emphasised that restoring freedom of movement within the EU was “key for the functioning of health systems and the Single Market”.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed von der Leyen’s announcement, saying it would mean an additional 46,500 BioNTech/Pfizer doses for his country.

“When they get here, they will be administered quickly,” he tweeted.

The Netherlands’ Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted that the extra delivery would mean 169,000 more doses of that vaccine for his country.

France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said the agreement meant “nearly 600,000” extra doses for his country.

EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton, who heads a task force to clear vaccine production bottlenecks, said on Tuesday — before von der Leyen’s announcement — that the bloc was expecting delivery of 55 million doses of different vaccines in March.

Von der Leyen has said that deliveries would jump to 100 million doses per month in April, May and June. Her goal is to have 70 percent of adults in the EU fully vaccinated by mid-September.

Member comments

  1. I do not think there is a need for more vaccines in France, they will just stay in the freezer as France can not even efficiently poke away the doses they already have. France is so far behind, with their bureaucratie. They look and say ‘Oops this is a hotspot, just lock the place down’ instead of ‘Emergency here, get pokers organised and start vaccinating everyone who wants in this area’.

  2. No need to give bureaucrate France more vaccines, they can not even poke away the vaccines they already have. Look how far behind France is……. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Hotspot? Every logic person has the solution, Mobilise pokers and vaccinate everyone in this area as a matter of urgency. Those 20 year olds are superspreaders, not the 80 year olds. Not even the naughty ones who stick their nose above their mask. Those masks who if they were the solution would have reduced cases by now! Yesterday 30000 again. Probably a good idea in public transport, now you see single people in cars and outside wear them in areas where there is fine, how much people love their masks……. Sigh.

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TECH

‘A great day for consumers in Europe’: EU votes for single smartphone charger

The EU parliament on Tuesday passed a new law requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets and cameras from late 2024 in a move that was heralded a "great day for consumers".

'A great day for consumers in Europe': EU votes for single smartphone charger

The measure, which EU lawmakers adopted with a vote 602 in favour, 13 against, will – in Europe at least – push Apple to drop its outdated Lightning port on its iPhones for the USB-C one already used by many of its competitors.

Makers of laptops will have extra time, from early 2026, to also follow suit.

EU policymakers say the single charger rule will simplify the life of Europeans, reduce the mountain of obsolete chargers and reduce costs for consumers.

It is expected to save at least 200 million euros ($195 million) per year and cut more than a thousand tonnes of EU electronic waste every year, the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said.

The EU move is expected to ripple around the world.

The European Union’s 27 countries are home to 450 million people who count among the world’s wealthiest consumers. Regulatory changes in the bloc often set global industry norms in what is known as the Brussels Effect.

“Today is a great day for consumers, a great day¬† for our environment,” Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba, the European Parliament’s pointman on the issue, said.

“After more than a decade; the single charger for multiple electronic devices will finally become a reality for Europe and hopefully we can also inspire the rest of the world,” he said.

Faster data speed

Apple, the world’s second-biggest seller of smartphones after Samsung, already uses USB-C charging ports on its iPads and laptops.

But it resisted EU legislation to force a change away from its Lightning ports on its iPhones, saying that was disproportionate and would stifle innovation.

However some users of its latest flagship iPhone models — which can capture extremely high-resolution photos and videos in massive data files — complain that the Lightning cable transfers data at only a bare fraction of the speed USB-C does.

The EU law will in two years’ time apply to all handheld mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, portable speakers, handheld videogame consoles, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, mice and portable navigation systems.

People buying a device will have the choice of getting one with or without a USB-C charger, to take advantage of the fact they might already have at least one cable at home.

Makers of electronic consumer items in Europe agreed a single charging norm from dozens on the market a decade ago under a voluntary agreement with the European Commission.

But Apple refused to abide by it, and other manufacturers kept their alternative cables going, meaning there are still some six types knocking  around.

They include old-style USB-A, mini-USB and USB-micro, creating a jumble of cables for consumers.

USB-C ports can charge at up to 100 Watts, transfer data up to 40 gigabits per second, and can serve to hook up to external displays.

Apple also offers wireless charging for its latest iPhones — and there is speculation it might do away with charging ports for cables entirely in future models.

But currently the wireless charging option offers lower power and data transfer speeds than USB-C.

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