Shepparton News

EU pandemic warning

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BRUSSELS: The pace of vaccinatio­n against COVID-19 must be quickened across the globe to avert ‘‘a pandemic of the non-vaccinated’’, the European Union’s chief executive has said in her annual policy speech.

Ursula von der Leyen’s second ‘state of the union’ address since she took over as European Commission president comes after two years that have tested the resilience of the bloc with the COVID-19 pandemic, a sharp economic downturn and strains over Brexit.

‘‘Let’s make sure that it does not turn into a pandemic of the non-vaccinated,’’ von der Leyen told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday.

Announcing a new donation of another 200 million doses by the middle of next year, von der

Leyen said she was also worried by variation of vaccinatio­n rates among the EU’s member states.

‘‘The next year will be another test of character,’’ she said.

At the end of August, 70 per cent of the adult population in the 27-nation EU had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

This marked a milestone after a slow start, but also masked big difference­s among EU countries.

By mid April, 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administer­ed to the EU citizens.

Nineteen EU member states would have their economy back at pre-pandemic levels this year, with the others following next year, she said.

Von der Leyen wore a mask emblazoned with the EU flag’s circle of 12 gold stars, greeting lawmakers at the assembly ahead of her speech with fist bumps.

 ?? Picture: EPA/JULIEN WARNAND ?? Caution aired: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday.
Picture: EPA/JULIEN WARNAND Caution aired: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday.

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