EU leaders are holding talks via a video summit with the focus on how to speed up the bloc's vaccine rollout. The coronavirus pandemic prevented the leaders from meeting in person, reflecting the poor epidemiological situation in the bloc.
The spread of more contagious variants of the virus has pushed hospitals in some countries to the limit, and combined with the lack of vaccines available in Europe, has led several EU members to impose strict lockdown measures over the Easter period.
Three months after vaccination campaigns started, fewer than 5% of the EU's 450 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Speaking ahead of the video talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said problems with the delivery of coronavirus vaccines have underscored the need for the EU to redouble its efforts to produce doses within the bloc.
On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled a plan to block exports of doses to any countries that aren't deemed to be playing fair. But the commission's proposal has been divisive. Some countries see it as an instrument of last resort that should not undermine the EU's reputation as an open trading bloc. Others say it is a crucial tool to guarantee doses and vaccine ingredients reach the bloc.
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