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Can't Be Deaf and Blind to COVID-19 Cases Abroad, Warns UK Minister

An army soldier wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sits next to a military dog after a demonstration of the dog on how to detect the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an army veterinary hospital in New Delhi, India, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

An army soldier wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sits next to a military dog after a demonstration of the dog on how to detect the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an army veterinary hospital in New Delhi, India, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there was a risk of travellers importing new variants of the deadly virus into the country

The UK is warning citizens against booking summer holidays abroad at the moment, with a senior minister saying a spike in coronavirus cases in neighbouring European countries could put gains from the vaccination programme at risk. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there was a risk of travellers importing new variants of the deadly virus into the country if travel plans are not strictly controlled.

We can’t be deaf and blind to what’s going on outside the UK, Wallace told Sky News’. We can’t put at risk the gains of our vaccination campaign. If we were to be reckless in any way, and import new variants that put out risks, what would people say about that, he questioned.

“We’ve got a good direction of travel, we’re getting there, and I think we need to make sure we preserve that at all costs,” he added. His intervention came over the weekend, when England hit a new milestone of more than half of all adults being covered by its vaccination programme.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak to his European Union (EU) counterparts this week as a brewing row over COVID-19 vaccine supplies continues, media reports said on Monday. EU leaders will hold a virtual meeting later in the week to discuss a ban on Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine exports to the UK as it tries to secure its own supplies of the vaccine for EU citizens.

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The European Commission president says the EU can “forbid” vaccines made on the continent being sent to the UK. The latest row appears to revolve around doses of the Oxford University vaccine made in a Dutch factory. The EU has encountered production problems with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, which is being related to timings of when contracts were signed for these deliveries.

It comes into sharp focus as much-anticipated results from a US trial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs involving more than 32,000 volunteers revealed that the vaccine is safe and highly effective. Several European leaders paused rollout of the vaccine amid concerns of a possible link with blood clots, which is since being lifted as UK and EU regulators had said there was no evidence the vaccine causes blood clots.

On Sunday, the UK recorded another 5,312 coronavirus cases, taking the total tally to 4,296,583. Also, 33 deaths were reported, taking the UK’s total to 126,155. Also, more than 27.6 million people in the UK – more than half the adult population – have now received at least one dose of a vaccine.

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first published:March 22, 2021, 15:13 IST