India: Merkel shares concern over pharmaceutical exports

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Speaking at a joint press conference with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the German Chancellor said the EU’s failure to agree to a joint travel policy on coronavirus was starting to “backfire”. In a clear swipe at Portugal, Mrs Merkel said the country’s decision to allow British holidaymakers to enter the country could cost the bloc a surge in Covid cases.

She said: “What I regret is that we have not yet been able to achieve a uniform behaviour among the member states in terms of travel restrictions.

“That is backfiring.

“We now have a situation in Portugal that could perhaps have been avoided, and that’s why we have to work even harder on this.

“We’ve made pretty good progress in recent months, but we’re not yet where I would like the European Union to be.”

The EU is yet to add the UK to its list of safe countries for travel.

However, as the list is non-binding for EU member states, Portugal and Spain decided to allow the entry of British tourists regardlessly.

The World Health Organization warned on Friday the Delta variant was fast becoming the globally dominant strain of COVID-19 because of its “significantly increased transmissibility.”

The German leader also took a swipe at London, calling on UEFA to to act responsibly regarding plans to hold the final of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament in London due to safety concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in England.

She added: “I hope that UEFA will act responsibly with regard to the Euro matches.

“I would not like to see packed stadiums there, and I support all efforts made by the British government to enforce the necessary hygiene measures.”

It comes as the UK Government announced on Tuesday more than 60,000 football fans will be allowed to attend the semi-finals and final at Wembley if they have a negative Covid-19 test or prove they are double vaccinated.

Uefa is thought to be pushing for 2,500 VIPs to attend the competition’s final on July 11 without being subjected to quarantine requirements that apply to other international travellers.

The Government and Uefa have been engaged in talks over travel restrictions, which a UK source said were “positive” and that “final details are being worked through”, although ministers had indicated that some restrictions would remain in place.

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Earlier reports had suggested the final could be moved to Budapest if a deal could not be reached, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also said that Rome could provide an alternative venue.

But in a statement, Uefa said: “Uefa, the English FA and the English authorities are working closely together successfully to stage the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 in Wembley and there are no plans to change the venue for those games.”

Meanwhile, British travellers continue to face restrictions over taking holidays abroad.

Attendance capacity for the tournament’s closing matches at the stadium has been increased to 75%, which could see some of the largest crowds for a sporting event in the UK since the start of the pandemic.

All ticket holders will be required to have a negative coronavirus test or provide proof of two doses of a vaccine 14 days before a game.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As we continue to make progress on our road map out of lockdown, keeping the public safe remains our top priority.

“We have worked extremely closely with Uefa and the FA to ensure rigorous and tight public health measures are in place whilst allowing more fans to see the action live.

“The finals promise to be an unforgettable moment in our national recovery from the pandemic.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the matches “will show that when it comes to great sporting events, London simply cannot be beaten” and urged Londoners to stick to Covid rules during the tournament.

Mark Bullingham, FA chief executive, said: “We hope that this programme lays the foundation for the safe return of fans in stadiums all across the country next season.”

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