London warns Italy export ban on Covid-19 vaccine to Australia ‘endangers global efforts to fight virus’

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London has warned Brussels that export bans on Covid-19 doses to non-EU countries threaten the global jab rollout, after Italy stopped a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine reaching Australia.

“We are all dependent on global supply chains, putting in place restrictions endangers global efforts to fight the virus,” Reuters quotes UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson as saying, explaining that the UK expects the EU to honour its commitments.

It emerged on Thursday that Italy had prevented 250,700 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine reaching Australia, in the first such move by an EU member state since new vaccine export rules took effect in January.

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Johnson recently spoke to the President of the EU’s executive, Ursula Von der Leyen, who told him that new EU rules were for “transparency,” not to restrict vaccine exports, the spokesperson said.

Italy made its move under new measures the EU announced in January, which require member states to authorize vaccine deliveries before they are shipped outside the bloc, in an effort to safeguard Europe’s own supply of jabs.

The legislation was brought in after a huge row was sparked between Brussels and London in January due to AstraZeneca’s announcement it would cut by more than half the number of jabs delivered to the EU due to production issues.

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The EU has reportedly stood by Italy’s decision to halt the vaccine, which was taken at the end of last week, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The Italian Foreign Ministry has defended the move on the basis that there is already a limited supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the EU and that Australia has fared better than some European nations in terms of Covid-19 infections.

On Friday Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said that he understood Italy’s decision due to the “unbridled crisis situation” faced by the EU, which he said is not the case in Australia.

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