EU civil war looms: Macron and Scholz take aim at Italy in extraordinary press conference

Omicron: Professor outlines symptoms of new covid variant

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Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, the two influential leaders voiced their opposition to a move by several member states to introduce mandatory Covid tests for passengers travelling between the bloc. A number of countries, including Italy, Greece, Portugal and Ireland have tightened travel restrictions following a surge in cases of the new variant – first discovered in South Africa.

Many EU officials argue the move undermines existing measures to ensure travel is as Covid-secure as possible.

Mr Macron said he was against introducing the tests “because we are attached to the good functioning of the internal market”.

He added: “The moment a certain variant is in one of the European countries, it spreads very rapidly to others.”

At the same briefing, Mr Scholz said: “Freedom of movement in Europe is important.”

The EU already has in place a digital Covid pass system which shows whether a passenger is vaccinated, tested negative for Covid or has recently recovered from the virus.

The pass was introduced in July and is designed to reduce the need for additional tests on arrival and the need for quarantine.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has also rejected calls for more tests and urged member states to unite behind the current measures.

He said: “With the digital COVID certificate, we have a good European solution.

“Let’s try to stick to this European solution.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi insisted the tests are needed as there are less cases of new variant in the country compared to other member states.

According to an EU official, he said: “The Omicron variant is less widespread in Italy and it is necessary to maintain the advantage to protect the health system.

“This is the reason behind the decision to have those entering Italy taking the tests.

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“Coordination at the EU level must be guided by the principle of maximum caution.”

Italy has taken a pre-cautionary approach to the new variant as it was the first country in Europe to be overwhelmed by Covid in early 2020.

Italy has since recorded the highest number of Covid-related deaths in the EU since the pandemic began.

More than 130,000 people have died after testing positive for the virus.

Covid cases in Italy remain relatively low, but daily infections and hospitalisations have begun to slowly increase in recent days.

On Thursday, the number of new infections rose to 26,109 from 23,195 in the previous 24 hour period.

There were 101 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 84 on Wednesday.

The total number of intensive care patients also increased to 917 from 870.

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