British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak to the European Union (EU) leaders this week in one-on-one phone calls over potential coronavirus vaccine ban from the regional bloc, local media reported Monday.

Johnson is expected to call the EU leaders ahead of their virtual meeting on Thursday to discuss a ban on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine exports to Britain, the BBC reported.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said over the weekend that the EU has the power to “forbid” exports of the coronavirus vaccine.EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness also refused to rule out a ban, saying that “everything is on the table”.

In response, a British government minister said it was crucial the EU stand by its commitments.”One thing I think we can do is remind the EU of the commitments they’ve made,” Minister for Care Helen Whately at the British Department of Health and Social Care told Sky News.

“Vaccine nationalism, the threat of speculation about limiting supply doesn’t do anybody any good,” Whately said. “What’s important is that we work together with the EU and around the world with other countries to maximize the supply and the production of vaccine…That’s the thing that is in everybody’s interest — ours and also the EU’s.”

Many European countries are seeing a surge in infections amid the slow vaccine rollout, with France and Italy among those implementing new restrictions. More than 27.6 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

More than half of Britain’s adult population have now received the first dose, a milestone hailed by Johnson as a “fantastic achievement”.

However, the National Health Service (NHS) England has warned that Britain is going to face a “significant reduction” in vaccine supplies from March 29 onwards. There has been concerns that an EU ban on the vaccine exports could the make the situation worse.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that a need to retest 1.7 million vaccine doses as well as delays to doses arriving from India are the reasons why Britain is facing a “tighter” supply in COVID-19 jabs next month. But the government insisted that the country is on course to offer all adults a dose by the end of July.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

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