We are taking the news about the new highly mutated COVID-19 variant very seriously.
We do know that mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more concerning variants of the virus that could spread worldwide within a few months.
It is now important that all of us in Europe act very swiftly, decisively and united. The European Commission has today proposed to Member States to activate the ‘emergency brake' on travel from countries in southern African and other countries affected to limit the spread of the new variant.
All air travel to these countries should be suspended. They should be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant.
And travellers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.
I have spoken about the situation today with scientists and vaccine manufacturers.
They, too, fully support such precautionary measures to avoid international spreading of the concerning variant.
It also depends on all of us as citizens to contribute to a better control of the pandemic.
Please get vaccinated as soon as possible, if not done yet.
And follow the known rules to protect yourself.
Boosters provide even better protection.
That is why Europeans should take every opportunity to protect themselves through vaccination.
We have gained experience with other measures, like masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, but also contact tracing, travel bans and border measures.
This helps to slow down the spread of the virus.
This is important because it buys us valuable time.
Time for more vaccinations and booster shots.
And finally, Europe has taken precautions. The European Union's contract with the manufacturers says that the vaccine must be adapted immediately to new variants as they emerge.