Flights or direct ferries from Europe to carry Covid-19 vaccines over Brexit concerns

Vaccines to be flown in but UK ‘landbridge’ to be avoided if road travel needed in case of delays

Covid-19: The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, if approved, is likely to be the first to arrive in the State early next year

Covid-19: The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, if approved, is likely to be the first to arrive in the State early next year

 

Plans are being made to have Covid-19 vaccines delivered into the State by air and, if needed, by land and sea directly from mainland Europe to avoid the UK “landbridge” in case of post-Brexit delays.

Concerns about potential congestion at ports after EU-UK border controls come into effect on January 1st has led the Government’s Covid-19 vaccine task force to plan around possible logistical Brexit issues.

The task force plans to transport vaccines to the State by air freight but, in the unlikely event that air transport is not available, the vaccines will come on direct ferries from Europe, according to people familiar with the plans.

Potential stoppages on the transit route through Britain after post-Brexit border checks and inspections come into effect were considered by the task force as part of their planning for the delivery of vaccines.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this week that he did not expect Brexit congestion to be an issue in the deliveries and the task force’s job was “to get the logistics of this right”.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, if approved, is likely to be the first to arrive in the State early next year and is compact enough to be flown in large quantities, with about 1,000 doses fitting in trays the equivalent size of a pizza box. The medicine must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius requiring specialised transportation.

Talks

Meanwhile talks between British and European Union negotiators continued in London last night amid warnings that significant gaps remained as time was running out to reach a deal.

Stefaan De Rynck, a senior adviser to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, said talks were “probably past kilometre 40” in a 42km marathon.

“Significant divergences remain. Both sides are working hard to overcome them but the outcome is uncertain,” he said.

Most of the legal text of an agreement has already been agreed but differences remain on fisheries, the level playing field of fair competition guarantees, and how the agreement should be enforced.

Sources close to both sides said talks could continue through Friday and perhaps the weekend, with British prime minister Boris Johnson expected to speak to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen before any final breakthrough is possible.

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