German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised the lack of common rules within the European Union (EU) regarding travel, while pointing to the increased levels of Covid-19 in Portugal, which in her view “could have been avoided”.

“What I regret is that we have not yet been able to achieve uniform behaviour among member states in terms of travel restrictions, this is a step backwards,” she said before adding: “We now have a situation in Portugal, which perhaps could have been avoided”.

“And that’s why we have to work even harder” in the area of ​​coordination, stressed Angela Merkel, referring in particular to the permission given by Portugal, who currently chairs the EU Council, for the entry of tourists – such as the British, into the country.

In turn, other countries such as Germany and France have imposed restrictions on travel from the UK due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant (detected in India) of SARS-CoV-2.

“We’ve made pretty good progress over the past few months [in terms of the pandemic], but we’re still not where I would like the EU to be,” said Angela Merkel.

These statements were made days before European leaders met at a European summit in Brussels and at a time when Portugal registers daily numbers of infections that only compare with February levels.

The spike in Covid-19 cases in Portugal, which currently mainly affects the Lisbon region, has led to the Portuguese government bringing in new measures, which include the prohibition of movement in or out of the Lisbon metropolitan area between 3pm on Fridays and 6am on Mondays.

Also present at the same press conference, Ursula von der Leyen admitted that it was “only a matter of time” before the Delta variant became the dominant variant in community space.

And she defended that it was “important to continue vaccinating as soon as possible”, as this is a more contagious mutation of the virus.

The official entry into force of the EU covid digital certificate, proof of (negative) testing, recovery or vaccination against the disease, is scheduled for 1 July, which aims to resume free movement during the summer, but foreseeing the reintroduction of restrictions if the epidemiological situation justifies it.

The management of health measures applied to trips is made by each country, so that, even with the certificate, countries can request more tests or impose quarantines on travellers.