Today, the Commission, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, has put forward a European roadmap to phase-out the containment measures due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While we are still in firefighting mode, the necessary extraordinary measures taken by Member States and the EU are working. They have slowed down the spread of the virus and saved thousands of lives. However, these measures and the corresponding uncertainty come at a dramatic cost to people, society and the economy, and cannot last indefinitely.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “Saving lives and protecting Europeans from the coronavirus is our number one priority. At the same time, it is time to look ahead and to focus on protecting livelihoods. Even though conditions in the Member States still vary widely, all Europeans rightly ask themselves when and in what order the confinement measures can be lifted.
Responsible planning on the ground, wisely balancing the interests of protection of public health with those of the functioning of our societies, needs a solid foundation. That’s why the Commission has drawn up a catalogue of guidelines, criteria and measures that provide a basis for thoughtful action. The strength of Europe lies in its social and economic balance. Together we learn from each other and help our European Union out of this crisis.”
Commissioner for Health and Food safety Stella Kyriakides said: “Returning to normality after the corona lockdowns will require a carefully coordinated and European approach between Member States, based on science and in the spirit of solidarity. It is crucial that our healthcare systems have the capacity to treat increases in new cases, that essential medicines and equipment are available and that we have large-scale testing and tracing capacity in place.
We know that this road will be long and gradual and that the consequences of this unprecedented health crisis will be long lasting. Until effective treatments and a vaccine are found, we will have to learn to live with this virus. But Europe will be back on its feet, together and united. This is the only way.”
While recognising the specificities of each country, the European roadmap establishes the following key principles:
- Timing is essential. Deciding that the time has cometo begin to relax confinement should be based on these criteria:
Epidemiological criteria showing that the spread of the disease has significantly decreased and stabilised for a sustained period.
- Sufficient health system capacity, for example taking into account the occupation rate for intensive care units, the availability of health care workers and medical material.
- Appropriate monitoring capacity, including large-scale testing capacity to quickly detect and isolate infected individuals, as well as tracking and tracing capacity.
We need a European approach. While timing and modalities for lifting containment measures differ between Member States, we need a common framework that is based on:
- Science with public health at its centre, while acknowledging that ending restrictive measures involves balancing public health benefits with social and economic impacts.
- Coordination between Member States, to avoid negative effects. This is a matter of common European interest.
- Respect and solidarity. This is essential for both health and socio-economic aspects. At a minimum, Member States should notify each other and the Commission in due time before they lift measures and take into account their views.
Phasing-out confinement requires accompanying measures, including:
- Gathering harmonised data and developing a robust system of reporting and contact tracing, including with digital tools that fully respect data privacy;
- Expanding testing capacity and harmonising testing methodologies. The Commission – in consultation with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – has adopted Guidelines today on different coronavirus tests and their performance;
- Increasing the capacity and resilience of national health care systems, in particular to address the predicted rise in infections after lifting restrictive measures;
- Continuing to reinforce medical and personal protective equipment capacities.
- Developing safe and effective treatments and medicines, as well as developing and fast-tracking the introduction of a vaccine to put an end to the coronavirus.
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