At their meeting on 26 March 20201, the Members of the European Council committed to do everything that is necessary to protect the EU’s citizens and overcome the crisis while preserving the European values and way of life.
Beyond the urgency of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and its immediate consequences, the Members of the European Council called for preparing the measures necessary to get Europe’s societies and economies back to a normal functioning and to sustainable growth, integrating inter alia the green transition and the digital transformation, and drawing all lessons from the crisis.
The joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures, presented by the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council, responds to the European Council Members’ call for an exit strategy that is coordinated with Member States and that will prepare the ground for a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment.
The fast evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant unknowns coming with a new virus and the disease it causes have led to unprecedented challenges for health care systems as well as to dramatic socio-economic impacts in Europe and the whole world. The crisis has already claimed thousands of lives and continues to put health care systems under enormous strain. Extraordinary and unprecedented measures – both economic and social – have been taken.
All Member States have prohibited public gatherings, closed (totally or partially) schools and introduced border/travel restrictions. More than half of the EU’s Member States have proclaimed a state of emergency.
These restrictive measures have been necessary to slow down the spread of the virus and have already saved tens of thousands of lives. But they come at a high social and economic cost. They put a strain on mental health and force citizens to radically change their day-to-day lives.
They have created huge shocks to the economy and seriously impacted the functioning of the Single Market, in that whole sectors are closed down, connectivity is significantly limited and international supply chains and people’s freedom of movement have been severely disrupted.
This has triggered the need for public intervention to counterbalance the socio-economic impact, both at EU and Member State
levels. Despite the measures taken, the economic and social impact will be severe, as market sentiments and unprecedented enrolment in short-time unemployment schemes drastically show.
Even though the way back to normality will be very long, it is also clear that the extraordinary confinement measures cannot last indefinitely. There is a need for a continuous assessment on whether they are still proportionate as our knowledge of the virus and the disease evolves.
It is indispensable to plan for the phase when Member States can restart economic and social activities while minimising any impact on people’s health and does not overburden health care systems. This will require a well-coordinated approach in the EU and among all Member States.
The present Roadmap provides for such approach. It builds on the expertise and the advice provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Commission’s Advisory Panel on COVID-19 and takes into account the experience and outlook from a number of Member States as well as guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Roadmap sets out recommendations to Member States, with the goal of preserving public health while gradually lifting containment measures to restart community life and the economy. It is not a signal that containment measures can be lifted immediately but intends to inform Member States’ actions and provide a frame for ensuring EU-level and cross-border coordination, while recognising the specificity of each Member State.
The specific epidemiological situation, territorial organisation, healthcare service arrangements, population distribution or economic dynamics are some of the factors that might affect Member States’ decisions on where, when and how measures are lifted. Attention will also be needed for the situation of the countries in the EU’s neighbourhood.
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