Joint European Roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures
The bodies of the European Union, as a whole,acknowledge that this lookdown measures have been necessary to slow down the pandemic and they have already save millions of lives. Nevertheless, they come at a high social and economic cost.
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.
The Roadmap states that even though the way back to our previous way of living, if ever comes at all, is going to be a long walk, the lockdown and other restrictive measures cannot be last so long. These measures must be evaluated on a daily-daily basis, and they must be lifted progressively taken into account the current state of the virus on a case by case approach.
They roadmap tries to give a well-coordinated European common approach towards our recovery. The roadmap, as it could not be otherwise, goes far beyond of what a single member state could achieve on its own. It takes into account the advice provided by all the governments of the Member States, of the European Centre for Disease Prevention, among others.
Flattering the curve.
The unprecedented sacrifice asked to European citizens of closing down their business, social distancing, and all the other tremendous social measures, it has been the only way to buy precious time for the Member states in order to be ready against the fight of this pandemic (preparing health care systems, procuring essential products, etc.). It is for that reasons that we are obliged to believe that it has been the lesser of the two evils.
This decision has been backed up by significant researches and large amounts of data which shows a significant reduction on mortality rates.
The criteria for lifting confinement measures depend largely on data.
The Roadmap proposes the following criteria:
- Epidemiological criteria
- Sufficient health system capacity
- Appropriate monitoring capacity
The virus cannot be contained within borders and actions taken in isolation are bounded to be less effective.
Three basic principles should guide the EU and its Member States:
- Action should be based on science and have public health at its center.
- Action should be coordinated between the Member States.
- Respect and solidarity between Member States remains essential.
In order to manage successfully the lifting of the existing containment measures, there must be some “accompanying measures”, such as:
- Gather data and develop a robust system of reporting.
- Create a framework for contact tracing and warning with the use of mobile apps, which respects data privacy. Mobile applications that warns citizens if they had come across with an affected individual should be an important element in the strategies put in place by Member states. The use of these mobile apps should be voluntary for the individual, based on users consent and fully respecting the European Privacy laws. The roadmap stresses that when using tracing apps, the individuals should remain in full control of their data.
- Expand testing capacity and harmonise testing methodologies. For those who are interest, in the same day of its communication the Commission released a Guideline regarding different coronavirus test performances.
- Increasing the capacity and resilience of national health care systems.
- Continuing to reinforce medical and personal protective equipment capacities.
- Developing safe and effective treatments and medicines.
Among its recommendations the roadmap says that the action should be gradual, that general measures should be progressively be replaced by targeted ones (i.e. vulnerable groups should be protected longer, Safe alternatives should replace existing general prohibitive measures).
Moreover, the roadmap proposes that the lifting of the measures should go from small too big. Meaning they should be lifted progressively first by local authorities, and then broaden the geographical scope.
Internal border controls should be lifted in a coordinated manner. Travel restrictions and border controls should be removed once the border regions’ epidemiological situation converges sufficiently. External border should be reopened in a second stage and take account of the spread of the virus outside the EU.
The re-start of economic activity should be phased-in: there are several models that can be implemented, e.g. jobs suitable for teleworking, economic importance, shifts of workers, etc. The entire population should not return to the workplace at the same time.
Gatherings of people should be progressively permitted, taking into account the specificities of different categories of activity, such as:
- Schools and universities;
- Commercial activity (retail) with possible gradation;
- Social activity measures (restaurants, cafes) with possible gradation;
- Mass gatherings
Efforts to prevent the spread of the virus should be sustained, with awareness campaigns to encourage the population to keep up the strong hygiene practices and social distancing.
Action should be continuously monitored and preparedness developed for returning to stricter containment measures as necessary.
While confinement measures are gradually lifted, there is a need to strategically plan the recovery, revitalising the economy and getting back on a path of sustainable growth. This includes enabling the twin transition towards a greener and digital society, and drawing all lessons from the current crisis for the EU’s preparedness and resilience. The Commission will develop a Recovery plan, based on a revamped proposal for the next long-term EU budget (Multiannual Financial Framework) and the updated Commission Work Programme for 2020.