EU Recommendations for Corona Exit Strategy

EU Commission President Von der Leyen and Council President Michel have set out a European roadmap for the gradual lifting of the Corona measures.

The EU Commission and the Council want a coordinated and European approach towards easing the restrictions brought in to contain the Corona pandemic. With this aim, a joint roadmap has been put forward in Brussels containing the main principles on how for example schools and shops can reopen, taking account of the specificities of all the EU States.

Commission President Von der Leyen also warned, however, that the roadmap was not a signal that restrictions should be lifted immediately because conditions in the EU States still vary widely Von der Leyen announced an online pledging conference for 4 May aimed at pushing ahead with work on treatment methods and finding a vaccine against COVID-19.

The roadmap from the Council and the Commission, while recognising the specificities of each country, contains key principles and declares that the decision on easing the containment measures should be based on the following criteria:

- Epidemiological criteria showing that the spread of the disease has significantly decreased and stabilised over a sustained period.

- Sufficient health system capacity taking into account the occupation rate for intensive care units as well as 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.

In addition, it is argued that lifting containment measures should be subject to a common framework which guarantees that scientific knowledge and the protection of public health are at the centre “while acknowledging that ending restrictive measures involves balancing public health benefits with social and economic impacts.” Furthermore, there should be “coordination between Member States to avoid negative effects”. This is a matter of common European interest, respect and solidarity.

The Commission’s roadmap sets out concrete steps which should be taken by Member States when planning to lift the containment measures.

- “Actions should be gradual: measures should be lifted in different steps with sufficient time left between the individual steps to measure the impact.

- General measures should progressively be replaced by targeted ones. For example, protecting the most vulnerable groups for longer; facilitating the gradual return of necessary economic activities; intensifying regular cleaning and disinfection of transport hubs, shops and workplaces; replacing general states of emergency with targeted government interventions to ensure transparency and democratic accountability.

- Internal border controls should be lifted in a coordinated manner. Travel restrictions and border controls should be removed once the epidemiological situation in the border regions converges sufficiently. External borders 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 and there are several models that can be implemented, (e.g. jobs suitable for teleworking, economic importance, working in shifts 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 activities (restaurants, cafés) 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 strict hygiene practices and social distancing.

- Action should be continuously monitored, and preparations made for returning to stricter containment measures should these become 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.