COVID-19: Towards a cross border strategy from pandemic lockdowns

By Laura Cigolot

Today, on April 15th, the European Union has put out forward a European Roadmap for an EU-wide, coordinated exit strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The joint European Roadmap of the European Commission and European Council responds to national governments’ calls for an exit strategy that is coordinated and that will prepare the ground for a comprehensive recovery plan and unprecedented investment. It sets out the principles, criteria and measures to help EU countries manage the gradual lifting of the existing confinement measures successfully.

Being fully aware that the way back to normalcy will take a very long time—essentially until a vaccine or treatment is found–the roadmap says 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 thus important to plan for the phase when EU countries will restart economic and social activities while minimising the risk of a potential negative impact on public health. This might require a readiness to adjust and reintroduce new measures if needed.

The Commission stressed the importance of a common framework with clear and timely communication that is transparent for EU citizens.

It said the following basic principles should guide the EU and its Member States:

  1. Actions should be based on science and have public health at its centre
  2. Actions should be coordinated between the Member States
  3. Respect and solidarity between Member States remains essential

As part of the roadmap, the European Commission today released new Guidelines on COVID-19 in vitro diagnostic tests and their performance. It stressed that “wider testing is urgently needed for successful pandemic control”. Such guidance aims to support Member States in effectively using testing tools in the context of their national strategies and during the different stages of the pandemic.

The Commission also insists on pooling resources for the validation of coronavirus tests at EU level. Hence, it proposes a set of actions to ensure the highest possible testing quality and further alignment on the evaluation and validation of test devices’ performance. EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides highlighted that, “In the absence of a vaccine, safe and reliable testing is our best bet to protect our health care workers, the most vulnerable of our citizens and our societies at large. This is a cornerstone of our roadmap towards lifting coronavirus containment measures. This will benefit all European citizens and is a key part for of the exit strategy from the current crises.”

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