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EU presents coronavirus exit strategy

EU Commission recommends gradual, coordinated approach to relaunch economy, public life

Agnes Szucs   | 15.04.2020
EU presents coronavirus exit strategy


Managing the healthcare and economic crisis of COVID-19 costs around €3 trillion ($3,3 trillion) for Europe, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Von der Leyen spoke at a press conference presenting the European Commission roadmap on gradually lifting COVID-19 measures in the EU.

She reminded that the exit strategy should not be interpreted as a signal to immediately lift confinement, but the measures need to be slowly eased to avoid an even greater economic fallout.

The strategy carefully warns that “any level of gradual relaxation of the confinement will unavoidably lead to a corresponding increase in new cases” and the coronavirus will be present until a vaccine is developed.

So Von der Leyen also called for donors’ conference to fund the research on a vaccine against coronavirus. The event is scheduled for 4 May.

Coordinated, gradual lifting of lockdown

The roadmap only suggests easing confinement measures if statistics prove a significant slowdown in the spread of the pandemic for a sustained period, national healthcare systems have sufficient capacity at intensive care units, stocks of medicine and equipment, as well as they are able to monitor the spread of the virus.

The Commission highly encourages member states to use digital data from mobile operators and research engines to monitor the situation besides testing infections in healthcare facilities and using self-test kits as well.

EU states are invited to coordinate their decisions with each other and the European Commission and keep in mind the principles of solidarity.

The strategy suggests to first end control measures at the internal borders among member states, and only decide to open up external borders afterwards.

Countries are asked to gradually change the overall emergency measures to targeted ones.

The priority is to relaunch the economy by lifting restrictions on work, followed by slowly authorizing public gatherings.

According to the guidelines, firstly, schools and universities should restart the education. Then shops, restaurants and cafes can re-open, but opening hours and the number of customers should be limited in the beginning. Festivals, cultural and sports events may be organized at the last stage.

Controversy between national measures

The EU has been struggling to find a coordinated approach in fighting coronavirus since its outbreak.

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission does not have any legal power to impose measures on member states in case of a pandemic. The institution can only set up guidelines to help the decisions of EU countries.

Wednesday’s announcement was originally rescheduled from last week because Italy, Spain, and France voiced harsh criticism on the EU exit strategy, which was supposed to be published without consulting national governments.

The leaders of the three countries were also afraid that the EU roadmap would bring a false and controversial message to their public on the ends of confinement measures.

At the same time, Austria, the Czech Republic and Denmark decided on lifting some of the limitations on public life this week.

Since appearing in China last December, the virus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions, according to figures compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 1.99 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, with over 127,500 deaths, and recoveries exceeded 500,700.

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