Coronavirus mutation could threaten the race to develop vaccine
The European Commission's roadmap suggests that EU countries should not rush to ease quarantine and coordinate actions with each other and Brussels. Business asks to speed up decision-making to avoid failure in economy
What the European Commission proposes to do
The European Commission believes that the member states of the European Union (EU) should coordinate measures to ease the quarantine to demonstrate a coherent approach to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This is reported by The Financial Times (FT) and Politico, citing a draft of the EU roadmap sent to countries on easing quarantine.
Ursula von Der Leyen, head of the European Commission, the EU's executive body, is now unhappy with the way national governments have failed to close their borders. This has led to queues at borders and problems with the transfer of medicines.
The draft roadmap referred to by the publications was sent for study by national governments. It states that the increase in infections with the new coronavirus as the quarantine is alleviated is inevitable. Therefore, before easing restrictions on the work of companies and public institutions, countries should make sure that their health systems can help the sick, according to Brussels.
According to Politico and The Financial Times, the European Commission has also asked EU member states to:
- to inform other members in advance of changes in their quarantine regime;
- to ease the quarantine gradually;
- protect citizens at risk of infection - the elderly and chronic diseases.
According to the FT, the official text of the roadmap can be published this week. Von der Leyen is scheduled to hold a briefing on the topic on Wednesday, April 15, Politico reported. At the same time, as the newspaper clarifies, some countries ask the European Commission to wait with loud statements even about theoretical intentions to lift the restrictions. "Politicians in many european capitals have doubts about the mental capacity of their own citizens. To avoid a situation where people will violate all recommendations as soon as some restrictions are relaxed, they believe that any talk of leaving the "sleep" economy or public life should be banned," Politico notes.
The need to coordinate the efforts of the EU countries in the issue of quarantine measures von der Leyen stated back in March. "We should coordinate our efforts as we want to return to normality. Otherwise, there is a risk of undermining the effectiveness of the austerity measures we have taken," she said during a video conference with the heads of state and government of the EU countries.
It was planned that the EU roadmap for leaving the quarantine would be presented on April 8, but later the European Commission specified that officials would need more time for discussions before making any decisions.
Why business is rushing the authorities
Although the European Commission is trying to develop a common strategy to combat the virus, many countries continue to make decisions on quarantine unilaterally, without consulting their allies. For example, the authorities of Austria, the Czech Republic and other countries have already announced measures to normalize business activity. Officials in Brussels fear a new spike in conditions due to premature easing of restrictive measures, a European Commission spokesman lamented in a conversation with Politico. EU countries should ease quarantine measures very carefully, as there is a high risk of a second wave of infections, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At the same time, business communities in many countries call on the authorities to return life to normal as soon as possible. In particular, the Federation of German Industry, representing the interests of more than 100,000. Companies have asked german authorities to allow companies to resume operations, Politico reported. As soon as possible to find a way out of the situation and resume economic activity, before the companies have not yet gone bankrupt, ask and Italian business lobbyists, writes Bloomberg.
How Europe is getting back to normal
Number of infections per 1 million population: 3,625
In Spain, about 300,000 people have returned to work since Monday. employees of companies in construction and industry. At the same time, public places and educational institutions remain closed and Spaniards cannot leave their homes unnecessarily, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. "We have not yet entered the phase of de-escalation," he said. "The emergency regime continues to operate, as does quarantine," the prime minister added. According to Sanchez, the process of easing quarantine restrictions on citizens and most companies will not be launched until April 26.
Spain is one of the most affected countries in Europe. The quarantine has hit the tourism industry, which accounts for more than 10% of the country's GDP and jobs. By the end of 2020, its GDP may decrease by 8% compared to the previous year, according to the forecast of the International Monetary Fund. Spain's priority is to restore tourists' confidence that the country is safe to rest, and therefore social-distance measures will not be lifted any time soon, Said Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Reyes Maroto.
Number of infections per 1 million population: 2638
Last week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended the restrictions until May 3. The country has introduced a strict quarantine, citizens are obliged not to leave their homes unnecessarily, the work of most enterprises has been stopped. Conte agreed to make an exception only for a small number of outlets that do not attract a significant number of people - bookstores, stationery and shops for children. They will open on April 14. According to the prime minister, the decision to wait for the easing of quarantine was a "difficult but necessary decision for which I am fully responsible."
Number of infections per 1 million population: 1502
On April 13, in his fourth address to the French since the beginning of the crisis, President Emmanuel Macron announced the extension of the quarantine regime in the country until May 11. After this date, it is possible to gradually open schools and nurseries, but in higher education institutions classes will not be held at least until the end of the summer, the president said. The authorities have no intentions to open restaurants, bars, cinemas and other public places.
Number of infections per 1 million population: 1559
Austria was the first European country to announce plans to ease quarantine. On Monday, April 5, the country's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that from April 14 in the country it is planned to open some outlets - small shops with an area of less than 400 square meters. m, garden markets and home goods and repair shops. More companies could resume operations on May 1, Kurz admitted. This applies to all shops and shopping malls, as well as barbershops, he explained, noting that there will also have to take precautions. By mid-May it is planned to gradually open restaurants and hotels, but the decision on this was made only at the end of April, the Chancellor said.
Kurz explained the steps to lift the restrictions by saying that Austria had done enough to contain the epidemic. "We showed a quick reaction, and this allowed us to avoid the worst-case scenario. This gives us an opportunity to get out of this situation faster," he said.
Number of infections per 1 million population: 1090
Primary schools and kindergartens will open in Denmark from April 15, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. The ban on barbershops, restaurants and shopping malls will remain in effect until at least May 10, as will the moratorium on meetings of more than a dozen people. Large-scale events in Denmark are banned until August. According to Frederiksen, the easing of quarantine measures will occur in a gradual manner and only if the rate of infection stabilizes. "It's like walking a tightrope: if we stand still, we can fall, but moving forward too fast can also end in unpleasant consequences," she explained.
Number of infections per 1 million population: 565
On April 7, the Czech government decided to open citizens' access to some sports facilities, including tennis courts and golf courses. On the same day, the garbage collection and recycling plant was reopened. Since 9 April, a number of outlets have opened in the country, including bicycle shops and home goods and repair shops. From April 14, Czechs will be able to travel abroad for urgent necessities, for example, for treatment, on their return to the Czech Republic will need to spend 14 days in quarantine. At the same time, the state of emergency in the country will last until the end of April, and all citizens need to observe the social distance. "We are able to control the pandemic relatively successfully. It is not the virus that controls us, but we control it," said Czech Health Minister Adam Voytech, adding that the easing of quarantine will take place gradually.