In an effort to avoid the confusion that characterised the European approach during the first week of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission is strongly insisting with Member States to coordinate the easing of lockdowns and other restrictions.
This coordination will include an advanced warning between governments of their intention to re-open commercial outlets, ease airport and sea terminal restrictions and generally reduce other confinement measures. In a four-page paper sent to all EU Governments yesterday and revealed by the Financial Times, the Commission provided a summary of the exit strategy which it intends making public later this week.
Brussels would like that “at a minimum, member states should notify each other and the European Commission in due time before they lift measures and take into account their views. It is essential that there is a common approach and operating framework.”
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had in recent days criticised the uncoordinated border closures taking place particularly during the month of March which led to trucks delivering products throughout the continent being stuck on major motorways along the continent, restricting supply of essential items such as medical equipment.
Exit strategy to last around a month
The paper admits that an increase in coronavirus cases is inevitable once confinement measures are lifted, no matter how slowly this is done. However, it insists that coordination will improve matters. It proposes that the exit strategy should be staggered over approximately one month, so that the different steps and their relative effect can be measured over time.
“The lifting of measures should start at local level and be gradually extended geographically”. However, the report argues that the two main criteria for determining the right time to ease restrictions will be clear data the spread of the disease has significantly decreased over a period of time and that secondly that sufficient hospital beds are available to deal with the expected increase. However, other factors will also be considered, including the availability of apps and the ability to expand testing.
With regards to the re-opening of borders, the Commission is only contemplating the opening of intra-EU borders at the first stage, with the external borders to be considered later in a second stage, in a co-ordinated manner at EU level”.
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