EU publishes roadmap to phase out coronavirus lockdowns

EU publishes roadmap to phase out coronavirus lockdowns
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EU member states' approach to lifting their coronavirus lockdowns should be done in coordination with each other and be based on sufficient treatment, testing and tracing capacities, EU leaders said.

The EU Commission and Council jointly published a roadmap aiming to guide member states as they begin looking at strategies to lift the containment measures aimed at halting the coronavirus pandemic.

Member states considering taking their first steps to relaxing lockdowns should ensure they meet three conditions, with the first being that efforts to flatten the curve of infections have been successful.

"This can, for example, be indicated by a sustained reduction in the number of new infections, hospitalisations and patients in intensive care," the guidelines read.

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Secondly, governments must ensure sufficient capacity in their national health care systems, not only regarding treatment capacities in hospitals but also in terms of sufficient medical supply stocks, including medicines, as well as the availability of care structures for vulnerable groups and discharged patients.

The third condition says that countries should ensure they have the capacities for continued monitoring of the virus and for rolling out large-scale testing and contact-tracing to detect and control any potential new cases.

In a press release, the Commission said that while the lockdowns had slowed the outbreak and saved lives, it said they had come at a"dramatic cost" and that it was necessary to reawaken everyday economic and social activities.

Action taken by national governments should be gradual and be done in coordination which each other, especially as regards the lifting of border controls between EU countries, a step which should only be taken once the situation of two bordering member states "converges sufficiently."

The EU's external borders, shut since mid-March, should be reopened "in a second stage and take account of the spread of the virus outside the EU."

Unveiled on Wednesday, the document's publication comes during a week in which EU countries have begun moving in different directions regarding their national lockdowns.

It also follows statements from health experts in Belgium, but also from top officials from the World Health Organisation, who warned that it was too early to lift containment measures.

Spain and Austria this week partially lifted the containment measures for some non-essential sectors, while Denmark is expected to open schools up to primary education on Thursday.

At the same time, Romania, France and Italy have all announced their respective lockdowns will be extended further into May, while Belgian leaders are expected to announce an update of the country's nationwide lockdown as it nears the one-month mark.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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