The European Commission said this week that work was being done on a set of guidelines that will ensure the smooth return to normalcy after coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown measures have been lifted.
In cooperation with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the Commission tabled a roadmap to phase out containment measures in place across the EU due to the coronavirus outbreak. Among these, the removal of travel restrictions and border controls once the border regions’ epidemiological situation converges sufficiently, with external borders reopening in a second stage.
Other criteria suggested include protecting the most vulnerable groups for longer; facilitating the gradual return of necessary economic activities; and intensifying regular cleaning and disinfection of transport hubs, shops and workplaces.
The commission has not set a specific timeframe but is stressing the need for coordinated and targeted actions that are progressive allowing sufficient time left between them to measure effectiveness.
“Saving lives and protecting Europeans from the coronavirus is our number one priority. At the same time, it is time to look ahead and to focus on protecting livelihoods,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
More specifically, according to the regulations, member states planning to lift restrictions should focus on taking actions in steps, with sufficient time left between them to measure the impact; replacing general measures with targeted actions; lifting internal border controls in a coordinated manner; re-starting economic activity in phases; allowing public gatherings progressively and depending on category of activity – ie schools and universities, shops, restaurants and cafes, mass gatherings; ensuring precautionary measures against the spread of Covid-19 are sustained through awareness campaigns encouraging the population to keep up strong hygiene practices and social distancing; and ensuring monitoring and preparedness for the return to stricter containment measures should the need arise.
“It is crucial that our healthcare systems have the capacity to treat increases in new cases, that essential medicines and equipment are available and that we have large-scale testing and tracing capacity in place,” said Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides.