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EU: Covid-19 Control Measures for Holiday Season, Winter Months

The European Commission on Wednesday presented its ‘Staying safe from Covid-19 during winter’ strategy that includes five recommendations to sustainably manage the coronavirus pandemic over the coming months.

Taking under consideration that winter can bring a risk of increased transmission of the virus owing to specific circumstances such as indoor gatherings, the Commission has recommended a strategy of continued vigilance and caution throughout the period and into 2021 when the roll out of safe and effective vaccines will occur.

The Commission said it would then provide further guidance on a gradual and coordinated lifting of containment measures.

“A coordinated EU-wide approach is key to provide clarity to people and avoid a resurgence of the virus linked to the end of year holidays. Any relaxation of measures should take into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation and sufficient capacity for testing, contact tracing and treating patients,” the Commission said.

Recommended control measures

Photo source: European Commission

Physical distancing and limiting social contacts, key for the winter months including the holiday period. Measures should be targeted and based on the local epidemiological situation to limit their social and economic impact and increase their acceptance by people.
Testing and contact tracing, essential for detecting clusters and breaking transmission. Most member states now have national contact tracing apps. The European Federated Gateway Server (EFGS) enables cross-border tracing.
Safe travel, with a possible increase in travel over the end-of-year holidays requiring a coordinated approach. Transport infrastructure must be prepared and quarantine requirements, which may take place when the epidemiological situation in the region of origin is worse than the destination, clearly communicated.
Healthcare capacity and personnel: Business continuity plans for healthcare settings should be put in place to make sure Covid-19 outbreaks can be managed, and access to other treatments maintained. Joint procurement can address shortages of medical equipment.
Pandemic fatigue and mental health are natural responses to the current situation. Member states should follow the World Health Organisation European Region’s guidance on reinvigorating public support to address pandemic fatigue. Psychosocial support should be stepped up too.
National vaccination strategies. The Commission stands ready to support member states where necessary in the deployment of vaccines as per their deployment and vaccination plans. A common EU approach to vaccination certificates is likely to reinforce the public health response in member states and the trust of citizens in the vaccination effort.

“Further recommendations will be presented in early 2021, to design a comprehensive Covid-19 control framework based on the knowledge and experience so far and the latest available scientific guidelines,” the Commission said.

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