Nearly 500 million Europeans are approaching Christmas and don’t know how to prepare. This time the EU sets the rules.
On the eve of the much agonized vaccine, the winter months pose a greater risk for the spread of the virus, for essentially two reasons.
First, it was understood that the colder months are propitiatory for the virus and its spread.
Second, the winter months, like the summer ones, are the ones where tourism intensifies a lot. Not only tourism in the strict sense, but also travel to share the Christmas and New Year celebrations with relatives and friends.
In the past summer months, the EU had not developed a continental plan and the negative impact on the health of all citizens was evident.
It has now become clear how important the coordination for regulate cross-border travel, winter sports and other measures to protect citizens’ health.
After long and tiring consultations, and after national measures adopted in the autumn to limit infections, the European Commission today presented the European plan to combat the spread of the virus in the winter months. In practice, they are a series of recommendations addressed to the authorities of the EU countries.
Recommended control measures
- 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 ultimate Guide of the European measures to counter the pandemic and to fight COVID-19
- European roadmap on Coronavirus fight, April 2020
- Communication on short-term preparedness, July 2020
- Communication on additional COVID-19 response measures, October 2020