Friday

5th Jun 2020

Coronavirus

EU leaders seek 'exit strategies' as infections slow

  • The glimmer of hope from the latest figures has prompted European leaders to look into possible exit strategies from their national lockdowns (Photo: Markus Meier)

EU leaders have begun to explore possible exit strategies to their national lockdowns - as the latest figures in the worst-hit member states indicate a slowing in the rate of new coronavirus cases and deaths.

Italy, Spain, France and Germany on Monday (6 April) all reported declines in their daily death tolls from the virus, roughly three weeks after lockdowns and restrictive measures entered into force.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Spanish health ministry reported on Monday 637 registered coronavirus deaths in previous 24 hours - which marks the fifth consecutive-day decline in deaths since a peak of 950 fatalities recorded on 2 April.

As Spain overtook Italy and became the second worst-affected country worldwide, the Spanish government announced that lockdown measures, which began on March 14, will be extended until 26 April.

Following the north-south split over possible 'coronabonds' last week, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez also called for EU solidarity among member states, in an article published on Sunday in several European newspapers.

Italy, which still has the world's highest-recorded death rate from coronavirus, reported its lowest daily coronavirus death toll for more than two weeks on Sunday - when the country registered 525 fatalities and its third consecutive daily decline in deaths.

"The curve has reached a plateau and begun to descend," said the head of Italy's health institute Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), Silvio Brusaferro, on Sunday.

"If this is confirmed, we need to start thinking about the second phase and keep down the spread of this disease," he added.

Italy was the first European country to go into lockdown on 10 March - a measure that has saved an estimated 30,000 lives, according to ISS.

The quarantine will officially expire on 13 April, but it is expected soon to be extended until the end of the month.

Likewise, France also reported on Sunday the slowing down of both its daily death toll and new cases, although the figures have been disrupted by a massive spike in the number of previously-unreported deaths, especially in nursing homes.

On 2 and 2 April, the French government added to the national totals some 1,416 deaths and 17,827 such additional cases.

Meanwhile, Germany also recorded on Monday its fourth consecutive day with a decline in new confirmed cases - with 3,677 new cases and 92 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The 'Second Phase'

The glimmer of hope from these figures prompted European leaders to look into possible exit strategies to the national lockdowns.

Denmark and Austria announced on Monday the first steps of their exit strategies, aiming to ease lockdown measures and get out of the crisis faster than others.

Spanish lawmakers are expected to discuss this week easing quarantine measures - which are considered the hardest of Europe together with Italy.

"I think that, for instance, it would be possible to start allowing sports very soon. Going out running, individually and in a controlled way, or allowing parents to walk with their children while complying with social distancing measures," the president of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, Pere Godoy, told El País.

However, the World Health Organization's director for Europe, Hans Kluge, recently referred to "careful optimism" when speaking about the situation in Spain.

Meanwhile, Italian media on Sunday reported that the government led by Giuseppe Conte was preparing a five-point plan to open businesses gradually, while keeping social distancing measures in place.

Once the lockdown measures are lifted, Italy and Spain are considering to make compulsory the use of masks in certain public spaces - an initiative that Austria has recently imposed in supermarkets and grocery shops.

"Masks are important because they prevent the spread of infections," said the chief of the Italian civil protection service, Angelo Borrelli.

Additionally, massive testing and "contact tracing" are considered essential to exit quarantine measures gradually.

Spain, for instance, wants to use one million testing kits to act as "rapid screening" in hospitals, nursing homes and other essential sectors pursuing a two-fold objective: to acknowledge the real extent of the pandemic and identify the asymptomatic coronavirus patients.

Likewise, national authorities of many EU countries announced that "contact tracing" would also be extended with the use of mobile data and applications.

However, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), it is essential to accurately identify the triggers for the activation, and subsequently for the de-activation, of the range of surveillance systems that have to be established or strengthened, while considering the incubation period and the time taken to report cases.

Agenda

Coronabonds clash continues This WEEK

Finance ministers will hold all-important online meeting to find ways to mitigate the econmic fallout from the pandemic and heal wounds between northern and southern member states.

Coronavirus exposes lack of common data approach

The enormous differences between coronavirus cases reported worldwide raise questions on how countries are tracking their outbreaks - or even deliberately underreporting them.

Opinion

A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough

The 1948-51Marshall Plan provided about €118bn in today's figures in American assistance to European countries. These numbers are dwarfed by prospective needs, and the needs are not just European or American - but global.

Coronavirus threat to EU farm seasonal workers

The restrictive measures taken by many member states to respond to the coronavirus outbreak make it difficult for EU farmers and fishermen to continue their daily work - which is disrupting the agri-food sector across the continent.

EU science chief who 'quit' had been told to resign

Contested version of events cloud the shock resignation of Mauro Ferrari as president of the European Research Council. Ferrari dramatically tendered his resignation on 7 April. But his colleagues overseeing the council wanted him gone already by late March.

Analysis

How the EU's virus-alert agency failed

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, was meant to highlight threats from infectious diseases, but painted a rosy picture of Covid-19.

News in Brief

  1. Poland accused of 'blatant violation' of EU court injunction
  2. EU concerned by US approach to Kosovo and Serbia
  3. City morgues cast doubt on Putin's virus data
  4. ECB increases pandemic stimulus to €1.35 trillion
  5. New EU cloud computing platform 'moonshot'
  6. City of Berlin passes anti-discrimination law
  7. Iran hits record corona cases in second wave
  8. EU job losses tell tale of pandemic damage

Feature

Why developing countries may be last to get the vaccine

'The current standard for vaccines is to be kept at two to eight degrees and that is really tough in many developing countries when it can be up to 50 degrees outside,' warn experts on the challenges facing low-income countries.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. CAP 'failed to halt biodiversity loss', auditors find
  2. After Covid-19, deserted Venice struggles for survival
  3. Commission plans strategy to 'maximise' vaccine access
  4. How spies use women to steal EU secrets
  5. Hong Kong - when the Chinese Dream became a nightmare
  6. Right of reply: Letter from the Hungarian government
  7. Kosovo to restart EU/US-led Serbia talks
  8. EU Commission slammed for Covid-19 'mid-threat' ranking

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us