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25th Sep 2023

MEPs worry over lack of common Covid-19 criteria

  • Delivery of face masks from US to Italy in May 2020 (Photo: nato.int)

MEPs have raised concerns about the lack of test coordination and a lack of standardised Covid-19 criteria among EU member states.

"There is no common risk-criteria, no common modality for counting cases, no common cross-border testing strategy and no common protocol for monitoring asymptomatic patients," said the head of the Renew Europe group, MEP Dacian Cioloş, on Wednesday (2 September), in a statement.

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Cioloş urged member states to put in place "a real European health policy" to fight the coronavirus - warning how "harmful" the lack of coordination was at the beginning of the pandemic.

"We need more coordination. Harmonisation is difficult, but it is necessary," MEP Peter Liese (European People's Party) told reporters on Wednesday, saying Covid-19-related measures need to be based on scientific advice and not on political aspects.

Green MEP Jutta Paulus, for her part, said that European citizens are "getting confused" since there are different protocols in different member states that are continuously changing.

In Austria, for example, the quarantine period lasts 10 days, while in the rest of the member states is two weeks.

Meanwhile, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that the priority should be given to the harmonisation of test-capacities and methodologies.

For the ECDC, testing is considered one of the main parameters which indicate infection levels.

But there are differences in the testing capacity and methodologies among member states - resulting in a lack of a harmonised reporting.

While some EU countries are carrying out 173 tests per 100,000 population, others do more than 6,000.

"Member states have recognised that the situation is not good and they are currently discussing how to harmonise some criteria, [but] harmonisation should go now into the testing," the director of ECDC, Andrea Ammon, told MEPs from the parliament's environmental and health committee.

Additionally, she also urged member states to increase innovative and digital solutions, which are particularly necessary for surveillance and contact tracing.

Colour-coding

EU ambassadors discussed on Wednesday a proposal, based on ideas from the German EU presidency, that includes a common criterion on the epidemiological risks and 'colour-coding' of risk areas, as well as a joint approach on measures on returning from travel - like testing and quarantine.

Earlier this year, the European Commission established the 'ReOpen-EU' website dedicated to inform citizens about the restrictions in place in different EU countries.

During the past few weeks, the number of coronavirus infections in the EU has drastically increased in some member states.

Spain, Luxembourg, France, Croatia and Malta currently have the highest rate of new Covid-19 infections in the EU - followed by Romania, Austria and the Czech Republic.

"While many countries are now testing mild and asymptomatic cases, which has resulted in increased case reports, there is a true resurgence in cases in several countries as a result of physical distancing measures being relaxed," the EU virus-alert agency said in its last risk assessment.

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