The Strategist

Europe is getting ready to lift COVID-19 restrictions

04/14/2020 - 03:13

This week, the European Commission is going to present a plan to ease restrictive measures in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides for a series of steps: from returning people to schools and universities to resolving public events. However, not every EU member state is waiting for instructions from Brussels to lift quarantine: some take decisions on their own after consulting with experts at the national level. The main thing is to prevent the return to normal life from turning into a second wave of the pandemic.

Governor Tom Wolf via flickr
Governor Tom Wolf via flickr
“I advise you to wait with bookings until the summer: no one can predict for sure what will happen in July-August,” said European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen in an interview with Bild am Sonntag. She made it clear: although the European Commission plans to publish a plan for step-by-step mitigation of quarantine measures in the coming days, there is no question of a complete and irrevocable rejection of all precautions. The content of the new roadmap to fight the pandemic in short-hand form has already been published in German Die Welt. The paper states that the restrictions will be lifted in the reverse order, from local concessions at the beginning to the opening of external borders subsequently. According to the French television channel BFMTV, President of France, Emmanuel Macron, also said that the borders of the Schengen zone could be closed until September.

According to a YouGov study for the German DPA news agency, 44% of respondents support quarantine measures after April 19 in Germany (almost 130 thousand cases of infection, more than 3 thousand dead). 12% are ready to tighten them. In turn, 32% are in favor of easing quarantine measures, while only 8% are in favor of their abolition. At that, the restrictions in Germany are relatively mild: for example, it is allowed to walk and exercise while maintaining the necessary distance. The authorities pay more attention to the strict isolation of the infected and those who have contacted them, as well as mass testing and early detection of cases of the disease.

Meanwhile, according to Der Spiegel, the German Academy of Natural Sciences has already prepared its own plan for overcoming the crisis with the gradual opening of schools and non-grocery stores.

“The main thing is to avoid the second wave of the epidemic at any cost,” say the researchers. To do this, the requirements to wear masks in public places, as well as observe two-meter distance and hygiene, will remain as long as possible.

At the same time, a number of European countries have already begun their own lifting of restrictive measures. Austria (more than 14 thousand cases of infection, more than 350 deaths) for a while opened grocery stores, bicycle shops, construction and household goods stores. Opticians, jewelry shops and even small shoe and clothing stores (hairdressers are still closed) will work, too. The conditions are the same: you can’t crowd, you must keep a distance and wear a mask. “Thank you all very much,” Rudolf Anschober, the Minister of Health, thanked fellow citizens for the consciousness shown so far, urging them not to rush right away for shopping.

From Wednesday, Danish parents will be able to send children under 11 to kindergartens and schools. Since Monday, the Spaniards returned to their jobs with the observance of precautionary measures, although the opposition and the authorities of several regions (primarily Catalonia) strongly opposed this. Individual street sports were again allowed in the Czech Republic. The feasibility of similar steps is being discussed in other regions of the world. US President Donald Trump said on Monday: a decision to return the country's economic activity to normal will be made in the near future.

The main thing, as the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reminded in this connection, the introduced restrictions must be canceled “gradually and under control”. “Coronavirus is spreading much faster than slowing down,” he warned on Monday.