The EU Commission on Wednesday (17 March) urged European countries to coordinate re-opening their economies and borders – to avoid extra costs caused by unilateral actions.
The EU executive rolled out its plans for digital certificates as a tool to prove that their holders have been either vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or tested negative recently.
The commission also put forward guidelines on how to prepare for reopening once enough Europeans have been vaccinated and how the tourism and hospitality industry – both massively hit by the pandemic – could re-emerge.
“Reopening will take longer, cost more, and be less sustainable if the member states do not work together,” warned the commission in its communication.
EU governments’ lack of coordination in the first and second wave of the pandemic has caused concerns around supply chains, long queues at borders despite so-called “green lanes” for quick passage, and practically froze the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone.
“Imposing restrictions in one part of the EU has implications for all. We can expect the same to be true when it comes to loosening these restrictions. This calls for a common approach to guide action across the EU,” the commission argued.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will design a tier-system “reflecting the epidemiological situation in each member state.”
“It will allow simulations to illustrate how much leeway each member state has to reduce response measures without risking a reversal in the spread of the virus,” the proposal said, adding that system will be ready by April.
‘Wastewater’ monitoring for new variants
The ECDC will also set a technical guidance on Covid-19 self-testing kits, that are increasingly becoming available, and their proper use.
The commission also urged member states – and help with funding – to set up wastewater or sewage monitoring systems, to monitor developing Covid-19 variants.
The EU executive urged countries to use common methods for sampling, testing and data analysis, which are backed by a European exchange platform.
The commission also said that a €12m programme is underway to buy at least 200 disinfectant robots and deploy them in EU countries to help hospitals.
The commission is also setting out a unified policy for tourism-dependent EU countries – which have been toying with the idea of opening up unilaterally.
One way is to exchange data among EU countries on travellers through the digital passenger location from, that travellers need to fill out when entering a country. The commission put forward a proposal on sharing that data, aimed at adopting the measures by summer.
With regards to the tourism and hospitality sector, the commission plans to develop, in cooperation with industry and national authorities, a voluntary sanitary seal – health and safety protocols – to be used by businesses, to be put in place by the summer.
But any real re-opening is months away. The travel certificate will be ready by mid-June,
The commission said there has been a drop of 70 percent in revenues during 2020 and up to 11 million jobs at risk in the tourism sector. EU overnight stays fell by 52 percent in 2020 and international tourist stays fell by 68 percent last year.