The European Union is now working on an exit strategy that will allow the gradual re-opening of the EU and Schengen Area. This plan will include everything from flights to businesses and public gatherings finally being back to normal.
According to ‘Communication- the European roadmap to lifting coronavirus containment measures,’ the process of reopening should be gradual, and could be implemented as soon as mid-May.
“Probably by mid-May we can put forward the strategy we’re working on,” said EU Transport Commissioner Adina Valean.
The European Commission has already proposed more flexibility on existing rules on airlines. Internal and external borders should be opening up soon, and the travel restrictions that have been set in place by most EU and Schengen countries will eventually start to relax.
Although this is set to potentially happen very soon, the main concern for EU leadership is public health and safety to avoid another large outbreak of COVID-19. This is a particular area of concern for leaders in charge of transport and travel.
“I know for a fact this health crisis is here to stay for a long time until we can find a good treatment or vaccine… I think the measures proven to be efficient, like social distancing, are going to be respected one way or another. For transport, this is very important,” said Transport Commissioner Valean.
All EU and Schengen countries have enacted some form of flight restrictions with the exception of Denmark and Ireland, who have not enacted any flight restrictions.
All health risks taken into account, the economic ramifications of such a large-scale emergency shutdown have been substantial. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen pointed out that the roadmap for an exit strategy is both about protecting public health as well as protecting the financial interests of Europeans.
“Saving lives and protecting Europeans from the coronavirus is our number one priority. At the same time, it is time to look ahead and to focus on protecting livelihoods,” von der Leyen said.
The EC has emphasized that the gradual implementation of an exit strategy should only be done once the spread of COVID-19 has stabilized, and when there are sufficient medical resources to be allocated to any new infections that could occur.
Timing is also a key part of the roadmap, and it details the fact that any relaxation of containment measures will lead to an increase in new cases until a vaccine is produced and distributed, but that it is a necessary measure that should be taken only once medical facilities and staff are fully prepared to handle an increase in the number of cases.
“It is widely understood among epidemiological experts that even with confinement measures the virus continues circulating and any level of gradual relaxation of the confinement will unavoidably lead to a corresponding increase in new cases. This will require constant and detailed monitoring as well as the readiness to adjust and reintroduce new measures if needed,” read the road map.
It is still not explicitly known when all will return to normal.