EU ends emergency phase of coronavirus pandemic – POLITICO

The EU on Wednesday declared the emergency phase of the coronavirus pandemic over as pressure on hospitals eases and countries lift restrictions.

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that while it is “clear that the pandemic is still among us”, it is time to exit crisis mode and take a fresh approach to tackling COVID-19.

In more than two years, the pandemic has claimed more than a million lives in the EU, placed enormous strain on healthcare systems, forced governments to impose travel restrictions and triggered massive research and logistics efforts to vaccinate the population.

Between 60 and 80 percent of the EU population have contracted COVID-19 at some point, the health commissioner said in a speech.

In a bid to return to normal, the new Commission directive is urging member countries to tie their coronavirus testing programs into broader respiratory disease surveillance. Testing should not aim to capture “all cases” but to obtain reliable estimates. Surveillance for new variants is being stepped up with EU help and health capacities should also be prepared in case of a virus resurgence.

Several EU member countries have already moved to consider COVID-19 “endemic” with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez saying back in January that it should be treated like the flu. Sweden scrapped its mass testing program and lifted restrictions in February, while Italy ended its state of emergency on March 31.

Although data shows coronavirus cases have been falling across the bloc since February, after a spike caused by the spread of the milder Omicron variant, concerns remain that the possible emergence of a new, more virulent strain could fuel another wave of infections could trigger. “The risk that the situation can change quickly with a new variant is real,” said Kyriakides.

While over two-thirds of the EU’s adult population has been vaccinated against COVID, low vaccination rates in some member countries mean their populations remain vulnerable. In Malta, around 70 percent of the population have received a booster shot, compared to just 10 percent in Bulgaria.

In her speech, Kyriakides gave an outlook on an upcoming “next-generation vaccine strategy” that aims to develop variant-safe and long-lasting vaccines.

And looking further ahead, the Commission’s strategy document outlined a number of different ways the pandemic could unfold. The best-case scenario is that COVID-19 becomes “routinely manageable.” But bleaker prospects include uncontrollable winters that see hospitals routinely overcrowded, or even the emergence of a new strain of the pandemic that would prompt the return of strict restrictions. EU ends emergency phase of coronavirus pandemic – POLITICO

Fry Electronics Team

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