The measures, revealed on Wednesday, aim to “better understand” the virus’s spread and the effectiveness of the response, ramp up well-targeted testing, bolster contact tracing, improve preparations for vaccination campaigns, and maintain access to essential supplies such as vaccination equipment.
The action plan spells out the next steps in “key areas” to reinforce the EU's response to the resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
These include improving the flow of information to allow informed decision-making; establishing more effective and rapid testing; making full use of contact tracing and warning apps across borders; effective vaccination and communication to citizens and securing essential supplies and facilitating safe travel.
A Commission spokesman said, “Recent weeks have seen an alarming increase in the rate of COVID-19 infections across Europe, and sparked new measures to limit the spread of the Coronavirus and mitigate its impact. With health systems again under pressure, more needs to be done to control and overcome the situation.”
"The COVID-19 situation is very serious. We must step up our EU response. Today, we are launching additional measures in our fight against the virus; from increasing access to fast testing, and preparing vaccination campaigns to facilitating safe travel when necessary” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
The news comes as European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas was revealed as the latest European commissioner to test positive for Coronavirus.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, was the first member of the Ursula von der Leyen Commission team to confirm a positive coronavirus test.Several other Commissioners have undertaken periods of self-isolation amid concerns about infection, including Frans Timmermans, Valdis Dombrovskis and Stella Kyriakides and the Commission president herself also previously said she was self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who later tested positive.
It has now emerged Schinas has tested positive. It was also revealed at a press briefing this week that nearly 450 staff and officials in the commission in Brussels have tested positive for Coronavirus.
Speaking on Wednesday, von der Leyen said, “The COVID-19 situation is very serious. We must step up our EU response. Today, we are launching additional measures in our fight against the virus; from increasing access to fast testing, and preparing vaccination campaigns to facilitating safe travel when necessary.”
“I call on Member States to work closely together. Courageous steps taken now will help save lives and protect livelihoods.”
Further comment comes from Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, who added, “The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming.”
“Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives and livelihoods, to alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems, and to control the spread of the virus. Next month, we will present the first step towards a European Health Union.
“In the meantime, Member States must improve cooperation and data sharing. Our EU surveillance system is only as strong as its weakest link. It is only by showing true European solidarity and working together that we can overcome this crisis.”
Von der Leyen announced the new measures at a press conference with Peter Piot, her special advisor on the response to the Coronavirus and COVID-19. On Thursday, European leaders will hold a virtual meeting on COVID-19 coordination.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the European Parliament is now restricting its activities to video conferences only. Its president David Sassoli, in a message to staff, said, “Access to Parliament buildings should be further limited.”
The decision, said the MEP, takes effect “immediately.”