EU COVID-19 Response
Europe, like the rest of the world, is grappling with the global pandemic. Just 8 months after hitting Europe, over 200,000 Europeans had been infected by the novel coronavirus and efforts in the region continue to stop the spread. As the holiday season rolls through, these numbers are expected to rise, prompting many European nation states to shut down once again. During the beginning stages of the pandemic, many Europeans were left confused on what activities were safe, as different countries had different protocols around handling the virus. As a result, the European Commission put forward a “common response”, for all European member-states to follow in order to build a coordinated effort to slow down the spread and re-open Europe.
According to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European commission, the “common European response”, will focus on setting up universal guidelines which all member-states must follow. This includes a color coordinated system to track outbreaks in order to determine when and where testing and quarantine is needed, especially when traveling across borders. The response will also help to bring aid to patients across Europe, encouraging donation of necessary protective gear as well as cross-border treatments for those who need it. The European commission will also focus on giving accurate and up-to-date information on the pandemic as well as addressing the socio-economic impact caused by the widespread pandemic.
The European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program will also focus on generating a COVID-19 response. In particular the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme has issues a challenge to “develop a scalable, reliable and cost-effective early warning system prototype to forecast and monitor vector-borne diseases in order to contribute to the prevention of outbreaks mitigating their impact on local, regional and global scales and providing according to the European Commission. As of September 2020, investments in the Horizon 2020 program reached €1 billion (around 1.23 billion USD) in research and development funding. The projects that received this money will utilize it in the development of pandemic and epidemic responses including diagnostics, vaccines, treatments, and rapid response services. Some promising results from the projects include potential vaccine candidates, new treatments and enhancements to existing treatments to long-term ailments caused by COVID-19, new diagnostic tools and public health measures, and an accessible COVID-19 Data Platform. “Knowledge and innovation saves lives”, said Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and the EU intends to use just that to help give those living in EU member-states the best chance possible at beating this virus. Deadlines for this project have been extended to February 16, 2021.
President von der Leyen also announced that upon the authorization of a successful vaccine, a coordinated vaccination effort will be rolled out. As of December 2020, vaccinations are expected to begin December 27th, 29th, and 29th of December 2020. The effectiveness of the current vaccines looks promising and widespread vaccination and immunization will bring Europe one step closer to returning to normalcy in the coming year.