The European Union (EU) announced on Wednesday that it is moving out of the emergency phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it focuses on vaccination, pandemic surveillance and testing in preparation for a possible new wave in the autumn, which begins mid-September in the northern hemisphere.
Brussels, Belgium | The move comes amid a significant decrease in the number of deaths and hospitalizations across Europe due to the prevalence of the more contagious but less severe Omicron variant, along with high levels of immunization. Three quarters of Europeans are fully vaccinated and more than half have received a booster dose.
As the number of infected with the disease in health systems has declined in recent weeks, several countries in the bloc have reduced restrictions to contain the coronavirus.
The EU’s announcement – which came from the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm – is an attempt to coordinate the management of the pandemic as it becomes less acute, although national governments continue to define their own public health policies. This Wednesday’s recommendation is not legally binding and countries are free to follow or ignore it.
The commission’s chair, Ursula von der Leyen, said, however, that vigilance was crucial.
“New variants can emerge and spread quickly,” she said. “But we know the way forward. We need to further step up vaccination and boosting, and (carry out) targeted testing – and we need to continue to coordinate our responses closely across the EU.”
Last Tuesday, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that a sharp drop in tests would risk blinding the world to the evolution of the virus and the potential emergence of new and dangerous mutations. “When it comes to a deadly virus, ignorance is not bliss,” he said.
The WHO is responsible for declaring a pandemic and ending it, a move that has vast legal implications for a wide range of sectors, including insurance companies and vaccine manufacturers. The UN health agency said the pandemic is not over.
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