Politics Regional

The European Commission postponed Covid-19 exit strategy – Austria, Denmark and Czech Republic are ready to lift some restrictions

On Wednesday European Commission was supposed to approve and present a plan on relaxing the restrictive measures provided in Member States amid coronavirus outbreak. However, the Commission admitted that the exit strategy was announced too soon, and postponed its release until after Easter.

Yet the Member States were recommended to prolong temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU until 15 May. “The travel restriction, as well as the invitation to extend it, applies to the ‘EU+ area’, which includes all Schengen Member States (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the 4 Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) – 30 countries in total”, as it was stated in press-release. The European Commission’s leadership underlined that the measures taken to combat the virus, including travel restriction, may only be effective if last more than 30 days.

According to unpublished exit strategy, places of interest will be allowed to reopen gradually, Der Spiegel says. The number of customers allowed to enter shops will be initially limited; in schools children should be able to keep enough distance from each other ‒ in order to enable this, classes will be scaled down. The message of the “roadmap” is that citizens should go back to work gradually, but not all and at the same time.

Previously Austrian government presented its own relaxing strategy and stated that it will be ready to implement it since the middle of April. Therefore, on April 14 small shops (under 400 square metres), do-it-yourself stores and garden centers will be allowed to open, from May 1 – all shops, shopping centers and hairdressers; and finally, from the middle of May – large service providers, like restaurants and hotels. The curfew in Austria will be lifted at the end of April. Before it happens, people are allowed to leave their homes for the only four reasons: to go to work, buy necessary goods, to help those who are in need and to go for a walk. The events usually attended by a lot of people are forbidden till the end of June. The quarantine measures will be regularly reviewed.

Denmark plans to open day care centres and schools for children in first to fifth grade on April 15, the restriction on gatherings of more than 10 people will be prolonged until 10 May, a ban on larger gatherings ‒ until August.

The government of Czech Republic has already allowed sport activities. Moreover, athletes (bikers, runners, in-line skaters) do not have to wear protection mask if separated from other people by a physical barrier (outdoor courts separated by a wall or fence) or are at least 2 meters away. Since April 7 people are allowed to buy unnecessary goods, the government announced that it will review other restrictions after Easter. However, on Thursday more than 58 000 people signed a petition protesting against opening schools in April-May and asked to prolong distance learning by the end of 2019/2020 school year.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned that there is no indication at EU level that the peak of the epidemic has been reached, despite the fact that the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Italy and Austria are declining. ECDC Director Andrea Ammon noticed that distancing measures in the EU/EEA and the United Kingdom should be extended.

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