On a Knife’s Edge: EU Leaders in Search of Covid-19 Lockdown Exit Strategy

Written by | Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

More European nations have announced plans for a gradual lifting of restrictions designed to curb the spread of coronavirus. Spain is hoping for a return to relative normality by late June, with officials in Madrid announcing a four-phase plan on Tuesday (28 April) to begin on 4 May, which will lift one of the toughest set of restrictions as the daily death toll fell to 301, less than a third of a record high of 950 in early April. In France, a new regime of coronavirus testing will be launched on 11 May so that it can gradually lift its lockdown and avoid economic meltdown, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said also on Tuesday, warning that citizens have to be disciplined to avert a new outbreak. His government has set itself a goal of carrying out at least 700,000 tests per week, whereby for every individual who tests positive, the proces of tracing will be launched to identify, test and isolate all those who had been in close contact with the person.
“When we end the lockdown, we will have the capacity to massively scale up testing,” French PM said but warned that the infection rate would spiral if the country moved too swiftly and people became complacent. “We are on a knife’s edge. I am having to choose between bad decisions,” Philippe said, shortly before parliament voted in favour of his plans. “We must protect the French people without paralysing France to the point that it collapses. A little too much carefreeness and the epidemic takes off again. Too much prudence and the whole country buckles.” In a similar fashion like in neighboring Spain, in France schools will gradually reopen and businesses will be free to resume operations from 11 May, but restaurants, cafes and beaches must remain closed until at least June.
Meanwhile, in Germany, there are signs that the transmission of the novel coronavirus has again picked up, just as the country attempts a cautious easing of its lockdown measures. The reproduction or infection rate – under close watch by health authorities – rose again to approximately 1.0, meaning each infected person passes the virus on to one other, figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control showed late on Monday (27 April). The infection rate had sunk as low as 0.7 since mid-April before inching up again, which has prompted ministers and virologists to hammer home the importance of squeezing the number again below 1.0. The country has seen days of intense political and media debate after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Germany’s federal states against loosening their lockdowns too quickly.

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