Social distancing the only cost-effective solution to coronavirus for now

A teleconference took place today (12 March) of EU health ministers, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and three Commissioners: Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič and Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton. [EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET]

The only solution to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and prevent serious strains on health systems and economies across Europe is to employ preventive measures like staying home, taking care of children, shopping on behalf of grandparents, EU sources told EURACTIV.com.

A teleconference took place on Thursday (12 March) of EU health ministers, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and three Commissioners: Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič and Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Thierry Breton.

According to ECDC, the risk of severe disease associated with COVID-19 infection for people in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered moderate for the general population and high for older adults and individuals with chronic underlying conditions, based on the probability of community transmission and the impact of the disease.

However, the risk of driving EU healthcare systems to the edge remains high.

“The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EEA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high. The impact and risk assessment on health system capacity can be mediated by the application of effective infection prevention and control and surge capacity measures,” ECDC said in a statement.

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According to EU sources, social distancing is the most cost-effective measure at least for now and it’s not clear yet for how long.

“The governments should push for this message immediately […] this is the best way to contain the virus for now,” sources said.

The logic behind social distancing lies in the argument that it’s the only way to face the rising economic fallout.

“If people continue business as usual, then they will go to work and ultimately get infected […] and then they won’t be able to work, with a direct impact on the economy,” the sources explained.

In addition, these people will visit hospitals, which are already overwhelmed, and thus the member states will not be able to address the escalation, the sources added.

ECDC suggested the suspension of mass gatherings, social distancing measures at workplaces (for example teleworking, suspension of meetings, cancellation of non-essential travel.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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