Coronavirus second wave prompts virtual EU summit

Charles Michel in a videoconference on 21 October 2020. [Council Newsroom]

European Union leaders will hold a video-conference next week to discuss how to better cooperate against the COVID-19 pandemic as infections rise, European Council President Charles Michel said on Wednesday (21 October).

The video-summit, to be held on 29 October, will be the first of a series of regular discussions that EU leaders have committed to hold to tackle the pandemic at a time when most of the member countries report alarming figures confirming a second wave.

“We need to strengthen our collective effort to fight COVID-19,” Michel said on Tweeter.

The discussion, due to start in the late afternoon, will take place a day after the EU Commission is expected to announce new plans to strengthen coordination among EU states on testing strategies, contact tracing and quarantine length, officials told Reuters.

The EU’s 27 nations fought COVID-19 with different, sometimes contrasting measures, in the first months of the pandemic. The tighter coordination is expected to prevent a repeat of the divisions seen after the first wave.

The biggest hesitation is whether EU governments should introduce new lockdowns, at a time when many national economies are still reeling from the first wave of measures to contain the virus.

Moreover, the measures decided at EU level to help economies recover from the first wave of the coronavirus have not yet materialised, as a result of the bloc’s lengthy decision-making processes. Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit EU members, are becoming increasingly nervous over the delay.

Spain becomes first EU nation with one million virus cases

Spain has become the first European Union nation to record a million coronavirus infections, official data showed on Wednesday (21 October), as the government mulled fresh restrictions on public life to curb the spread of the disease.

At the European Commission’s daily press point on Wednesday, journalists highlighted inconsistencies between EU countries on travelling requirements. Greece, for example, requires that incoming passengers possess a certificate for a recent negative PCR test, while Belgium has stopped making such tests, except for persons with COVID-19 symptoms.

Coordination is taking place on some issues, however, such as vaccine procurement and common criteria to assess the gravity of the epidemic at national level.

But national measures still vary considerably.

The length of quarantine for those who have been in contact with sick people was 14 days across the EU until recently, when some countries began shortening it.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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