European Commission to develop coordinated ‘exit strategy’ from lockdowns

By Sarah Wheaton

Brussels will develop a coordinated “exit strategy” for lifting social isolation measures, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said late Thursday.

“We need to coordinate our decisions when, at a certain time, we want to go back to normal — because otherwise, we will undermine the effectiveness of the tough measures we took,” von der Leyen said at a press briefing after a videoconference of EU leaders.

Neither she nor European Council President Charles Michel offered a concrete timeframe for lifting lockdown orders around the bloc.

Von der Leyen said the Commission's panel of virologists and epidemiologists advising her on the pandemic is working with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to create models of different scenarios. Those models will consider which measures to lift, and in which regions, she said. “The spread of the virus determines the pace at which we are progressing," von der Leyen said.

The Commission president acknowledged economic pressure to lift lockdowns. Social isolation is key “in order not to overstretch the health care system,” she said. Yet “every day costs a lot of economic power.”

The Commission also plans to host an “online pledging event” to fund a vaccine against the coronavirus, according to von der Leyen, along the lines of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board.

A joint statement from EU leaders after their videoconference addressed efforts to slow the virus’ spread, fight online misinformation and boost the supply of medical equipment.