How to tackle the pandemic

AuthorDumbrava, Costica
EPRS | European Parliamentary Research Service
On 13 May 2020, the Commission released a package of guidelines and recommendations with the
aim to: safely restore unrestricted free movement and reopen internal borders; safely restore
transport and connectivity; safely resume tourism services; and support and rebuild consumer
confidence in travel and transport services. In its communication on a phased and coordinated
approach for restoring freedom of movement and lifting internal border controls, the Commission
recommended that 'restrictions on travel should first be lifted in areas with a comparable
epidemiological situation', while keeping in place targeted measures, such as testing, contact
tracing, isolation and quarantine measures, to decrease the risk of virus transmission.
The European Parliament, in its resolution of 17 April 2020 on EU coordinated action to combat the
Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences, has urged Member States 'to adopt only necessary,
coordinated and proportionate measures when restricting travel or introducing and prolonging
internal border controls'. Parliament also called on Member States 'to significantly increase support
for research, development and innovation programmes aimed at understanding the disease,
speeding up diagnosis and testing, and developing a vaccine'. In its resolution of 19 June 2020
regarding the situation in the Schengen area following the Covid-19 outbreak, Parliament called for
a return to a fully functional Schengen area 'as a key prerequisite for the EU's economic recovery
after the COVID-19 pandemic'.
2. How to tackle the pandemic
The long-term solution to the Covid-19 pandemic would be a combination of vaccines that provide
protection against future infection and treatments that treat people who are already infected.10 In
the absence of this, the choice is between trying to eradicate the virus or reduce its
spread. Eradication (without a vaccine) is likely to require harsh and disproportionate measures that
may not be deemed acceptable in free and democratic societies. Trying to reduce or manage the
spread using a number of measures (isolation, testing and contact tracing) may allow healthcare
systems to cope with the situation.11
There is also the option of allowing the virus to spread through the population, up the point where
it can no longer find new hosts, causing it to die out the so-called herd immunity strategy.12 If
pursued globally, however, it is estimated that such a non-interventionist approach would have led
to around 60 % of the world's population being infected within a year. Moreover, the herd immunity
approach would have created great challenges for healthcare systems. The approach also raises
complex ethical issues13 because the risk associated with widespread contagion is not equally
shared across the population, with the elderly and the sick likely to face the risk of infection
disproportionally. Lastly, it is also argued 14 that reaching herd immunity does not necessarily mean
that the disease is eradicated, it simply means that there will be fewer cases in places where
sufficient immunity has been established.
While waiting for effective treatments and vaccines, most countries have focused on managing the
pandemic through a combination of measures that include isolation of cases, social distancing,
testing, contact tracing and disease monitoring. In the European Union, a slightly different approach
10 WHO, COVID-19 strategy update - 14 April 2020
11 OECD, Testing for COVID-19: A way to lift confinement restrictions, 4 May 2020.
12 A. Regalado, What is herd immunity and can it stop the coronavirus?
MIT Technology Review
, 17 March 2020.
13 A. Basu, The ‘herd immunity’ route to fighting coronavirus is unethical and potentially dangerous,
The Conversation
17 March 2020/
14 S. L. van Elsland and R. O'Hare Coronavirus pandemic could have caused 40 million deaths if left unchecked, Imperial
College London, News, 26 March 2020.

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