COVID-19: A coordinated EU health strategy needed, say MEPs 

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  • Common EU methodology to count COVID-19 infection rates and fatalities necessary 
  • Increase production of medical supplies in the EU 
  • Global pledging conference on 4 May to raise funds to develop a vaccine 

Parliament’s committee in charge of public health questioned Commissioners Kyriakides and Lenarčič on how to best step up the EU’s response and coordination to COVID-19.

The Committee Chair Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR), recalled important elements of the resolution adopted last week by Parliament, which asks for a common EU methodology to count infection rates and fatalities related to COVID-19, raises the issue of availability of medicines as well as the need to coordinate an exit strategy at EU level.


Confinement measures must be lifted in a coordinated way


Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, underlined that the priority is now on saving lives and in order not to jeopardize the progress made so far, it is crucial to lift the confinement measures in Europe in a coordinated way and based on science. Replying to questions from MEPs, she informed the Committee that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is working with member states on a common EU methodology to report COVID-19 fatalities. She also agreed with MEPs on the need to produce more medical supplies in the EU to be less reliant on imports from non-EU countries and underlined the limits to what can be done at EU level as long as there is little EU competence in the area of health. Finally, she informed MEPs that Commission President von der Leyen will host a global pledging conference on 4 May to raise funds and step up efforts to combat COVID-19, including by urgently developing a vaccine.


EU can now quickly respond through rescEU


Following questions from some MEPs on the need for more solidarity and EU coordination, Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management mentioned several examples of in-kind assistance from EU member states to those member states requesting such assistance as well as to neighbouring countries. He also said that following the amendment to rescEU to deal with public health emergencies, the EU is now much better equipped to react quickly and directly to requests for assistance from member states.


You can see a recording of the meeting here.


Background

In a resolution adopted on 17 April, Parliament welcomed the solidarity in action shown by member states towards each other and called for the creation of a European Health Response Mechanism to better respond to any type of European health crisis and for a coordinated post-lockdown approach in the EU, in order to avoid a resurgence of the virus.


Parliament also agreed to free up over €3 billion to directly support healthcare systems in the most affected EU member states in their fight against the pandemic.