European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
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LONDON – The president of the European Commission has said that European governments should gradually lift coronavirus lockdowns and other social restrictions to prevent a third wave of infections.
Europe is struggling with a second increase in Covid-19 infections since September, which has led to re-imposition of lockdowns in some countries and an all-out escalation of restrictions across the region.
Despite a slowdown in cases in some countries in recent days, the numbers are still high and there are no clear signs of peaking yet. Meanwhile, Europeans are considering meeting their families during the holiday period.
“Expectations must be managed,” said Ursula von der Leyen of the European Union, in her speech on Thursday evening.
“We all learned from our summer experience that getting out of the wave, and in this case getting out of the first wave, is very difficult and that the effect of very hasty lifting measures had a very bad effect on the epidemiological situation. In summer and autumn.”
Belgium’s health experts explained that the big increase in infections in late September and October came after the government relaxed many of the restrictions that were in effect, such as reopening schools for a new semester and allowing people to return to work.
“We will propose a gradual and coordinated approach to lift the containment measures. This will be very important to avoid the risks of another wave,” von der Leyen said at a virtual press conference.
As of Thursday, there were more than 11 million Covid-19 cases in Europe (which includes the European Union, the United Kingdom and other countries), according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. France, Spain and Italy remain at the top of the three European Union member states in terms of the number of infections. The Czech Republic, Austria, Luxembourg and Slovenia have the highest cumulative number of cases for 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants.
Von der Leyen’s comments come after positive news of the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. The Pfizer and BioNtech vaccines as well as the Moderna vaccines have all delivered high rates of efficacy and the European Commission expects to be approved by the second half of December.
European Union leaders are also starting to think about which part of the population should be vaccinated first.
Nadia Calvino, Spain’s chief financial officer, told Karen Tso of CNBC at an event Thursday that there will be no vaccinations for everyone right away.
“We have to decide … which groups should be vaccinated first in order to achieve maximum impact,” she added.
However, they also have to address the problem that many citizens would be against to get vaccinated. In this context, von der Leyen said that the European Union will launch a media campaign.