TALLINN - Ahead of the meeting of European leaders on March 25, the European Commission is calling on member states to prepare for a coordinated approach to a gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions when the epidemiological situation will allow.
On Wednesday, the Commission is adopting a legislative proposal establishing a common framework for a Digital Green Certificate covering vaccination, testing and recovery. This is an EU level approach to issuing, verifying and accepting certificates to facilitate free movement within the EU, based on a strict respect for non-discrimination and of the fundamental rights of EU citizens.
A technical framework will be defined at EU level, to be put in place by mid-June, to ensure security, interoperability, as well as full compliance with personal data protection. It will also allow the possibility to extend to compatible certificates issued in third countries.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is setting out a framework to help member states take decisions on implementing restrictions. The approach will define tiers reflecting the epidemiological situation in each member state. It will allow simulations to illustrate how much leeway each member state has to reduce response measures without risking a reversal in the spread of the virus. An interactive digital tool developed by ECDC will be operational in April for use by member states.
Self-tests for COVID-19, both self-swabbing and self-testing kits, are now starting to enter the market. ECDC will publish a technical guidance on COVID-19 self-tests on Wednesday, including details on their availability, their clinical performance compared to the "gold standard" RT-PCR tests, their implications for reporting and epidemiological surveillance, and the settings for their appropriate use.
On Wednesday, the Commission is adopting a recommendation asking the member states to put in place wastewater monitoring to track COVID-19 and its variants, share the data with competent health authorities for early detection of the presence of the virus, and identify clusters. It promotes the use of common methods for sampling, testing and data analysis, supported by a European exchange platform, and foresees respective financial support.
Data exchange between member states' contact tracing authorities can be particularly important when travelers are crossing borders in close proximity to each other, such as in airplanes or trains. Digital passenger locator forms can be used by member states to collect data from cross-border travelers entering their territory. In order for member states to exchange relevant data through the exchange platform developed by the Commission and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the Commission on Wednesday published draft measures establishing the necessary legal conditions for processing such personal data, to be adopted by the time of the summer travelling season.
A common EU strategy on therapeutics is planned for mid-April to speed up research and manufacturing to ensure quick access to valuable treatments. More flexible regulatory measures for therapeutics, such as labelling facilitations, will be deployed to enable rapid supply at large scale during the pandemic.
In the tourism and hospitality sector, the Commission has asked the Standardization Organization, CEN, to develop, in cooperation with industry and member states, a voluntary sanitary seal to be used by establishments. This deliverable will be available by summer.
The Commission will promote EU cultural heritage sites and cultural routes, as well as cultural events and festivals, through an EU social media campaign on sustainable cultural tourism. New initiatives will be backed up when conditions allow through Erasmus+ and its DiscoverEU action to promote the discovery by young people of Europe's cultural heritage by rail, during and beyond the European Year of Rail.
The EU and its member states are leading investment in the global COVAX Facility and are establishing a coordinated European approach to vaccine sharing by setting up an EU Vaccine Sharing Mechanism to help partner countries overcome the pandemic. The European approach to vaccine sharing will help neighboring and partner countries overcome the pandemic and comes on top of the 2.2 billion euro EU investment from Team Europe -- the Commission, member states and the European Investment Bank (EIB) -- in COVAX.