COVID-19: Member states need to harmonise health assessments and measures

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


  • Virus might stay active for several months, until an efficient and safe vaccine is supplied
  • Common definition needed for a positive COVID-19 case, for a death by COVID-19 and for recovery from infection
  • Influenza season likely to increase the number of people who should be tested

Common definitions, health criteria and methodologies are key to effectively fighting the ongoing pandemic and its economic consequences in the EU, MEPs say.

Worried by the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases across Europe, MEPs deplore that member states have not learned the lessons from the beginning of the crisis and have yet again taken different and uncoordinated measures.

In a resolution adopted by 595 votes in favour, 50 against and 41 abstentions on Thursday, they point to the lack of harmonised methodology used to collect and evaluate the number of infected people, leading to differing health risk assessments and restrictions of free movement for people travelling from other EU countries.

Following Tuesday’s debate with Commissioner Didier Reynders and Minister Michael Roth of the German presidency, Parliament urges member states to

  • adopt the same definition for a positive case of COVID-19, for a death by COVID-19 and for recovery from infection,
  • mutually recognise test results in all member states,
  • cut disproportionate waiting times for tests
  • establish a common quarantine period,
  • coordinate travel restrictions when needed, in line with the Commission’s proposal and
  • discuss how to return to a fully-functioning Schengen area, without internal border controls and contingency plans, as quickly as possible.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) should be in charge of assessing the risk of the virus spreading and publishing a weekly updated risk map (per region) using a common colour code, based on the data provided by the member states, MEPs say. Its resources and staff should be increased immediately, they add.

Encourage the use of tracing apps

The resolution asks the Commission to develop a harmonised passenger locator form to build trust in an EU-wide monitoring system. The use of tracing apps should be encouraged, according to MEPs, who expect the national systems to be interoperable by October, to allow for EU-wide COVID-19 tracing. They underline that these apps must operate in full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

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