Europe has been one of the worlds most affected nations by COVID. The EU had miserably failed during their initial days of the pandemic, mainly because they could not react fast enough. Since EU was hit relatively earlier than the other countries, there were no clear strategies in place. So, how did they bounce back?
EU approach towards COVID
The Commission had four clear priorities in their road map to recovery.
* Limiting the Spread (Lifting Social distancing in Stages and effective Contact tracing)
* Ensuring continuous provisioning of medical equipment to hospitals and promoting Research & Vaccines
* Effective Social and Economic Policy
* Support Green transition to a climate neutral Economy
Once the member states of the EU agreed on this 4 point agenda, a Recovery plan was clearly formulated. Grants and loans to the member states towards the recovery plan was sanctioned, €650 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans.
The EU always made sure that there were less disparities between their member states in their Social and economic policies. In order to promote this and strengthen their development, the union commission had a ‘Cohesion Policy’ in place. This policy provides grants for hospitals and companies of their member states. A €55 billion addition was sanctioned between 2020-22.
Between 2007 – 2019 their investment on research and vaccines on infectious diseases was €4.1 billion, post-COVID an additional €1 billion had been granted for Corona Virus research and vaccination.
Support to Green Transition
EU is a pioneer in Climate Neutrality. Being a climate neutral nation is to reduce the Green House gas emissions in the atmosphere. The main contributor of this emission is Human activity in generating electricity from Fossil fuels. Experts say that the global temperature can go up 0.2° Celsius a decade to maintain a safe atmosphere but post-industrial period the levels have gone up by 1.1 ℃. When lock down was imposed during the pandemic, the emission levels had gone down slightly but did not bring in any significant impact. So, EU had allocated a grant of €40 billion towards green transition. This grant will be consumed by industries towards the use of Renewable Energy as their main source of energy and thereby targeting a Zero carbon emission by 2050.
US has been the main contributor in Green House gas emission because of the huge number of industries across the nation and their main source being coal. India and China have brought down their emission slightly without any significant impact . Even though most of the nations have not bought into ‘Climate Neutrality’, Europe keeps stressing the importance of a safer atmosphere and takes appropriate measures.
Europe has not just addressed the current scenario through various grants but has also envisioned the future through the learning from the pandemic . A new health program has been put in place to prepare the nation for any such future threats. Not just for a pandemic situation, but the government is getting itself prepared for large scale emergencies too. Grants for €9.4 billion and €3.1 billion has been sanctioned for these respective plans.
Apart from this a grant of €15.3 billion has been sanctioned towards kick starting their economy and helping private investment sector, thereby addressing the pandemic in a holistic manner.
Now , what should the other nations learn from them.
The Commission has come up with some interesting ideas towards addressing the pandemic.
* Usage of Traffic Light Regions i.e. marking a region red, yellow and green based on their COVID cases and lifting the lockdown based on the color. Though this method is used by many nations, how effectively they use these metrics in bringing down the spread matters.
* Most of the nations have increased and improved their testing facility, but there is not much action taken based on the metrics. The COVID case numbers are tracked for sheer statistics by most of them, whereas EU uses these metrics a better way. They lift the ban on these regions based on the no. of new cases, hospital facility and the testing availability in that region.
* The commission follows a very effective testing and contact tracing mechanism. In Germany, there is a 5-member testing team for every 20,000 people. Usage of technological apps for contact tracing, where the information of the COVID patient is sent directly from their personal phone to the centralized data system instead of sending it to the provider and then to the government. Though there is always a concern about security breach when technology is involved, the commission decided that would be a comparatively smaller issue to handle.
* One of the important aspects where nations like US miserably failed in controlling the pandemic was the connectivity between health care systems and the government. In US for most of the states, the decision to lift the ban was taken by Health care providers unlike EU where government had the entire control. The Health system and the government are in complete sync with regular meetings . Though the government has an upper hand in implementing them it is always a collective decision.
* The commission has formulated good and effective Social policies; in fact the govt. body facilitates discussion between employees and employers. It has also been advised to companies to list COVID as a work-related injury and to include compensation for the same. If someone has been affected by COVID, they should be provided with suitable alternatives like work from home if applicable or reduce the number of days at the office or during a very critical situation provide entire salary even during their absence.
Though all these seems to be an effective Recovery plan, the world must wait and see how EU emerges successful in their recovery.
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