Our common enemy is too strong to be defeated alone. Covid-19 is a highly infectious virus that triggers symptoms in ca. 10% of infected people that are so serious that they require hospitalisation. Currently, no country on Earth has enough medical supplies, staff or locations to deal with such a high rate of hospitalisation. Hundreds of millions of lives are at risk. The severity and death toll of this global crisis will be a direct result of our ability to keep the number of people in need of medical support at the levels of existing medical resources. These “flattening of the curve”-measures will be intrusive and force all of us to sacrifice and change behaviour. All 27 Member States plus the United Kingdom must fight this crisis as one. Once the situation in the European Union has stabilised all resources and efforts must be turned to the rest of the world.
The ECDC must be leading and consulting the common decision making by all EU health ministers and other experts. It must advise and consult on specific actions to be taken by governments and EU Institutions. The political goals expressed below must be executed with a common strategy and enough flexibility to allow decision-makers on the ground to adapt quickly. Rational expert knowledge is the only factor that can guide decisions in this crisis, any other consideration such as economic, political or self-interested concerns must be kept to a minimum.
The European Institutions must all guarantee that the single market remains open. All designated essential items and essential personal must be guaranteed free unobstructed movement. Essential items are all goods and services that are used to fight against the virus, they should at least include food, medicine, respirators, ventilators, protective gear, testing kits and hospital supplies. Equally, essential personal are all people who are fighting the virus directly or indirectly, this category should at least include medical personal, safety and security personal and personal responsible for the functioning of supply chains for essential items. The exact definitions must be agreed upon all 27+1 in consultation with the ECDC and used and implemented uniformly throughout the single market. Essential items and personal must get top priority to insure fast movement.
A general EU-wide quarantine is currently necessary to slow down the spread of the virus. This must immediately be in put in place and effectively enforced. We presently cannot test nearly enough people, quickly and reliably enough to predict the real spread of the virus and thus a total quarantine is the least bad option. Everybody who is not essential personal must stay home and not engage in any activities that could spread the virus. Most of us will be fighting against the virus by slowing down its spread through social distancing. At the current situation the testing capacity in the European Union is being greatly expanded. Once widespread, quick and simple, virus testing becomes available the exact spread of the virus must be assessed on entire populations of European and British citizens and safe areas must be allowed to resume normal economic activity. The creation of essential items to help virus stricken areas must be prioritised and the advice of the ECDC on all aspects of lowering quarantine levels must be guiding the decision-making.
Every European and British citizen must be provided a basic universal income for the time being of their involuntary quarantine. A massive increase in economic spending by the European governments and Institutions is the most important step to ensure safety and economic stability. Direct, universal payments to all people must be provided immediately, without bureaucratic burdens to have the necessary, life-saving effect. Varying additional measures, such as freezing of rent and mortgage repayments; zero-interest loans and other fiscally expansionist steps to must be explored and initiated, based on expert input by economists. The ECB must use counter-cyclical measures to stabilise the economy and keep key economic indicators in a healthy range, such as keeping the borrowing cost low. A “whatever it takes” moment is needed right now. The Eurozone requires massive capital infusions and guarantees. The European Investment fund and instruments of the European Investment Bank must be used to create liquidity and affordable loans to small businesses. The current appropriation of 37 billion EUR to the crisis must be adjusted and increased depending on the continuation of the crisis.
The frontline soldiers in this global war are doctors, nurses, drivers, policemen and many other unsung heroes. The European Institutions must pass a set of measures and guarantees ensuring that people with designated essential professions receive extra payment; are shielded from any non-criminal legal consequences such as fore-closures and are prioritised for all protective medical measures. Protective gear, testing, medicine and hospital beds must be given to these working professionals with priority as they are the very people who fight to protect all of us.
Respirator, ventilators, protection gear, testing kits and hospital supply production and distribution must be increased by several thousand % in the coming months. If the spread of the virus cannot be contained, the need for these and other essential items will be immense and every unit more will translate into saved lives. The European Institutions must enact a European Defence Production Regulation (EDPR), akin to the US Defense Production Act, that would grant European governments the power to order businesses to produce critical items on demand and confiscate production facilities if necessary. Our businesses must be used to save lives. Fair compensation must be an integral part of the EDPR. The European Commission’s rescEU common strategic stockpile of medical equipment is a necessary step already taken. Its current limited budget of 50 million is not nearly enough in light of the current pandemic and needs to be increased considerably.
All prosecution of patent and other intellectual property violations against reproduction and or sale of essential items must be immediately seized for the remainder of the crisis. Everybody who needs to reproduce any essential item must be able to do so without fear of legal consequences. Hording and price coughing of essential items must be legally perused and future perpetrators must be dissuaded. Common, free databases of production templates for essential items must be shared globally.
If previous measures prove to be insufficient in providing adequate hospitalisation resources, military capacities must be mobilised to build hospitals, transport people and support logistical needs. These measures must remain temporary for the duration of the virus.
The European Union is a beacon of privacy and human rights protection in the World. The General Data Protection Regulation, the Right to be Forgotten Judgement and the defeat of ACTA all prove that we Europeans give a great deal about our right to privacy and all the societal implications that this right guarantees. Measures to control the spread of the virus by violating the right to privacy are already underway in different Member States. Whether you are being tracked on your mobile or other digital devices or facial recognition is tracking you, this crisis has the potential to leave a very dangerous world of totalitarian surveillance in its wake. Just like the 9/11 crisis prompted the US Mass Surveillance Programmes with the Patriot Act, the European Union is at risk of our own mass surveillance reality. Guidelines by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) must be observed. All measures used to violate the right to privacy and other human rights, that are being employed to stop and slowdown the spread of Covid-19 must be temporary. It must make use of aggregated and anonymized data and must be monitored through independent parliamentary oversight, with support of designated ethics commissions.