Research
24/03/2020

Commission’s response to COVID-19

  • Agnieszka Wieczorek Jetha
  • 24/03/2020

As Europe and the world is facing the COVID-19 outbreak, the EU has taken steps that will use research and innovation to tackle the challenges and have a direct impact on public health.

Commission coordinates response to impact of coronavirus

The European Commission has presented plans intended to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The main features of these plans include:

  • Ensuring that necessary supplies reach health systems by preserving the integrity of the Single Market and value chains
  • Providing support for those whose incomes and jobs are affected by the crisis
  • Supporting firms and the European financial sector
  • Allowing member states to act decisively and in a coordinated manner
  • Ensure the adequate supply of protective equipment and medical supplies across Europe

Read more about announced measures here.

Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative

As national, regional and local communities are on the frontline countering the outbreak, actions are being taken to contain the virus’ spread while preventing strain on public healthcare and reinforcing Europe’s economic responsiveness. The Commission has proposed a Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) to mobilise cohesion policy that can provide a flexible response to rapidly emerging and changing needs in healthcare, SMEs, labour markets and the most affected territories and citizens. Read more about the proposed CRII here and here.

Public health

The Commission provides guidance and supports measures across the EU through structures such as the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) and the Health Security Committee (HSC). Once a cross-border health threat is declared, as is the case for COVID-19, Member States should consult each other within the HSC and in coordination with the European Commission. The goal is to align national responses and crisis communication.

On 17 March, the Commission launched an advisory panel on COVID-19 to work on EU guidelines on science-based and coordinated risk management measures. The panel is composed of epidemiologists and virologists from different Member States and was created following a mandate by EU Member States. It will be chaired by the Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, and co-chaired by Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for health and food safety.

The panel will provide advice to the Commission on formulation of response measures to be addressed to all Member States, Identification and mitigation of significant gaps and inconsistencies in measures to contain the spread of COVID19, including in clinical management and treatment, Prioritisation of health care, civil protection and other resources as well as support measures to be organised or coordinated at EU level. The recommendation of policy measures for addressing and mitigating long-term consequences of COVID-19 will be addresses subsequently.

See the full mandate here.

Commissioner Mariya Gabriel highlights the importance of research and innovation in the crisis

The EU commissioner for research, innovation, education and youth has stressed the importance of research and innovation in tackling this global crisis, from understanding the disease and how it spreads, to developing treatments and vaccines. The commissioner gives details on additional funding available for projects working on diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatments; the expected operational impact on EU funding programmes and insists that Horizon Europe needs to start on 1 January and so the need to agree the next Multi-annual Financial Framework soon is more important than ever. Read more here.