Today, the Commission adopted a strategy for sustainably managing the pandemic over the coming winter months, a period that can bring a risk of increased transmission of the virus owing to specific circumstances such as indoor gatherings. The strategy recommends continued vigilance and caution throughout the winter and 2021 when they roll out safe and effective vaccines. The Commission will then provide further guidance on a gradual and coordinated lifting of containment measures.

A coordinated EU-wide approach is key to provide clarity to people and avoid a resurgence of the virus linked to the end of year holidays. Any relaxation of measures should take into account the evolution of the epidemiological situation and sufficient capacity for testing, contact tracing, and treating patients.

Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “In these extremely difficult times, guidance to the Member States to promote a common approach to the winter season and in particular on how to manage the end of the year period, is of vital importance. We need to curtail future outbreaks of infection in the EU. It is only through such sustained management of the pandemic that we will avoid new lockdowns and severe restrictions and overcome together.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Every 17 seconds, a person loses their life due to COVID-19 in Europe. The situation may be stabilizing, but it remains delicate. Like everything else this year, end of the year festivities will be different. We cannot jeopardize the efforts made by us all in recent weeks and months. This year, saving lives must come before celebrations. But with vaccines on the horizon, there is also hope. All Member States must now be ready to start vaccination campaigns and roll-out vaccines as quickly as possible once a safe and effective vaccine is available.”

Recommended control measures

The staying safe from COVID-19 during winter strategy recommends measures to keep the pandemic under control until vaccines are widely available. It focuses on: