#COVID-19 - ‘This year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas’
Today (28 October) the European Commission presented its proposals for additional measures to tackle the COVID-19 ahead of tomorrow’s meeting (29 October), via videoconference, of European heads of government.
The measures are aimed at a more co-ordinated approach to data sharing, testing, medical and non-medical equipment, to travel, and to vaccination strategies. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for co-operation, co-ordination and solidarity.
Von der Leyen said: “Today we are launching additional measures in our fight against the virus; from increasing access to fast testing and preparing vaccination campaigns, to facilitating safe travel when necessary. I call on the Member States to work closely together. Courageous steps taken now will help save lives and protect livelihoods. No member state will emerge safely from this pandemic until everyone does.”
Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming. Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives and livelihoods, to alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems, and to control the spread of the virus.”
Professor Peter Piot, who is the lead scientist in the Commission’s panel of advisors echoed the President’s concerns, saying that there was no “silver bullet”. He said that Europe was paying a high price for relaxing measures in the summer, adding that measures like wearing the mask work as long as everyone does it.
He also warned against "corona fatigue" and underlined that there was no trade-off between health and the economy. Pointing to a report in the Financial Times, he said that the health issue needed to be fixed to limit economic damage.
The new efforts, look at many actions, such as:
Improving the flow of information to allow informed decision-making: The sharing of accurate, comprehensive, comparable and timely information on epidemiological data, as well as on testing, contact tracing and public health surveillance, is essential to track how the coronavirus spreads at regional and national level and providing all relevant data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Commission.
Establishing more effective and rapid testing: The Commission is proposing directly purchase rapid antigen tests and delivering them to Member States, using €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument. In parallel, the Commission is launching a joint procurement to ensure a second stream of access. Travellers should be offered the possibility to undergo a test after arrival. If negative COVID-19 tests are to be required or recommended for any activity, mutual recognition of tests is essential, in particular in the context of travel.
Making full use of contact tracing and warning apps across borders: EU member states have developed 19 national contact tracing and warning apps, downloaded more than 52 million times. The Commission recently launched a solution for linking national apps across the EU through a ‘European Federation Gateway Service'. Three national apps (Germany, Ireland, and Italy) were first linked on 19 October when the system came online. The Commission calls on all states to set up effective and compatible apps and reinforce their communication efforts to promote their uptake.
Effective vaccination: The development and uptake of safe and effective vaccines is a priority effort to quickly end the crisis. Member States need to take to be fully prepared, which includes the development of national vaccination strategies. The Commission will put in place a common reporting framework and a platform to monitor the effectiveness of national vaccine strategies. To share the best practices, the conclusions of the first review on national vaccination plans will be presented in November 2020.
Effective communication to citizens: Clear communication is essential for the public health response to be successful, the Commission is calling on all Member States to relaunch communication campaigns to counter false, misleading and dangerous information that continues to circulate, and to address the risk of “pandemic fatigue”. Vaccination is a specific area where public authorities need to step up their actions to tackle misinformation and secure public trust, as there will be no compromise on safety or effectiveness under Europe's robust vaccine authorization system.
Securing essential supplies: The Commission has launched a new joint procurement for medical equipment for vaccination.
Facilitating safe travel: The Commission calls on member states to fully implement the Recommendation adopted by the Council for a common and coordinated approach to restrictions to free movement. Citizens and businesses want clarity and predictability. Any remaining COVID-19 related internal border control measures should be lifted.
Brexit - ‘It will never be the EU that ends the negotiation on the future partnership’ Šefčovič
Following the joint committee meeting of the EU and UK to ensure the smooth implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič said that much work remained to be done before the end of the transition period by 1 January. Citizens’ rights - ‘UK is effectively creating two classes of beneficiary’ On citizens' rights, Šefčovič said that given the demands of the pandemic, EU states had been given a further six months to allow UK citizens to apply for residents schemes.
On the UK side, Šefčovič acknowledged efforts to register all EU citizens, but expressed serious concerns over the UK settlement scheme granting residence status in practice. He said that in distinguishing between different categories of EU citizens with the same residence status the UK is effectively creating two classes of beneficiaries under the Withdrawal Agreement.
No summer holiday for #USEUCOM security missions and exercises
From ground forces training on Georgian soil as part of Exercise Noble Partner 20 and strategic bomber missions crisscrossing the skies above the continent to NATO naval vessels conducting security missions in the frigid waters above the Arctic Circle, USEUCOM continued its ceaseless efforts, sustaining its high level of mission readiness and interoperability with NATO Allies and partners alike.
While the COVID-19 global pandemic remained front and center in the minds of exercise planners and participants alike, focused preventative measures were strictly emplaced and enforced to ensure the continued health of the force, along with each of the communities surrounding training areas, airfields and ports. US forces conducted 14-day quarantine periods and COVID-19 testing before landing into each exercise's respective country.
"While the rest of the world slows during the summer months, USEUCOM's schedule of training missions and exercises continues at breakneck pace," said US Marine Corps USEUCOM's Deputy Director of Operations Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman. "With Soldiers training in the Baltics, Poland, and Georgia; Sailors operating in the Barents Sea; Airmen flying and supporting the B-52s flights across Europe; and Marines training in the High North; there is no question that we stand stronger together with our NATO Allies and partners."
A trio of NATO Allies - Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States - joined forces with one of NATO's strongest partner nations, Georgia, to participate in Exercise Noble Partner 20 in military training areas some 20 kilometres from Georgia's capital city of Tbilisi. Launched Monday and running through 18 September, Noble Partner 20 features nearly 3,000 military members conducting situational training exercises, live-fire exercises and combined mechanized maneuvers in Georgia's Vaziani and Camp Norio training areas.
Cooperatively-led by the Georgian Defense Force and U.S. Army Europe, this annual exercise enhances regional partnerships and increases US force readiness and interoperability in a realistic, multinational training environment.
Given the continuing impact of COVID-19 across the globe, Noble Partner 20 was reduced to better protect the participants' and local communities' safety. Working in close co-ordination with the Georgian Ministry of Defense, exercise participants also completed a 14-day quarantine as well as COVID-19 testing before arriving into Georgia.
Bomber task force
In what has become a dependable presence in the skies above Europe for the past two years with more than 200 successful missions, this latest strategic bomber rotation has once again seen the U.S. Air Force's B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft training alongside NATO Allied and partner nations'aircraft.
On Friday (11 SEptember), three B-52s from the U.S. Air Force's 5th Bomb Wing based at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota conducted integrated training with Ukrainian fighter jets within Ukraine's airspace.
Part of a long-planned deployment of six B-52s from Minot to operate from RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England, a journey of more than 6,500 kilometres from its home base in America's Midwest, the latest missions have once again provided air and support crews valuable training, and clearly demonstrated how forward-located aircraft and crews enhance NATO's collective defense capabilities.
The Bomber Task Force's most recent training cycle across Europe included training missions in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions as well as an unprecedented, single-day mission flying over all 30 NATO nations. The historic 30-nation flyover allowed U.S. bomber crews to integrate with military aircraft from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
"These ongoing bomber task force missions showcase USEUCOM's ability to project power and support our Allies and partners throughout Europe," said Wortman.
Navy in the High North
Entering the Barents Sea together Monday, naval vessels from NATO nations Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States began conducting maritime security operations together in the ever-challenging high north. Demonstrating seamless integration among NATO Allies, the three-nation surface action group is led by Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland (F81) and is joined by Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71), British Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Tidespring (A136) and Royal Norwegian frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl (F314).
The major Navy component of USEUCOM's arsenal of capabilities, U.S. Sixth Fleet routinely conducts operations north of the Arctic Circle with Allies and partners to help ensure continued and collective security and access to the seas of the high north.
The U.S.S. Roosevelt (DDG-80) recently completed a 50-day patrol in the high north where it successfully conducted multiple passing exercises with Royal Norwegian Navy counterparts and joined five other nations to participate in NATO's Allied Maritime Command-led anti-submarine warfare exercise, Dynamic Mongoose 20.
Northern Challenge 20
Kicking off last Sunday (6 September) in Keflavik, Iceland, Exercise Northern Challenge 20 is an annual, joint-funded Icelandic Coast Guard-hosted, multinational explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) exercise aimed at preparing Power for Peace, NATO and Nordic nations for international deployments and defence against terrorism.
EOD technicians operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility joined military members from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Austria, Australian, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania and Spain, along with specialists from the US. Defence Threat Reduction Agency, for this unique exercise.
"USEUCOM's diverse and dynamic activities across Europe in the past several weeks underscore America's steadfast commitment to the continent's stability and security," Wortman added. "Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and as the rest of the world enjoys summer holiday, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines remain poised and ready to respond to any crisis or contingency."
US European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for U.S. military operations across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of approximately 72,000 military and civilian personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two US forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, click here.
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