Coronavirus: Saving lives comes before Christmas celebrations, says EU

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By Christopher Pitchers
Pedestrians are silhouetted in front of a giant Christmas tree at the Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
Pedestrians are silhouetted in front of a giant Christmas tree at the Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain   -  Copyright  Credit: AP

Brussels has made a festive warning and called on EU countries to remain vigilant against coronavirus until a vaccine is widely available. 

The planned easing of restrictions in some countries, the likelihood of indoor gatherings and people returning to their families to celebrate have heightened fears infections will increase over the Christmas period. 

It has prompted the European Commission to call on member states to continue initiatives like social distancing, contact tracing and limiting social contacts. 

"If we are not careful, if we do not practice self-restraint and discipline, if we relax too quickly, if this relatively more stable period is not used to prepare, we will have more cases, more deaths and more lockdowns," said Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, outlining the EC's winter COVID-19 strategy. 

"This was true back in July and it is true now, but this time we have the chance to do things differently.

"The situation may be stabilising, but it remains delicate. Like everything else this year, end of the year festivities will be different. We cannot jeopardise the efforts made by us all in recent weeks and months. This year, saving lives must come before celebrations." 

But the EU doesn't actually have authority when it comes to health issues, so the European Commission is relying on national governments to sign off on the strategy and, more importantly, to implement it.

COVID coordination isn't an area where Europe is having much success. Germany, France and Italy want all ski resorts across the continent to be closed, Austria, however, doesn't agree.