No end in sight in Europe

“I can’t give a blueprint” or “recipe” for statistics on when it will be advisable for people to leave their homes, said Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, the federal government’s disease monitoring agency Control. “We assess the situation every day,” added Wieler on Wednesday.

The heads of state and government of the European Union plan to call for an “exit strategy” when they meet for video conferences on Thursday. “We should start by preparing the necessary measures to return to the normal functioning of our societies,” says a first draft of the conclusions that the European Council is expected to agree on that day.

The declaration is being drawn up in Brussels, even though experts at home warn that the closures are likely to need to be extended.

If the world wages a “war” against the corona virus, as French President Emmanuel Macron put it, governments have only mobilized their armies after the enemy has crossed the border. Social isolation measures are believed to slow the pandemic, but it is almost certainly too late to eliminate or even contain the corona virus.

This leaves the ultimate goal unclear. In the short term, locks have a simple function. Evidence from Asia, including a new study from Singapore suggests that they are an effective way to slow the infection rate and prevent hospitals and health systems from becoming overwhelmed.

But if the virus stays here, when will policymakers consider it safe for people to leave their homes?

Politicians are currently not making decisions based on actual data, said Christian Drosten, a German virologist who developed the coronavirus test and advised the federal government on how to curb the disease.

Instead, he said, movements like curfews and school closings are driven by politicians’ gut feelings and observational impressions. Hard dates are weeks away, but epidemiologists are rushing to collect them to help officials make an informed decision by Easter.

“We cannot always make the measures stricter without knowing whether this makes any difference,” Drosten said on one current podcast.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week estimated It would take approximately 12 weeks to turn the page of the outbreak. However, when he announced a tough ban on Monday, he said the government would review the rules in three weeks and “loosen them if the evidence shows we can”. Johnson did not say what such evidence should show.

When asked by the BBC on Tuesday how the government would know that their efforts were working, cabinet minister Michael Gove said the goal was “to lower the infection rate to relieve pressure on the government.” [National Health Service], ”Without addressing when the on-site orders could be canceled.

In France a new report A council of 11 scientists recommended a social distance of at least six weeks.

The panel said they could only consider whether the containment was working three weeks after the exam started, and the decision to unsubscribe should be based on whether hospitals are able to control patient flow – especially for ventilation. However, this requires data from hospitals and “it is difficult to collect data when hospitals are overwhelmed,” wrote the panel.

“We can only end detention if the epidemic curve allows it,” said French Health Minister Olivier Véran said Tuesdayand warns that his country’s 15-day lock-up period is likely to be extended.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is one of the few heads of state and government who has actually formulated a measurable criterion for lifting the block: to reach a point where cases only double every 14 days.

However, he added at a Press conference on Tuesday These authorities must “find measures that need to be implemented in order to [the situation] to stay that way when we restart public life. “

Part of the difficulty is that politicians and their advisors are still waiting to learn more about the virus. Will it fade like the flu in warm weather? How does the virus mutate over time and how long do people remain immune when exposed?

If enough people catch the virus and survive, will a country achieve so-called herd immunity, in which a large part of the population has antibodies that can prevent an infection from spreading? Is there a cure? How quickly can vaccines be developed – and will they work at all?

Wuhan’s experience in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, could provide some answers. About 11 weeks after isolation from the outside world, the city of 11 million people will be released from the block on April 8, the Chinese authorities said on Tuesday.

The world will watch for the virus to spread again – even if some Beijing doesn’t trust it to report a resurgence precisely as it hides the first signs of the outbreak.

Some experts are beginning to imagine what a transition to the “new normal” could look like if barriers slow infection rates: a combination of the aggressive tests that the World Health Organization has been demanding from the start, with the expectation that the most vulnerable will be people will carry more of the burden of isolating alone.

ON paper The study, published on Wednesday by a group of Italian economists, suggests gradually resuming people under 40 years of age, putting essential manufacturing online, and using an app to track how potentially infectious people could have spread the disease.

On Wednesday, the UK announced a massive increase in testing capacity, including the purchase of 3.5 million antibody kits that could be used for home testing and a new swab analysis laboratory outside of London.

For countries whose decisions are based not on epidemiological studies but on political or economic factors, the exit is easier to recognize – even if the road afterwards could be rocky.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced new restrictions on Tuesday and said the goal was to return to a “new normal” after the Easter break. Country elections are scheduled for May 10.

And in the United States, President Donald Trump raised concerns about the US economy and said a social resurrection by Easter is “just a nice timeline.”

There are many in Europe who hope that he is right as the Heads of State or Government watch their tax bases collapse even as demands for bailouts increase.

However, experts offer few reasons for short-term optimism.

Neil Ferguson, an infectious disease expert from Imperial College London, said on Wednesday from British MPs how the outbreak could be stopped: “The long-term exit is clearly the hope of a vaccine.”

At best, that’s a year away.

Ashleigh Furlong, Jakob Hanke, Elisa Braun, Judith Mischke, Annabelle Dickson, Zia Weise and Zosia Wanat contributed to the reporting.

This article is part of POLITICOPremium insurance service: Pro Health Care. Our specialist journalists keep you up to date on pharmaceutical prices, EMA, vaccines, pharmaceuticals and more, and keep you up to date on the issues that determine the health policy agenda. E-mail [email protected] for a free trial.

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