European scientists call for continent-wide Covid approach

Ultimately, a Europe-wide synchronised lockdown could be an option, the scientists say. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Several Swiss scientists have also signed the appeal calling for better European coordination to avoid pandemic efforts by some countries being undermined by others.

This content was published on December 27, 2020 - 12:44
NZZ am Sonntag/

To prevent “a ping-pong effect of importing and reimporting” Covid cases, an effort to reduce infections should be synchronised across all European countries and start as soon as possible, the researchers recommended last weekExternal link in The Lancet medical journal.

Of the 350 signatories, nine were Swiss, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper says: these include several members of the government’s scientific taskforce advisory body.

Isabelle Eckerle, a Geneva virologist who added her name, said the coordinated effort had become necessary not only to bring down high infection numbers, but also to avoid the danger that unsynchronised measures in different countries end up undercutting each other.

“In a Europe with open borders, the pandemic efforts are only as good as the country which manages least well,” she told the NZZ.

Eckerle said a continent-wide lockdown could be used to bring down case numbers to what the scientists reckon should be a maximum of 10 new infections per day per million people. For reference, the current Swiss numbers (where the seven-day average is 4,064 new cases in a country of 8.5 million people) are about 50 times higher than this.

“This target has been reached in many countries, and can be reached again throughout Europe by spring 2021, at the latest,” the scientists write. They say keeping numbers stable at a high level leads to excess mortality, difficulties in contact tracing, and strains on mental health and the economy.

They cite China and Australia as examples where the economic cost of the pandemic was mitigated by strong lockdowns to reduce or eliminate the virus.

The recent case of the virus mutation from the UK, which has already spread in at least several instances to Switzerland, shows just how quickly open borders can lead to sudden spreads from country to country, the NZZ writes.

The UK variant, which is feared to be much more contagious and fast-spreading than the coronavirus strain it evolved from, was confirmed in three cases in Switzerland over the past days, the federal health office confirmed.

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