EU coronavirus plan snubbed as member states ignore Brussels’ pleas and ease lockdowns

Spain, Italy and France have all signalled they will keep their lockdowns but have announced plans to reopen their economy amid signs they have overcome the worse of the global pandemic. President Emmanuel Macron extended his coronavirus measures until May 11. But he added schools and businesses would be gradually allowed to reopen after that date.

His announcement came after Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez loosened his isolation regulations to allow non-essential industries to return to work after a two-week ban.

Italy, Europe’s worst-affected country with more than 20,000 deaths, last week also extended its lockdown until at least May 3.

But prime minister Giuseppe Conte paved the way for small businesses, including laundrettes and shops selling children’s clothes and books, to reopen.

Their efforts come despite the European Commission hoping for capitals to agree on a bloc-wide exit strategy coordinated from Brussels.

Ursula von der Leyen has called for the creation of a “task-force like structure” to dictate how countries can exit from their lockdowns.

“Action must be co-ordinated between the member states,” according to a leaked copy of the plans seen by Express.co.uk.

The document added: “Member states are invited to nominate single points of contact for the European Commission and neighbouring countries, ideally as part of an operational task force-like structure.”

The Brussels-based EU executive warns of “political friction between member states” unless capitals follow its plans.

The Commission also promises to speed up the approval process for medical equipment to help combat a second wave of coronavirus infections, which it says is “unavoidable”.

“It must be acknowledged that the virus continues circulating and any level of gradual relaxation of the confinement will unavoidably lead to a corresponding increase in new cases,” the dossier states.

“This will require constant and detailed monitoring as well as the readiness to adjust and reintroduce new measures if needed.

“We will have to live with the virus until a vaccine or treatment is found.”

Previous attempts to deliver an EU-wide exit strategy from coronavirus lockdowns were derailed after member states refused to hand power to Brussels.

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Eurocrats were forced to water down their demands in the hope of encouraging enough member states to come on board with the plan.

One EU diplomat told Express.co.uk: “It’s not for them to decide, but they certainly have a role.”

European sources say capitals could be ready to support the Commission in delivering a health application to help track the spread of coronavirus.

Brussels wants to create a “framework for contact tracing with the use of mobile apps which respect data privacy”.

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The exit strategy added: “Mobile applications that warn citizens of an increased risk due to close proximity with an infected person can be an effective tool in the exit strategy.”

Other European leaders are also ready to back the Commission on maintaining the external travel ban, which prevents all non-essential visits from outside the bloc.

The diplomat added: “Loosening border controls can only be done in a co-ordinated fashion.”

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