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Brussels, 13 August 2009

Statements of Health Security Committee and Early Warning and Response System authorities

Statement on School closures

The Health Security Committee/ Early Warning and Response System (HSC/EWRS) national contact points discussed during the last joint audio conference meeting on 31 July the issue of school closures in the context of the Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic. 1

The following operational conclusions were reached:

  • The Member States are of the view that there is presently no need to enact pre-emptive mass school closures where the conditions under 2 do not apply.

  • The Member States conclude that at present the approach to locally close schools reactively upon infection being found among students, may be beneficial to delay the transmission of the virus. The benefit of such an approach clearly depends on timely action of the intervention.

  • The Member States commit themselves to re-evaluate the situation on a regular basis and to review this statement accordingly.

Decisions on the necessity to close schools are the sole responsibility of each Member State based on the epidemiological situation in each country.

Furthermore, school closures, to be efficient, have to be accompanied by other non-health measures to ensure that alternative gatherings of children do not happen. Other types of non-health measures may be envisaged by Member States to limit the impact of parental absenteeism on business continuity and to ensure educational continuity.

Member States are asked to inform each other and the European Commission on measures related to school closures through the EWRS system according to Decision 2119/98/EC.

Statement on Influenza A(H1N1) Symptomatic Individuals Travelling

With the current pandemic situation and the large number of individuals travelling either for personal (i.e tourism) or professional reasons, an increasing number of individuals may develop symptoms just before planned travel or while travelling to a country different to their country of origin. In this context, travelling refers to crossing the border of an EU Member State by land, maritime or air modes of transport.

As a consequence, EU Member States may have to increasingly face the need to handle and manage cases among travellers who are outside their Member State of origin/residence on holidays or on business.

Under the Treaty establishing the European Community article 18.1 on Freedom of Movement applies. Countries should not implement measures and travel restrictions that lead to restriction of movement between EU Member States. However, in relation to A(H1N1) influenza, the overriding public health recommendation to symptomatic individuals remains to delay any travel and stay at home.

The following statement is a summary of the discussions for consideration by national contact points. It intends to provide a general guide to the Member States that would be reviewed according to the evolution of the situation.

  • People developing symptoms in their country of origin and before travelling to the country of destination would be recommended to postpone outbound departure according to the protocol of the country of origin, if any;

  • People developing symptoms in the country of destination, would be recommended

  • to postpone their return travel according to the protocol of the hosting country if any; and

  • to remain in the host country and remain in their hotel room (or other facility) and limit their contact with other people unless it is necessary to seek medical attention according to the protocol of the hosting country

  • People having developed symptoms in the country of destination and wishing to return to their country of origin despite the recommendations would not be prevented from travelling back to their country of origin, except for clinical reasons. People having developed symptoms and wishing to travel would be recommended to wear protective masks during transport.

The Member States commit themselves to re-evaluate the situation on a regular basis and to review this statement accordingly.

1 :

ECDC has produced scientific advice which shows that the effects of school closure (or 'class dismissal') are very uncertain. However, such actions may - in certain situations - contribute to delaying the transmission. A major concern is that if there is any delay in appreciating that transmission has started in children, then there may be little effect, as the damage will already have been done.

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