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