Following today’s decision by the European Commission to classify COVID-19 as a biological agent level 3, the Socialists and Democrats announced they are seeking to build a majority in the European Parliament to reject the Commission’s decision and ensure strict safety measures are put in place to protect workers.
Agnes Jongerius, MEP and S&D spokesperson on employment, said:
“We strongly oppose the decision by the Commission to classify COVID-19 only as a mid-level hazard. COVID-19 is the biggest health challenge of our lifetime. Especially for frontline and essential workers like nurses, grocery clerks, drivers and cleaners who are exposed to greater risks to their health and life at their work-place. Thousands have fallen sick, thousands have died after contracting COVID-19 while working to keep our families safe and our communities connected. Now, that millions of workers will be sent back to their workplaces, we have to make sure that they too are adequately protected and a second wave is prevented. Due to the high level of spreading, and until a vaccine or treatment becomes available, COVID-19 must be categorized as a threat of the highest category 4 in line with the clear and binding criteria established in the directive itself.
“This Commission’s decision illustrates once again that the procedures set out in the Biological Agent Directive are neither democratic nor transparent nor up to the challenges of a pandemic. Giving member states five months to have preventive measures in place is irresponsible. There is no public information available about the consulted experts and their reasoning. Neither social partners nor the European Parliament were involved in the process. This is why we are working towards building an alliance in Parliament to object to the classification of COVID-19 as only a mid-level threat and to revise the directive to better adapt it to pandemic outbreaks. COVID-19 is a wake-up call to step-up our efforts on health and safety at work. We owe it to all workers who put their health on the line to serve others during this pandemic to keep them safe at their workplace.”
Note to the editor:
The Employment Committee will vote on the Commission’s decision to classify COVID-19 as a group 3 biological agent on the 11th of June; followed by a vote in the full plenary of the European Parliament in its June session.
The existing text of the Biological Agents Directive (BAD) is from 2000, last revised in 2019, to be transposed only in November 2021, and did therefore not include COVID-19. In BAD, agents are classified in four groups from the lowest danger (group 1) to the highest (group 4), and clear criteria are provided:
Article 2 of the Directive defines a group 3 biological agent as “one that can cause severe human disease and present a serious hazard to workers; it may present a risk of spreading to the community, but there is usually effective prophylaxis or treatment available”.
Group 4 defines a biological agent as “one that causes severe human disease and is a serious hazard to workers; it may present a high risk of spreading to the community; there is usually no effective prophylaxis or treatment available”.