Coronavirus and ESA’s Duty of Care

PARIS (ESA PR) — With significant developments in the coronavirus situation and recent directives in our host nations, ESA has taken steps ensure the operation of its critical tasks while carefully reinforcing its duty of care and social responsibility.

Last week, many ESA staff and contractors were advised to stay at home and take up teleworking, but the weekend saw border restrictions, closure of schools, shops and centres of social activity in France, Spain and the Netherlands, and even more stringent measures in other host nations. Pre-empting these events, ESA decided to apply this condition to the majority of ESA personnel across all establishments.

Several weeks ago, ESA’s management team began the process to confirm the list of critical tasks that ESA needs to protect, and identify the key resources that are required to support them, should the response to the coronavirus pandemic call for more stringent measures designed to reduce social interaction.

ESA Director General Jan Wörner said, “The health and welfare of our employees, their families and their communities remain my top priority. ESA has a duty of care to them all. But at the same time, we must also protect the core tasks of the Agency. My business priority has to be to ensure that these critical tasks continue uninterrupted.”

Only key workers required to support the formally identified critical tasks will be active at ESA sites, with all others now teleworking wherever possible both to reduce unnecessary social interaction and to allow maximum focus on critical tasks.

The ESA Council scheduled for 17/18 March was cancelled, but ESA management is working to identify the best process to allow executive committee approval of actions if necessary. Business continuity in the financial and procurement areas is being maintained.

The European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, is also adopting significant restrictions on operations and access. In compliance with measures decided by the French government, launch campaigns under way at the centre have been suspended. These launch preparations will resume as soon as health conditions allow. See the Arianespace press release.

Germany Invests 3.3 Billion Euros in European Space Exploration, Becomes ESA’s Largest Contributor

  • Three years after the last ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level, held in Lucerne, Switzerland, government representatives from the 22 Member States met in Seville, Spain, on 27 and 28 November 2019 and committed a total of almost 14.4 billion euro [$15.87 billion] for space programmes over the next few years.
  • Germany is contributing 3.3 billion euro [$3.6 billion] to ESA programmes focusing on Earth observation, telecommunications, technological advancement and commercialisation / NewSpace.
  • At 22.9 percent, Germany is now ESA’s largest contributor, followed by France (18.5 percent, 2.66 billion euro), Italy (15.9 percent, 2.28 billion euro) and the United Kingdom (11.5 percent, 1.65 billion euro).
  • The ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level is the highest political decision-making body, and it defines the content and financial framework for ESA’s space programmes every two to three years.
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