A new risk assessment undertaken by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has shown that the EU needs to ramp up its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published its updated risk assessment regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside a set of guidelines for non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as hand hygiene, physical distancing, cleaning, and ventilation.
The updated assessment shows that notification rates have increased steadily across the EU and the UK since August and that the measures taken have not always been sufficient to reduce or control exposure.
Taking action against COVID-19
The assessment emphasises that all Member States roll out necessary measures at the first sign of new outbreaks, including stepping up testing and contact tracing, improving public healthcare surveillance, ensuring better access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and medicines, and ensuring sufficient health capacity.
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “With some Member States experiencing higher numbers of cases than during the peak in March, it is abundantly clear that this crisis is not behind us. We are at a decisive moment, and everyone has to act decisively and use the tools we have. This means that all Member States must be ready to roll out control measures immediately and at the right time, at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks. This might be our last chance to prevent a repeat of last spring.”
The current epidemiological situation poses an increasing risk for risk groups and healthcare workers and calls for immediate targeted public health action. The risk assessment finds that non-pharmaceutical interventions such as physical distancing, hygiene, and the use of face masks have shown not to be sufficient to reduce or control exposure.
While in some countries, the increase in COVID-19 cases affects mainly younger people who are 15 to 49 years of age, resulting mainly in mild and asymptomatic cases, in other countries, the rise leads to more deaths among the elderly.
Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said: “We are currently seeing a worrying increase in the number of COVID-19 cases detected in Europe. Until there is a safe and effective vaccine available, rapid identification, testing, and quarantine of high-risk contacts are some of the most effective measures to reduce transmission.
“It is also everyone’s responsibility to maintain the necessary personal protective measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying at home when feeling ill. The pandemic is far from over and we must not drop our guard.”
The assessment identifies several response options such as strengthening healthcare capacities and targeting public health actions on medically vulnerable individuals and healthcare workers. In its guidelines on non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19, the ECDC also presents available options for such interventions in various epidemiologic scenarios. The guidelines assess the evidence for the effectiveness of these interventions and address implementation issues, including potential barriers and facilitators.
It also calls for non-pharmaceutical interventions, testing strategies, contact tracing, quarantine measures, adequate risk communication, and measures protecting mental health.