WHO International releases report on European Covid-19 readiness

Feb. 17, 2020

In response to the detection of the COVID-19 virus in China in December 2019, countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region have been activating national plans to ensure that health and other systems are not just prepared for but also ready to respond to importation of this new virus.

This means that public health officials should be able to respond to reports of suspect cases and identify contacts at high risk; hospitals have the necessary equipment and guidance to manage cases while protecting healthcare staff and other patients from infection; and the public understands the level of risk posed by the virus and how to minimize it.

WHO works continually with countries to maintain and improve their national preparedness plans based on an all-hazards approach. This collaboration has facilitated rapid action and an effective transition from preparedness to active readiness for importation of the COVID-19 virus. WHO/Europe has surveyed the needs in countries and adapted and disseminated a readiness checklist to ensure the emergency response system is ready. It is facilitating laboratory detection, providing hospital preparedness guidelines and expertise to countries, and is providing technical support to strengthen surveillance systems and infection prevention and control.

WHO and health authorities in countries are facilitating a steady stream of information through regular reporting, daily situation reports, social media posts, briefings and interviews to the media, expanded website coverage, and videos and infographics. WHO is also engaging with social media companies to help disseminate WHO advice and reduce the risk posed by the spread of misinformation.

To bring technical support closer to countries in the European Region, WHO teams for emergency preparedness and response support, in 3 geographic hubs, have been strengthened. These hubs, located in the Balkans, south Caucasus and central Asia, now have laboratory and hospital preparedness experts, and specialists in operation planning for emergency response. Additional technical support is being provided by WHO/Europe. The expanded hub teams will enhance the work being done by national authorities at country level and provide surge support where needed.

Earlier in February, members of the hub team in Belgrade, Serbia, joined the Serbian Ministry of Health and the Institute of Public Health on a visit to the international airports in Belgrade and Nis, and to the Clinic for Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Clinical Centre Serbia. The visit provided a better insight into the measures already taken for early detection and prevention of spread of the COVID-19 virus. The joint delegation observed and discussed all measures taken at the points of entry, including temperature screening on entry, appropriate management of suspected cases and dissemination of risk communication materials advising inbound travelers on when and where to seek medical care if needed.

Some countries in the Region have already experienced importations of the COVID-19 virus and small clusters of cases. Many countries identified suspected cases that were later shown to be negative for the virus. Each suspected or confirmed case tests the country’s response system, providing the opportunity (through ‘after action reviews’) to identify where further improvements can be made. For example, was there any point at which an infected person could have transmitted the virus to others? Were staff and patients given up-to-date instructions? Is contact tracing functioning optimally?

WHO International has the announcement.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.