How can a second wave of infection be avoided?

RB – 08/2020

Enormous efforts have been made throughout Europe to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The public health measures implemented at national level have helped reduce the number of new infections to a level that allows a gradual lifting of restrictions. Drawing on the experience of the first wave of infection, Stella Kyriakides, the Commissioner for Health, calls for "vigilance, preparedness and coordination" to prevent further large-scale outbreaks. To prevent large-scale outbreaks, the European Commission has published short-term EU precautionary measures.

Testing, contact tracing, monitoring

While infection control measures are gradually being relaxed, public health surveillance is becoming a key phenomenon. The expansion of sufficient testing facilities is essential for monitor the course of infection and for the early detection of potentially infectious persons,. They are a valuable tool to keep community spread under control and to avoid long-distance exit restrictions.

Standardised procedures for contact tracing and mobile applications (apps) have established themselves as a suitable means of detecting and interrupting infection chains. In compliance with the applicable data protection laws and respect for privacy, national apps are now in use. The next step is to establish the interoperability of these applications. The implementing decision (EU) 2019/1765 of the Commission was amended accordingly, which supports the infrastructure for interoperability of mobile apps for track and trace and alerts.

Parameters recommended for public health surveillance include intensity and geographical spread, virus strain alteration, nosocomial outbreaks, respiratory syndromes or impact on health systems. This and other epidemiological information must be exchanged in a timely and standardised manner.

Medical countermeasures

The global health crisis has had a negative impact on the functioning of the EU internal market. At the beginning of the pandemic, access to personal protective equipment, medical devices and, over time, to medicines was difficult. The European Commission has counteracted these problems through joint procurement procedures in emergency situations and strategic stockpiling (rescEU). In addition Guidelines on export restrictions and optimum and rationalised supply of pharmaceuticals were also adopted.

Reducing the burden of seasonal flu

Seasonal flu is already a burden on health systems. A simultaneous outbreak of influenza and COVID-19 would put additional pressure on healthcare systems. This can be avoided by considering and implementing measures to reduce the burden of seasonal flu. For example, by extending and bringing forward the start of vaccination campaigns in the Member States and additional national procurement of flu vaccines.

These and other measures should help to ensure that the EU is prepared for a possible resurgence of COVID-19 and that targeted measures are implemented early. You can read a detailed description of short-term preventive measures here.