The European Commission has outlined its plans for dealing with the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
Underlaid by a desire to reduce the impact of any future pandemics, the strategy calls for a coordinated EU response and ongoing vigilance to prevent outbreaks and variants. It has also encouraged its Member States to implement robust public health measures ahead of the winter months, in preparation for the simultaneous circulation of COVID and flu.
The recommended health measures include targeted testing and sequencing to detect and monitor the emergence of new variants, integrated COVID surveillance systems, and the rolling out of vaccines and boosters, especially for clinically vulnerable groups.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has said that now is the time for EU countries to shift from ‘emergency mode’ to a ‘more sustainable management of COVID-19.’
Meanwhile, EU Member States are being encouraged to bolster their healthcare systems to address the secondary impacts of the pandemic, such as treatment backlogs and soaring rates of anxiety and depression.
The Commission has also announced actions to support the development and administration of new vaccines and therapies and to ensure supply chains are not disrupted.
These are in addition to medium- and long-term measures to enhance pandemic preparedness on European and international levels, including digitalizing healthcare, addressing misinformation and disinformation on COVID-19 vaccines, and tackling long COVID.
It is hoped that new tenders launched under the EU FAB initiative – which established ‘ever-warm’ vaccine production facilities – will reserve manufacturing capacities for mRNA, protein- and vector-based vaccines in anticipation of future public health emergencies.
Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, stressed the need for unity and preparedness as the EU transitions out of the acute COVID-19 phase, emphasizing that ‘the pandemic is not over yet.’
Commissioner Kyriakides also called for global solidarity, warning that vaccine hoarding and a fragmented pandemic response will prove detrimental.
Although EU infection numbers remain high, the dominant Omicron variant is proving less severe than previous strains, with fewer people dying or becoming seriously ill.
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