COVID-19 particle

Developing EU level preparedness is about collaboration, learning and acknowledging the best practices – coronavirus is a timely example

Preparedness for epidemics is built on consistent collaboration between countries and sectors. Although the EU countries have developed their preparedness as well as capacities to prevent epidemics, there are always new practices countries can learn from each other.

SHARP is aiming to strengthen preparedness on EU level, and the objectives and outcomes of the Joint Action have been set with preparedness and collaboration in mind. With the ongoing case of COVID-19 outbreak, the international response has been very fast. As soon as the virus was sequenced in China in January 2020, European researchers validated a test for the virus ten days later.

Erasmus Medical Center supports SHARP partners to detect suspected cases of novel coronavirus

Laboratory preparedness is overall on a high level in Europe, and assays for new emerging pathogens can be developed quite fast. What comes to COVID-19 diagnostics, the specific diagnostics for novel coronavirus have been developed.

Erasmus Medical Center (EMC), one of SHARP partners involved in Work Packages (WP) 6 and 7, has been actively working on the test for the novel coronavirus. EMC has offered support for SHARP partners and EU/EEA region laboratories in primary diagnostic testing and confirmation of COVID-19. The samples can be sent to the EMC, and SHARP will cover the costs. More information: SHARP and EMC provide support in laboratory diagnostics for COVID-19

SHARP partners involved in WPs 5, 6 and 10 are collaborating to review both international and national tools and planning instruments that support preparedness on a multisectoral level, especially in public health laboratory services. WP6 partners are going to develop operational inter-sectoral preparedness and response plans for serious cross-border health threats.

Surveying European hospital capacity and laboratory preparedness is now accelerated

WP7, focusing on laboratory preparedness and responsiveness, is aiming to improve laboratory preparedness and delivering recommendations for biosafety and biosecurity during the course of SHARP Joint Action. Partners involved in WP7 are also going to prepare annual External Quality Assurance Exercises (EQAE) by organising laboratory rounds among 30 laboratories involved in the Joint Action. The planned tests are conducted by sending a panel of bacteria or viruses to the laboratories. It is also monitored, how accurately the participating laboratories are able to identify the samples.

Partners involved in WP10 are improving case management and preparedness related to infection prevention and control by assessing the existing facilities and clinical preparedness in each SHARP partner country according to their workplan. The groundwork will be done by mapping the existing facilities, assessing preparedness and capacity that hospitals have for high-consequence infectious diseases (HCID).

These activities are going to be accelerated as the need for the survey has become more urgent due to the novel coronavirus outbreak: the surveys are sent out as soon as possible to map both, isolation and health care facilities as well as hospital readiness in each SHARP partner country. As a result, WP10 partners would provide a tool for countries to assess their hospital facilities, including the number of beds and medical supplies.

Now that the diagnostic assays for the detection of COVID-19 have been published, many of the SHARP partners and Member States have set up the facilities for diagnostics already. There is also an existing mechanism to send the COVID-19 samples to the reference laboratories for detection through WHO, if needed. Many European laboratories through ECDC networks have also offered their help (see the list here).

Each SHARP partner is responding to the novel coronavirus situation according to their country’s legislation. All SHARP partners can exchange best practices and provide support for other SHARP partners and European countries with support from the main collaborators, ECDC and WHO. Networks such as SHARP support the multisectoral development of preparedness – and at the moment the planned measures and activities are especially timely.