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Risk of increasing community transmission ‘very high’ without sufficient mitigation measures – ECDC

The risk of increasing community transmission of Covid-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK in the coming weeks is moderate if mitigation measures are in place, and very high with insufficient mitigation measures, according to a new risk assessment from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC).

Irish public health officials play close attention to ECDC in formulating their own recommended measures for the State.

According to the assessment, released today, the risk of severe disease associated with Covid-19 in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered moderate for the general population and very high for populations with defined risk factors associated with elevated risk;

Overall, large increases in Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to be reported from the EU/EEA countries and the UK. In addition, in recent weeks, the European all-cause mortality monitoring system showed all-cause excess mortality above the expected rate in Belgium, France, Italy, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, mainly in the age group of 65 years and above.

Recently, in a few EU/EEA countries, the number of new cases and new deaths reported daily appears to have decreased slightly. However, many EU/EEA countries are currently only testing severe or hospitalised cases, therefore “these trends should be interpreted with caution”, according to the ECDC.

“Despite early evidence from Italy and Austria that the number of cases and deaths are declining, there is currently no indication at EU/EEA level that the peak of the epidemic has been reached,” it says.

According to the ECDC, the risk of health and social care system capacity in the EU/EEA and the UK being exceeded in the coming weeks is considered high with mitigation measures in place and very high if insufficient mitigation measures are in place.

In the current situation, it says, a strong focus should remain on comprehensive testing and surveillance strategies (including contact tracing), community measures (including physical distancing), strengthening of healthcare systems and informing the public and health community.

It also says the promotion of mental wellbeing among people living under physical distancing measures is necessary to ensure that populations have “the resilience to maintain adherence to these measures”.

 Based on the available evidence, it is currently “too early to start lifting all community and physical distancing measures” in the EU/EEA and the UK.

“Before considering the lifting of any measures, Member States should ensure enhanced population and hospital-based testing and surveillance systems are in place to inform and monitor escalation/de-escalation strategies and assess the epidemiological consequences.”

The ECDC says solidarity and coordination between Member States will remain essential in the de-escalation phase in order to increase the effect of measures taken and minimise the risk of infection ‘spilllover’ between countries if they de-escalate at different rates and in different ways.

ECDC Director Dr Andrea Ammon commented: “In the current situation, continuous spread of the virus can be expected. It is still too early to suddenly lift all community and physical distancing measures in the EU/EEA and the UK, even though these stringent measures may be quite disruptive to society on an economic and social level.

“Solidarity and coordination between Member States will remain essential when considering the lifting of any measures. The risk of infection ‘spilllover’ between countries should be minimised.

“A strong focus should remain on comprehensive testing and surveillance strategies, community measures such as physical distancing, strengthening of healthcare systems and informing the public and health community.

“The promotion of mental wellbeing among people living under physical distancing measures is necessary to ensure that populations have the resilience to maintain adherence to these measures.”

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