#EAPM – COVID-19: The law and limits of quarantine

| May 22, 2020

In what is likely the worst pandemic since the Spanish ‘flu of the early 20th century,  COVID-19 has spread around the globe, governments have imposed quarantines and travel bans have been implemented on an unprecedented scale. Italy imposed draconian restrictions throughout the country and, subject to much controversy under the jurisdiction of Trump In the United States, thousands of people have been subjected to legally enforceable quarantines or are in “self-quarantine”,writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan.

‘Quarantine’ refers to the separation of persons (or communities) who have been exposed to an infectious disease, while ‘isolation’ applies to the separation of persons who are known to be infected.

The EU response to COVID-19 

The European Union and its member states are working around the clock to fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).  Protecting the health and safety of our citizens is the EU’s top priority. In addition, the EU and its member states are taking resolute action to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the outbreak and sustain jobs. The EU is mobilizing all resources available to help member states co-ordinate their national responses, and this includes providing objective information about the spread of the virus and effective efforts to contain it.

EU leaders have agreed on a number of priorities to coordinate the EU’s response to COVID-19:  limiting the spread of the virus ensuring the provision of medical equipment boosting research for treatments and vaccines supporting jobs, businesses and the economy. They also agreed to step up their efforts to ensure that EU citizens stranded in third countries who want to go home can do so.

The EU has agreed on a co-ordinated temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU. Member states and non-EU Schengen countries have been invited to extend these temporary restrictions until 15 May.

The EU institutions are facilitating continuous contact and coordination between national ministries and authorities to develop concrete EU response measures. This includes the gradual lifting of containment measures, with a view to entering the recovery phase and revitalising our societies and economies.

The EU is discussing with industry how to convert production lines to supply more equipment. For example, textile manufacturers may be able to produce masks. Manufacturers have been provided with guidance on how to increase production in three areas: masks and other personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers and disinfectants, and 3D printing.  The EU has regulated exports of personal protective equipment outside the EU to ensure adequate supply in all member states.

Medical equipment 

The EU and member states are working to set up a common European reserve of medical equipment known as the ‘rescEU’ stockpile, which gathers masks and ventilators. The Emergency Response Coordination Centre manages the distribution of the equipment to ensure it goes where it is most needed to treat infected patients, protect healthcare workers and help slow down the spread of the virus.  The EU has harmonised the European standards for medical supplies and made them freely available to speed up an increase in production. This will allow producers to get high-performing devices onto the market more quickly.

QUARANTINABLE DISEASES

These have included:  Cholera, Diphtheria, Infectious tuberculosis, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow fever, Viral hemorrhagic fevers,  Severe acute respiratory syndromes (COVID-19), Influenza that can cause a pandemic.

No health care system can sustain a massive influx of infectious cases to emergency departments and hospitals. Patients with mild symptoms are advised to stay home when possible, to facilitate this step, workers have been allowed to telecommute wherever it’s feasible to do so, but many low-wage and gig workers cannot afford to stay home, nor can they handle the economic impact of other social distancing measures that may help to slow transmission.

Despite the breadth and allure of travel bans and mandatory quarantine, an effective response to COVID-19 requires newer, more creative legal tools. With COVID-19 in many communities worldwide, the time has come to imagine and implement public health laws that emphasize support rather than restriction.

What is the risk factor of COVID-19?
People at high risk from coronavirus include people who have had an organ transplant, are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy, are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer or are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system.

 People at moderate risk include those who are 70 or older, are pregnant, have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis) have heart disease (such as heart failure) have diabetes, have chronic kidney disease or liver disease (such as hepatitis) or are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above).

EAPM’s next online Presidency conference entitled ‘Maintaining Public Trust in use of Digital Health for health and Science in a COVID and Post COVID World’ takes place on 30 June, click here for the agenda and to register, click here.

Communicating COVID-19 correctly: The role of experts

It has been just under two months since the UK shut down because of COVID-19, with other European countries doing likewise just before the UK, and it’s almost hard to remember what life was like before social distancing, essential business declarations and quarantining. As the world scrambles to establish a new normal, everyone has struggled to react to the daily changes that have an impact on every aspect of their lives.

As for prime ministers and politicians, they have been stuck in a never-ending cycle of putting out fires all day and never getting ahead of the game, much less operating strategically.

As stated above, the reactions of politicians and the national media to experts during a time of genuine and immediate risk to the public has certainly been interesting and illuminating.

In 2016, minister Michael Gove said: “I think the people in this country have had enough of experts” – how far off the mark does that appear now?

The current national mood in the UK is one of crying out for the latest updates from scientists, technocrats, and other experts, as the country, and others like it, grinds slowly back to ‘normal’ life, should we ever be fortunate enough to regain such an existence. In short, the public’s reaction to the communications efforts so far will be crucial to deciding how events will proceed from here on in.

Ipsos MORI’s poll indicates that, when it comes to COVID-19, the UK public hasn’t “had enough of experts”. And, however inept our politicians’ communications and handling of COVID-19 matters so far, we can draw strength from the fact the UK’s leaders are performing just a little bit better than US President Donald Trump.

EAPM’s next online Presidency conference entitled ‘Maintaining Public Trust in use of Digital Health for health and Science in a COVID and Post COVID World’ takes place on 30 June, click here for the agenda and to register, click here.

European Parliament ENVI Committee on COVID

The Parliament’s health committee coordinators, ENVI, have made the decision to request an own initiative report on the coronavirus pandemic and start preparing for a hearing on related topics. Another request is that the Parliament’s policy department analyze COVID-19.

WHO marks ‘unprecedented solidaity’ but Trump holds sway

World Health Organization (WHO) Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should have had a breeze on Wednesday (20 May), even amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, which is now approaching 5 million diagnosed cases.

There was some cause for celebration – he called it  “unprecedented solidarity” on display at the World Health Assembly with regards to coronavirus, for one thing, and a victory on Ebola.

But it was not to be. US President Donald Trump’s funding threats took centre stage, leaving Ghebreyesus and other leaders of the WHO’s COVID-19 response team floundering amid multiple questions, reacting in frustration to Trump’s stance. But Trump was not without problems of his own – in a garbled live television meeting with drug company executives, Trump failed to get executives to guarantee to him that the production of an effective vaccine for the disease was imminent.

And, as far as the WHO’s role in a post-COVID world is concerned: “If anything, we will see WHO having more power going forward,” said Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Speaking during a discussion  hosted by the Chatham House think tank, Sridhar said she believes member countries are looking to WHO “to do more than it is actually able to do over the past few months.” She added: “The result might be that we need an institution that has greater power.”

EAPM’s next online Presidency conference entitled ‘Maintaining Public Trust in use of Digital Health for health and Science in a COVID and Post COVID World’ takes place on 30 June, click here for the agenda and to register, click here.

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Category: A Frontpage, coronavirus, Coronavirus face masks, Coronavirus Global Response, COVID-19, EU, European Alliance for Personalised Medicine, European Commission, Health, Personalised medicine, PPE, UK, US, World

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