The health experts engaged in the joint CEI-WHO Task Force meeting held on May 20 discussed the latest information on the development of COVID-19 outbreak in the CEI region and tabled options to bring it under control in the transition phase. 

“The approval of the Task Force by the Heads of Government of the CEI Member States represents an important political commitment, which calls for joint efforts towards a well-organised transition” said CEI Secretary General Roberto Antonione, commending on the recent adoption of the Joint Statement on Solidarity and Cooperation by the Summit held on 15 May

The discussions centred on steps needed towards an optimal transition, which ought to be guided by a continuous health monitoring system especially where the epidemiological epicurve is still high. The WHO stresses that since many countries in Europe are also witnessing a reduction in the transmission of new cases, we are faced with the challenge of considering the transition criteria needed for the socio-economic recovery. How people behave and respond to specific guidance is pivotal to effective communication. And while a second wave of coronavirus infections is a discouraging scenario, it is something that has to be taken into account, thus urging high vigilance in the upcoming months. 

A key part of the discussions addressed tourism at large. As the economies in the region are most exposed to repercussions on tourism, there is high pressure on public health capacity, which must not be overstretched. In this regard, health experts emphasised the keen interdependence of the healthcare system and tourism sector. Likewise, they stressed that as different risk levels were carried by different types of tourism, targeted and segmented marketing had to be put in place; and cross-border mobility and transport network had to be made with the best judgement. 

The transition phase cannot be guided by public health principles alone; economic and societal reflections are equally instrumental. To this end, the WHO introduced the recently published Public health criteria to adjust public health and social measures in the context of COVID-19. The Health System Response Monitor (HSRM) was also brought to the attention of the participants: a web platform illustrating the behavior of different health systems based on data collection and on the organisation and update of information, which will allow policy-makers to compare what is happening through cross-country analyses and flag wider initiatives and good practices.

Considerations from national health experts highlighted the relevance of testing and tracing in order to have an overview of the epidemiological situation. To this end, countries should have sufficient laboratory testing capacity and a clear strategy to reliably identify cases. 

Experts also noted that in these trying times healthcare workers bear the heaviest burden and they need adequate support. 

For more info: apuzzo@cei.int