European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides on Saturday spoke of both the serious effects and the opportunities of the Covid-19 pandemic in an online speech at the 1st Cyprus Forum, organised by the Oxygono NGO in cooperation with the Delphi Economic Forum.
The Cypriot Commissioner said that “out of crisis comes the opportunity for change”. She noted that later this year, the Commission would put forward proposals for a European Union of Health in the ambitious program EU4 Health.
This, she said, includes a larger role for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency to prepare for and mitigate health threats and pandemics. The Commission will also deliver on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the new Pharmaceutical strategy by the end of this year.
“We need more Europe in health, and more health in all policies,” she said.
She also referred to the Commission’s effort to secure a safe, effective and universally accessible vaccine against the virus.
Kyriakides said the EU’s vaccine strategy aimed to pool Europe’s resources to maximise the chance of success. It enables the European Commission to negotiate Advance Purchase Agreements with vaccine manufacturers on behalf of EU countries. It will also allow Member States to donate reserved doses to lower- and middle-income countries elsewhere in the world, she added.
“Over the summer, we have made important progress. The first advance purchase agreement was signed with AstraZeneca and a second with Sanofi. We have completed negotiations with another four companies. Our aim is to secure a diversified portfolio in order to increase the change of finding a safe and effective vaccine,” the Commissioner added.
She also said that throughout the crisis, the Commission had brought governments, stakeholders and the pharmaceutical industry together to help member states prepare for, and respond to the virus and European health ministers have met regularly to exchange views and priorities.
“Very early on, we launched a European team of epidemiologists to develop scientific guidelines for coordinated risk management measures. We have worked very closely with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines’ Agency – to ensure a coordinated response across Europe, and to accelerate work on new treatments and therapeutics for Covid,” she added.
The Commissioner also said that the EU had established “green lanes” to ensure goods continued to flow after lockdowns were introduced and worked with our non-European trade partners to address export bans and ensure continued supply of vital pharmaceuticals and launched joint procurement initiatives, enabling member states to access personal protective equipment, ventilators and laboratory supplies – and soon intensive care medicines .
Through the Emergency Support Instrument, she also said the Commission had bought millions of masks for healthcare workers, and 30,000 treatment courses of Remdesivir.
“These have been distributed on a pro rata basis across Europe – including Cyprus – to ensure equitable access and availability”, she added.
The Emergency Support Instrument, Kyriakides said has also enabled the transport of medical supplies, patients and medical teams — as well as training for intensive care professionals, and staff to support member states’ testing infrastructure.
She added that the EU also adopted a new instrument – SURE – to provide temporary support to member states to mitigate the unemployment risks linked to the crisis. Through this, Cyprus will receive €497 million in loans to finance short-term work schemes and measures to mitigate the socioeconomic impact of the crisis.