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EU agencies now better equipped to handle potential health crises

AS PART of the gradual lifting of lockdown and strict social distancing measures around the EU, the European Commission, along with member states participating in the eHealth Network, has overseen a coordinated approach to develop an EU toolbox for the use of mobile applications which would facilitate contact tracing and warning. This was paired with a set of guidelines on data protection applicable for any resulting applications.
File photo: Stella Kyriakidou

EU regulation on serious cross-border health threats and strengthening the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) gave the European union new tools to be able to react to potential health crises, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou said on Monday.

The commissioner was speaking on the EU council’s approval of the Commission’s proposals for the European Health Union, a body whose stated goal is to “better protect the health of citizens, equip the EU and its member states to better prevent and address future pandemics, and improve resilience of Europe’s health systems.”

“The central pillars for the European Health Union are now in place,” Kyriakidou said, adding that the pandemic has shown the need for more European involvement in public health.

With a stronger ECDC and HERA and the EU’s enhanced role in preventing, preparing, and managing cross-border health crises, “we now have additional tools to react quickly and respond to emerging health crises decisively and united,” Kyriakidou said.

The EU council adopted regulations on serious cross-border threats to health, extending the terms of reference of ECDC and establishing a framework of emergency regulations for HERA in the event of a crisis.

The regulation on cross-border threats involves the creation of a more comprehensive monitoring system through better risk assessment and mechanisms for joint procurement of medicines as well as adopting identical mitigation measures at EU level.

The ECDC’s authority has been enhanced so that in addition to issuing recommendations to member states on matters of preparedness, it has been enabled to create an EU-wide network of laboratories and an EU Action Team in the case of emergency situations.

Lastly, HERA’s effectiveness has been enhanced through the creation of a Health Crisis Council which will coordinate EU-wide supply and access to what the commissioner referred to as medical countermeasures.

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