The Six Nations Science Group in Europe has published a document that compiles the scientific and management experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic to be able to face future health crises. The text was coordinated by a team of 12 scientists belonging to the research organizations that make up the G-6 Science in Europe: Max Planck, Helmholtz and Leibniz (Germany), CNRS (France), CNR (Italy) and CSIC (Spain).
According to the document, the COVID-19 pandemic showed how powerful a pandemic or similar crisis can hit humanity, and we have to realize that we were not prepared. A crisis of this magnitude requires firmness and political action based on scientific knowledge. Therefore, the scientific community bears an important responsibility that it can and wants to assume. Epidemiologists, physicists, demographers, biologists, and scientists from all disciplines work together across disciplines and borders.”
However, the coronavirus has also shown that there is still much work to be done – according to the document – to improve society’s preparedness and resistance. It also indicates that regions or member states cannot tackle these challenges individually. These challenges relate to decision-making structures, the provision of knowledge, the legal basis for rapid response and, finally, the dissemination of scientific knowledge.
Join the efforts at the international level
Explains Antonio Alcami, a researcher at the Severo Ochoa Center for Molecular Biology (CSIC-UAM), part of a group of 12 experts who developed the recommendations.
“The role of science has been fundamental in addressing this crisis, and the need to unite efforts at the international level, and to provide the necessary tools to monitor the emergence of emerging pathogens that may cause epidemics in the future, and to respond to them in an effective and coordinated manner,” Alkami adds.
The value of information exchange
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that information sharing has been key to a rapid understanding of both the evolution and pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection,” explains Diego Ramiro, Director of the Institute of Economics, Geography and Demography. (IEGD-CSIC), which is also part of the team of 12 experts that prepared the report.
“Those countries and institutions that have made the most progress in understanding the evolution of the epidemic are those that have produced and shared reliable, up-to-date and open data as quickly as possible,” Ramiro says.
“If there are some lessons we can draw from this pandemic, it is that interdisciplinary work is increasingly necessary – from biology to demography – from biology to demography, in addressing global crises like the current one and that even more surveillance systems need to be improved European and global, that integrate rapid and effective monitoring systems, that include early detection assessments and that allow data generation in a fast and reliable way for real-time monitoring of crises such as the current one”
The institutions of the European Union, along with the member states, are currently discussing the future of Europe. According to the text, “It is a good time to reflect on the lessons learned from Covid-19 and to better prepare for future pandemics.”
This document, written during the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, focuses on future epidemics of similar size, risk of infection, and impact, and summarizes some of the initial lessons that can be learned from recent epidemic experience. -19:
- In the event that a global infection cannot be avoided, a low-incidence strategy that takes into account the economic and social costs in different parts of the world should be pursued.
- To increase public awareness and ensure compliance, it is essential to clearly communicate the response strategy, the current state of scientific knowledge, the reasons for each action, and potential uncertainties.
- It is necessary to adopt legal provisions at the regional, national and European levels in the earlier stages of crises, to avoid legal loopholes and to allow the rapid implementation of actions.
- European and global coordination actions for prevention, detection and mitigation must be defined in advance, through the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European Health Environment Research Agenda (HERA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as support and communication structures.
- A permanent multidisciplinary European Pandemic Expert Committee should be established under the authority of HERA.
- Open science must be supported and developed to be prepared for future epidemics. Information exchange has been key to a rapid understanding of the pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
- It is essential to support interdisciplinary research in economics, environment, humanities and social sciences, at national and European levels, with the aim of developing sustainable agriculture and better understanding social behavior related to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases.
- It is essential to coordinate clinical trials at the European level based on common guidelines.
- European and global surveillance systems that integrate rapid and effective surveillance systems that include early detection assessments, and genetic sequencing of pathogens must be developed.
- New diagnostic tools and techniques for monitoring aerosols are needed and need funding at the European level.
- It is essential to develop an EU competition framework that integrates politicians, scientists and relevant stakeholders at regional, national and European levels.
- Ambitious basic science that can bridge knowledge gaps is essential to prepare for future crises. Scientists in many areas of basic research have provided basic knowledge of pandemic response by aligning their research with current needs.
- European and international infrastructures are important, such as the European Virus Archive (EVA), InfraVec (infrastructure for genetically modified mosquitoes) or Infrafrontier (mammalian genetic models), which have been central to virus-related health crises and are important to the scientific community. Data infrastructures, such as those that seek to identify vital signs, are also important. These infrastructures require sustained political commitment and investment effort at the national and European levels.
- It is necessary to monitor and take into account the side effects of the epidemic and long-term mitigation measures in areas other than health. For example, a thorough cost-benefit analysis is necessary before deciding to close educational centers such as schools and nurseries, as they can have negative long-term consequences, especially for children and adolescents.
- New economic and financial policies can help reduce the risks to long-term financial stability caused by the pandemic.
- In the short term, there is no substitute for a robust pandemic response. However, in the long term, highly specific measures should not be relied on to prevent risks such as SARS-CoV-2. It would be most effective to enhance the capacity for an unidentified response to the crisis on a global scale that takes into account the full range of known and unknown risks.
Source of the article: The Supreme Council for Scientific Research.
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