If we are to live with SARS-CoV-2 and ensure that it does not pose so serious a threat to public health and economic activity we must step up COVID-19 detection and tracking capacities, as set out in the Roadmap for the lifting of confinement measures.
However, several Member States do not have the wherewithal to do this, which in Spain has led to the highest level of new cases being recorded since extraordinary measures were repealed.
According to experts, Spain would need some 8 500 trackers to be able to efficiently monitor ongoing cases but only has some 3 500 according to the official figures provided by the governments of the various autonomous communities. Differences in tracker procurement procedures and the disjunction between the various levels of administration may jeopardise efforts to combat the pandemic in this new phase.
On 23 July 2020, Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (MEP), of the Renew Europe Group, tabled a written parliamentary question to the European Commission.
MEP Rodriguez Ramos requested information on “does the Commission intend to present common minimum training guidelines for the tracking of COVID-19 cases?” and “will the Commission bolster the Member States’ capacities in this area?”
On 27 November, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides responded on behalf of the European Commission.
Commissioner Kyriakides stated that “the Commission supports the Member States concerning contact tracing in several ways” and “The Early Warning and Response System also allows the exchange of contact tracing information between Member States’.
The Commissioner reported that “The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has produced three technical reports to the Member States on contact tracing procedures, technologies and resources” and “the reports cover options for scale-up and assessment of resources needed, public health management of persons, including healthcare workers having had contact with COVID-19 cases, and guidance on mobile applications for contact tracing”.
“The Commission has underlined that Member States should have a mobile application for contact tracing in place, promote its use, and ensure that it allows an EU wide system” and that “It has also supported the Member States in agreeing to a specific set of technical specifications to ensure interoperability between mobile applications based on a decentralised architecture” answered Commissioner Kyriakides.
She further highlighted that “the Commission has financed through the Emergency Support Instrument the deployment of the European Federation Gateway Service connecting mobile applications. Member States would join this service gradually”.
In ending, Commissioner Kyriakides concluded that “in the Commission Communication on Short-term EU health preparedness for COVID-19 outbreaks, the Commission invited the Member States to run stress tests for contact tracing systems, allowing them to evaluate their capacities and proceed to further improvement based on lessons learnt”.
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