European health experts underestimated coronavirus in February

European health experts underestimated coronavirus in February
Credit: Belga

European health experts underestimated the risk of the new coronavirus at a meeting on 18 February, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

The Spanish newspaper said it had consulted the minutes of an advisory board meeting of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The ECDC is responsible for ensuring "early detection and analysis of emerging threats to the EU" and "helping EU countries to prepare for epidemics."

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At the time of that meeting, only 40 cases had been detected in Europe. Experts reportedly judged the risk for Europe's population to be low and the risk to its health systems to be low to moderate.

Three days later, an outbreak was detected in Italy, a country which has been severely affected by the new coronavirus (Covid-19), with the latest count being 225,435 confirmed cases and 31,908 deaths due to the disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Some countries did demonstrate foresight at the two-day meeting. Ireland announced that it had declared a health emergency and procured personal protective equipment for its health workers, and Germany said it had distributed test protocols to more than 20 hospitals and carried out more than 1,000 tests.

"The virus has been underestimated," former WHO director Daniel Lopez Acuña told El País. 

On the other hand, Joan Ramon Villalbi of the Spanish Association of Public Health and Healthcare (SESPAS) said that SARS and MERS, the previous coronavirus epidemics, could not have allowed for predicting the current virus' spread.

The Brussels Times

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