The EU estimates that its countries will have reached the peak of the epidemic in mid-April

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The EU estimates that “all” its countries will have reached the peak of the epidemic in mid-April

Thermal photograph taken on the Berlin subway / Reuters
The thermal photograph was taken on the Berlin subway.

The European Center for Disease Control explains to this newspaper that the Chinese ‘curve’ is being replicated in other countries

Created fifteen years ago to strengthen the EU’s defence against infectious diseases, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) monitors the Covid-19 crisis since late December. This newspaper has contacted this specialized agency, which is based in Stockholm (Sweden) to ask different questions about the propagation of this pandemic at breakneck speed.

And the first is on everyone’s mind: When will it stop? Its experts are clear that you still have to hold your breath. Because, based on its risk assessments, the ECDC ensures that the epidemic peak and saturation of medical care will arrive in this final stretch of March in most countries “and all by mid-April”. In short, the extreme situation in Hubei (the Chinese province where the syndrome broke out) has not yet been reached.

And here, the experts of the centre they ask for “caution” when interpreting those deadlines. Because, among other factors, they are conditional on “a stable policy and capacity for diagnostic tests and the absence of effective mitigation measures.” That is, to the response of the authorities and the effectiveness that is cemented. But why is the level of spread of the disease higher in Italy or Spain, which have already exceeded the death toll in China?

At this point, the ‘club of experts’ points out that all European countries, sooner or later, will follow the same evolution. “Now it varies by region, but the situation in Italy and other countries follows the epidemic curve observed in China during January and February and in South Korea in recent weeks.” proactive and aggressive approach to delay transmission», He insists. And in a coordinated way. Because ‘doing it in a specific area or country in the EU is not feasible. There is a need to move to a mitigation approach (in all States), as the epidemiological curve may not give »authorities and hospitals enough time to realize the risk and« accept and adapt their response accordingly ». Countries such as the United Kingdom or the Netherlands have been especially lax to date.

Clinical trials

The EU has allocated 50 million euros To create a strategic stock of medical equipment, tens of millions more leave Brussels and national governments to find a vaccine. But the first thing is to stop the spread. And there they take antivirals. Around thirty are currently being tested. Neither the ECDC nor the WHO correctly recommend any, although the European body takes stock. There are ongoing clinical trials in Asian countries and the United States “with the combination of lopinavir/ritonavir, and the drug redeliver. The use of remdesivir has been used for severe cases in EU countries”, the experts report.

Spain has recently authorized the use in hospitals of hydroxychloroquine, recommended against arthritis and malaria. “The evidence for the potential effectiveness of chloroquine (the base component) comes from in vitro tests.” Furthermore, “inhalational interferon beta 1a is also among the potentially interesting candidates for treatment or prophylaxis,” recall European scientists. In any case, rapid action is being taken to try to demonstrate the efficacy of different options: “Recruitment of patients in Europe to participate in clinical trials is an immediate priority in countries in the early stages of the outbreak.”

And for when the vaccine? Here the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control refers to its sister institution, the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Until March 13, there were a total of 41 antidote projects in development, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And the European Commission finances one of the most advanced, that of the German laboratory CureVac (the same one to which Donald Trump unsuccessfully launched a multimillion-dollar offer to obtain exclusivity for the United States).

The vaccine will not come quickly, but work against the clock to shorten the wait. Between one year and eighteen months, it is considered necessary for it to be available globally. The EMA, in a report released Tuesday, echoed “the urgency” of conducting the first human clinical trials.