Pandemic forces Europe’s largest tech event to go fully online

Welcome, one and all, to the second European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update of the week. Truly, Europe as a whole, and certainly key nations, seem unclear as to where they stand on coronavirus restrictions, which are applicable and necessary, and which are not, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.

Political regeneration on COVID-19?

The great writer George Orwell, in his 1945 essay Politics and the English Language, wrote that “to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration”. And so, therefore, where exactly do we stand as far as ‘clear thinking’ is concerned on COVID-19? There can be no doubt that the pandemic has placed research and higher education sectors squarely before the public attention. The capacity of all laboratories has been absolutely vital as far as diagnostic testing is concerned, while those in the know on infectious diseases, epidemiology, public health, mathematical modelling, and economics have taken a large portion of national policy making and media coverage. 

There can be no doubt that the collective global future is heavily dependent on an effective vaccine being developed, as quickly as possible, against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.  This will be all discussed at our upcoming conference on Oct 10th, 2020. 

EAPM German EU Presidency Conference

And the upcoming EAPM German EU Presidency Conference, just a few days away on 12 October, will certainly be hoping to offer clear thinking on the vital issues concerning COVID-19. Keynote speakers will doubtless acknowledge that health systems must include several multidimensional and interacting pillars, and each of these pillars must be strengthened and reinforced. A workforce with the skills, training, experience, relationships, and networks that are necessary for excellent research excellence, as well as the necessary resources, and multidisciplinary perspectives that are supported by science. The virtual conference is still very much open to all attendees – there are some terrific keynote speakers lined up, 150 guests have already registered but, as it is a ‘virtual’ conference, there is no limit to numbers, so do register now. Please find the link here to register and the agenda is here.

Von der Leyen tests negative for COVID-19 after exposure to case in Portugal 

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has tested negative for COVID-19, her spokesman has said. It came after the leader said on Monday morning (5 October) that she would self-isolate until Tuesday after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Commissioner Mariya Gabriel is also quarantining as she awaits a corona test result.

WHO chief says COVID-19 vaccine could be ready by year-end

A COVID-19 vaccine may be ready by year-end, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday (6 October). Ghebreyesus added: : “We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope.” He was addressing the end of a two-day meeting of its Executive Board on the pandemic Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the WHO-led COVAX global vaccine facility that aims to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

More restrictions Europe-wide – Efforts to bring reform efforts together

Speaking at the meeting of the WHO’s executive board on Monday (5 October), Germany (speaking on behalf of the EU), said that the EU would be “honored to launch an inclusive process to discuss how best to bring these proposals together in close consultation with the evaluation and reform mechanisms”.

However, most of Europe is grappling with difficult decisions, where economic survival is being pitted against the desire to stem rising infections as shown by the patchwork quilt below.  

France: University lecture halls in the capital must be no more than half full, and working from home has to be prioritized. Face coverings are compulsory in enclosed public spaces throughout France, while specific areas have introduced additional rules. In Paris and surrounding areas, face coverings must be worn outdoors by anyone aged 11 and over. Hundreds of other municipalities across France have the same rule, including Toulouse, Nice, Lille and Lyon. 

Belgium: Stricter measures are to be in place from Friday (9 October), with bars closing at 23h, and people allowed close contact with only three people outside of their household.

Spain: Almost five million people have been affected by a new lockdown in Madrid and nine surrounding towns. People can leave their local area only to go to work, school or for medical care. Indoor and outdoor social gatherings are limited to six people. Bars and restaurants have to shut by 22h. Along with shops, they have reduced the number of customers entering at any one time. Most regions in Spain have made masks obligatory outdoors as well.

Netherlands: Dutch authorities introduced new measures from 29 September, after the number of daily infections surged to the highest level since the start of the pandemic. People are advised to wear a mask in shops in major cities and restaurants and bars have to close by 22h across the country. Businesses must log clients’ contact details and working from home is encouraged. Social gatherings inside people’s homes must not exceed three people. There can be no spectators at sports events. 

Germany: A ban on large gatherings in Germany – such as public festivals, sporting events with spectators and concerts – has been extended to the end of the year. The new Bundesliga football season is taking place behind closed doors. Testing at German airports is compulsory for all travellers arriving from high-risk countries, but from 1 October those travellers have had to self-isolate for 14 days. People failing to wear face coverings in shops or on public transport face a minimum fine of €50 (£46). German authorities agreed to introduce further measures in regions where the rate of infections is high. Public gatherings will be limited to 50 people and private to 25. 

Italy: Strict social distancing and the compulsory wearing of face masks are in effect in Italy’s museums and galleries. All dance venues and nightclubs have been closed. Face masks must also be worn from 18h to 6h in all public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. In schools, face masks are obligatory for all children over the age of six when they move around the school building. encouraged to work from home if possible. There have also been a number of local lockdowns.

UK: Surging coronavirus infection rates have put Britain on the brink of tougher lockdown measures, overshadowing Boris Johnson’s attempt yesterday to focus on life after the pandemic. The government’s scientific advisers called for “urgent and drastic action” after cases doubled in 11 days to 14,542 and deaths doubled to 76 in the same period. Hospital admissions in England jumped by a quarter in one day and ministers are scrambling to find a way to bring down cases in the northwest amid concerns about the ability of the health service to cope over winter in infection hotspots. Rates in Manchester have doubled in a week to more than 500 cases per 100,000 people. Liverpool and Newcastle are close behind with rates increasing by more than 50%.

And that is all for now – many thanks for your attention, stay safe and enjoy the rest of the week, see you on Friday (9 October) and don’t forget to register for the EAPM German EU Presidency Conference here , the agenda is here.

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