In the light of the rapid escalation of COVID-19 in the WHO European Region and its subsequent characterisation by WHO as a pandemic , the 27th Standing Committee of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, at its third session, in Copenhagen on 11-12 March, expresses:
- its serious concern in relation to increasing numbers of cases and increased impact on health, social, and economic systems in the WHO European Region;
- its appreciation for the work of the WHO Regional Office for Europe; and
- its support to the WHO Regional Director for Europe in his call to step up all efforts to develop a comprehensive package of measures – applied in combination – to contain, prevent and control COVID-19 in order to delay and suppress its spread where the disease is already taking a foothold, as well as to prepare all levels of health service delivery and their communities, in order to strengthening public health capacities, also beyond the ongoing crisis.
The Standing Committee also recalls that in this current situation, the principle of leaving no-one behind through the solidarity with all our populations, including migrants and refugees, is of essence now more than ever. The Standing Committee therefore:
- empathises with and calls for the strongest support to all those working on the front line of this public health crisis, in particular health care professionals, who are critical for the sustainability of our health systems;
- also calls for protection of the most vulnerable groups in our societies, including older people and those whose health is compromised;
- calls on all people to act responsibly and follow the guidance issued by governments; and
- also calls on authorities and stakeholders at all levels to act in a coordinated manner and in line with the International Health Regulations (2005).
The Standing Committee welcomes the efforts of WHO and its Regional Office for Europe to support countries in taking all measures required, and underlines the importance of WHO as a convener of countries across the entire European Region and beyond. In this context, the Standing Committee:
- advises, in the interests of clarity of communication, respect for the agreed channels under the International Health Regulations (2005);
- calls for WHO country offices to intensify their assistance and support to national governments in communicating international guidelines and adjusting them to the national context;
- requests that information and guidelines be shared in all official languages of the WHO European Region; and
- invites the Regional Office to:
- involve experts from Member States in all networks working on specific topics related to the ongoing crisis;
- provide a shared platform for Member States to seek and share expert advice on implementing WHO recommendations;
- scale down any other requirement on Member States, thereby allowing them to focus on the current crisis; and
- urge countries to commit to maintaining containment alongside mitigation measures, to reduce the scale of transmission and safeguard their health care systems.