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Is Europe ready for another pandemic?

Armed with innovations in IT and training, an EU-backed project is better preparing Europe for future pandemics. Its new Advisory Board members, the Irish Defence Forces, are helping to further this goal with their expertise in major emergency management.

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The spread of SARS-CoV-2 since late 2019 has highlighted the need for a unified approach to combat the coronavirus. However, the different situations and challenges faced by EU Member States and the nature of the pandemic itself have led them to respond in very different ways. So, is a cohesive, EU-wide response at all possible when the next pandemic comes around? The EU-funded PANDEM-2 is working to ensure that it will be.

Adding armed forces expertise

PANDEM-2 is using innovations in IT and training to prepare Europe for future pandemics. Reflecting the global nature of the problem, its Advisory Board is made up of three leading health agencies: the World Health Organization, the American Red Cross, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Now joining them on the PANDEM-2 Advisory Board are the Irish Defence Forces that will contribute their considerable knowledge and experience in large-scale emergency management to the project. “We are very proud that the Defence Forces have joined the Advisory Board of PANDEM-2,” reports global health expert Prof. Máire Connolly of PANDEM-2 project coordinator National University of Ireland Galway in a press release posted on the project website. “They provided vital support to the Covid-19 response in Ireland bringing logistical, operational and planning experience to a number of key aspects of pandemic management including implementation of the testing, tracing and vaccination programmes, deployment of ambulances and medical staff, non-clinical support in nursing homes, mandatory hotel quarantine, and transportation of PPE. Their invaluable experience will significantly strengthen the project’s outputs and help meet our goal of improving the EU’s response to future pandemics.” As a member of the Advisory Board, the Irish Defence Forces are taking part in a tabletop exercise with project partners in Berlin in mid-2022. The aim of the exercise is to use the lessons learned from COVID-19 to be better prepared for future pandemics. The Defence Forces will bring to the table their extensive experience in drills and exercises and the knowledge gained in pandemic response.

IT solutions to aid preparedness

Reaching another milestone in its drive to improve Europe’s pandemic preparedness, PANDEM-2 has launched the first version of an IT solution that will support the work of pandemic managers across the EU. Called ‘Pandem-Source’, the open-source platform allows users to systematically capture, standardise and analyse real-time pandemic-related data from international and national surveillance databases, participatory surveillance projects, social networks and social media. Francisco Orchard, Head of Data Science at PANDEM-2 (Pandemic Preparedness and Response) project partner Epiconcept, states in an ‘Irish Tech News’ article: “We’re proud to announce the first release of ‘Pandem-Source’. We hope that this tool will support the work of pandemic managers across Europe by connecting them to real-time information from traditional and non-traditional sources. The tool means officials involved in the response to public health emergencies will have case numbers, hospitalisations, deaths, and vaccination uptake to name a few at their fingertips. In doing so, we hope it can play a role in coordinating data involved in one location. It is open-source, easy to install and customisable. We encourage users from the industry to install and test out its compatibility and variety of data-rich sources.” For more information, please see: PANDEM-2 project website

Keywords

PANDEM-2, coronavirus, pandemic, COVID-19, response, preparedness, Irish Defence Forces, emergency

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