As Covid-19 cases continue to escalate across Europe, international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has issued a statement urging EU member states to demonstrate solidarity beyond national borders.
"Essential medical supplies, including personal protective equipment starting from face masks to protect healthcare staff, must be urgently channelled to where they are most critically needed", it reads.
"Today it is Italy that urgently needs supplies of medical equipment to protect healthcare workers, but in a few weeks, it may also be the case elsewhere."
The organisation began working in four hospitals in the country’s virus epicentre last week, and it notes that shortages of personal protective equipment are increasingly commonplace, leaving frontline staff vulnerable, where nearly 1,700 healthcare workers, comprising eight percent of total COVID-19 cases in Italy, have been infected in the course of duty.
“Even in high-level European hospitals we see health workers are overwhelmed, coping with up to 80 ambulances per day, with dramatic shortages of protective equipment that puts them at great risk. Some doctors are forced to wear the same face mask for 12 hours,” says Dr Claudia Lodesani, President of MSF in Italy, and lead of the MSF Covid-19 response in the country.
“Every day we are receiving new calls for help, for more staff, for more supplies. Without an influx of urgently needed protective equipment, more and more healthcare workers will fall ill, reducing the availability of care for patients, generating new clusters of cases, and dangerously weakening the fight against the disease.”
The group further calls for sharing of physical resources and information across borders, asking EU member states and other European countries to act in solidarity, with mechanisms put in place across the continent.
“Along with increased production, European governments must ensure that supplies can then be shipped easily to the virus hotspots,” says Brice de le Vingne, head of the MSF COVID-19 task force in Brussels.
“Meanwhile, threats to close borders risk harming the flow of resources and staff to the most affected areas. This virus respects no borders, and solidarity too must be extended beyond them,” says de le Vingne.
“COVID-19 continues to spread, and every country will face the same challenge unless the epicentre of the pandemic is tackled with a strong common effort.”
- The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
- Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999