Who and how assesses risk of coronavirus spread and exposure?

Author : News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

In Europe, the risk of COVID-19 coronavirus pneumonia has increased from moderate to high
09:23, 4 March 2020

La Republica

In Europe, the risk of COVID-19 coronavirus pneumonia has increased from moderate to high. At the same time, the risk of the spread of the virus globally at the World Health Organization was assessed as very high. This is the highest level of risk, according to the WHO graduation.

Related: European Parliament cancels 130 events amid coronavirus outbreak in EU

Types of the risk

Low, moderate, high and very high. WHO has published the Rapid Risk Assessment of Acute Public Health Events.

The guidelines were developed in response to requests from the Member States of the World Health Organization. Its goal is to help health care agencies make quick and informed decisions when it comes to events that are dangerous to the health of the population.

By "events", the authors of the manual mean the outbreak of any disease or rapidly changing sanitary and epidemiological situations, which can have negative consequences for human health and require immediate evaluation and action.

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The questions asked by the risk assessment team will be influenced by factors including:

  • the population at risk
  • the level at which the risk assessment is taking place – local, sub-national, national, international (e.g. cross-border), or global
  • the technical and policy disciplines and agencies that are included in the risk assessment team and their collective experience with the type of event they are assessing (e.g. a well-characterized disease compared to a public health event of unknown cause (unknown etiology)
  • the level of risk accepted by decision-makers, other stakeholders and society (i.e. the acceptable risk) • the timing of the risk assessment during the course of the event
  • the outcome of previous risk assessments carried out for the event and similar situations in the past
  • the level of perceived external (e.g. international community) interest or awareness of the event.

Hazard assessment is the identification of the dangerous factor (or factors) that triggered the outbreak, as well as the adverse health effects associated with it.

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Exposure assessment is the evaluation of the exposure of individuals and populations to likely hazards. The key output of the assessment is an estimate of the:

  • number of people or group known or likely to have been exposed,
  • number of exposed people or groups who are likely to be susceptible (i.e capable of getting a disease because they not immune).

Context assessment is an evaluation of the environment in which the event is taking place. This may include the physical environment such as climate, vegetation, land use (e.g farming, industry) and water systems and sources as well as the health of the population (e.g. nutrition, disease burden, and previous outbreaks), infrastructure (e.g. transport links, health care and public health infrastructure), cultural practices and beliefs.

Related: Coronavirus in Ukraine: country's readiness in regions

So, having done a great deal of work consisting of the steps described above, the assessment team can assign the following levels of risk to an outbreak of a particular disease:

Here it is time to remember the Wuhan coronavirus. February 28, WHO raised the risk posed by the spread of COVID-19 from high to very high.

At the time, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the concern was the spread of the virus from China to Iran, Italy and other European countries and the lack of health systems in the world.

He stressed that fear and misinformation are the biggest problems with the coronavirus.

Coronavirus in Europe: high threat level

The COVID-19 coronavirus threat level was moderately high and increased by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

“On 31 December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown aetiology was reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. On 9 January 2020, China CDC reported a novel coronavirus as the causative agent of this outbreak, which is phylogenetically in the SARS-CoV clade. The disease associated to it is now referred to as novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As of 2 March 2020 at 08:00, more than 89 068 cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, mainly in China and from all Chinese provinces; of these cases, around 9 000 cases were reported from other countries. As of 2 March, 66 countries have reported cases. The risk associated with COVID-19 infection for people in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered to be moderate to high, based on the probability of transmission and the impact of the disease,” it says in its report from March 2.

Related: Fakes about coronavirus

The European Commission is working on all fronts to support efforts to tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This includes ongoing coordination with the Member States to share information, assess needs and ensure a coherent EU-wide response. 

Five commissioners will coordinate the work:

  • Janez Lenarčič is in charge of crisis management
  • Stella Kyriakides is in charge of all health issues
  • Ylva Johansson is in charge of border-related issues
  • Adina Vălean is in charge of mobility
  • Paolo Gentiloni is in charge of macroeconomic aspects


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