The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health :: Education :: Heritage Stewardship ::
Sustainable Development
Week ending 25 April 2020 :: Number 313

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortia and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
GE2P2 Global Foundation – Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice

PDF:The Sentinel_ period ending 25 Apr 2020

:: Week in Review  [See selected posts just below]
:: Key Agency/IGO/Governments Watch – Selected Updates from 30+ entities   [see PDF]
:: INGO/Consortia/Joint Initiatives Watch – Media Releases, Major Initiatives, Research:: Foundation/Major Donor Watch -Selected Updates
:: Journal Watch – Key articles a

Global leaders unite to ensure everyone everywhere can access new vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19

COVID-19: Global Commitments/Equity/Access

Global leaders unite to ensure everyone everywhere can access new vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19
Unprecedented gathering of heads of government, institutions and industry cements commitment to accelerate development and delivery for all populations
24 April 2020 News release
GENEVA – Heads of state and global health leaders today made an unprecedented commitment to work together [see below] to accelerate the development and production of new vaccines, tests and treatments for COVID-19 and assure equitable access worldwide.

…leaders came together at a virtual event, co-hosted by the World Health Organization, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The event was joined by the UN Secretary General, the AU Commission Chairperson, the G20 President, heads of state of France, South Africa, Germany, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Italy, Rwanda, Norway, Spain, Malaysia and the UK (represented by the First Secretary of State).

Health leaders from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI-the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund, UNITAID, the Wellcome Trust, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC), the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA), the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN), and the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA) committed to come together, guided by a common vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19, to launch this groundbreaking collaboration. They are joined by two Special Envoys: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gavi Board Chair and Sir Andrew Witty, former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline…


Commitment and call to action: Global collaboration to accelerate new COVID-19 health technologies
A Global Collaboration to Accelerate the Development, Production and Equitable Access to New COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines
24 April 2020
Our Vision and Mission
Grounded in a vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19, we, an initial group of global health actors (BMGF, CEPI, Gavi, Global Fund, UNITAID, Wellcome Trust, WHO) and private sector partners and other stakeholders, are launching a landmark, global and time-limited collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable global access to new COVID-19 essential health technologies.

We know that as long as anyone is at risk from this virus, the entire world is at risk – every single person on the planet needs to be protected from this disease.

We agree that alongside evidence-based public health measures, innovative COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines are needed – in record time and at record scale and access – to save millions of lives and countless trillions of dollars, and to return the world to a sense of ‘normalcy’.

We recognize the significant amount of critical work, investment and initiatives already ongoing around the world to expedite the development and deployment of innovative COVID-19 related products and interventions.

We appreciate that while development and deployment of innovative products is essential, it will not be enough. We must simultaneously and urgently accelerate the strengthening of sustainable health systems and capacities to enable delivery of the new COVID-19 tools to those who need them and to mitigate the knock-on impact on other diseases.

We remember lessons from the past, which have shown that even when effective tools are available to the world, too often some are protected, while others are not. This inequity is unacceptable – all tools to address COVID-19 must be available to all. In the fight against COVID-19, no one should be left behind.

We understand we cannot do this alone, and that we need to work together in unprecedented and inclusive partnership with all stakeholders – political leaders, public and private sector partners, civil society, academia, and all other stakeholders across society – jointly leveraging our comparative strengths and respective voices to drive towards collective solutions, an accelerated path, and access for all. We are stronger, faster and more effective working together.

Our Mission is not only accelerated development and availability of new COVID-19 tools – it is to accelerate equitable global access to safe, quality, effective, and affordable COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and thus to ensure that in the fight against COVID-19, no one is left behind.

Our Commitment
[1] We commit to the shared aim of equitable global access to innovative tools for COVID-19 for all.
[2] We commit to an unprecedented level of partnership – proactively engaging stakeholders, aligning and coordinating efforts, building on existing collaborations, collectively devising solutions, and grounding our partnership in transparency, and science.
[3] We commit to create a strong unified voice to maximize impact, recognizing this is not about singular decision-making authority, but rather collective problem-solving, interconnectedness and inclusivity, where all stakeholders can connect and benefit from the expertise, knowledge and activities of this shared action-oriented platform.
[4] We commit to build on past experiences towards achieving this objective, including ensuring that every activity we undertake is executed through the lens of equitable global access, and that the voices of the communities most affected are heard.
[5] We commit to be accountable to the world, to communities, and to one another. We are coming together in the spirit of solidarity, and in the service of humanity, to achieve our mission and vision.

Our Call
We ask the global community and political leaders to support this landmark collaboration, and for donors to provide the necessary resources to accelerate achievement of the objectives of this global collaboration, capitalizing on the opportunity provided by the rolling pledging campaign that will start on 4 May 2020.

Over 13 million children did not receive any vaccines at all even before COVID-19 disrupted global immunization – UNICEF

Over 13 million children did not receive any vaccines at all even before COVID-19 disrupted global immunization – UNICEF
NEW YORK, 25 April 2020 – As the world waits desperately for a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to surge across the globe. Millions of children are in danger of missing life-saving vaccines against measles, diphtheria and polio due to disruptions in immunization services. At last count, most countries had suspended mass polio campaigns and 25 countries had postponed mass measles campaigns, as per recommended guidance.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, measles, polio and other vaccines were out of reach for 20 million children below the age of one every year. Over 13 million children below the age of one globally did not receive any vaccines at all in 2018, many of whom live in countries with weak health systems. Given the current disruptions, this could create pathways to disastrous outbreaks in 2020 and well beyond.

“The stakes have never been higher. As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, our life-saving work to provide children with vaccines is critical,” said Robin Nandy, UNICEF Principal Adviser and Chief of Immunization. “With disruptions in immunization services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fates of millions of young lives hang in the balance.”

An estimated 182 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2018, or 20.3 million children a year on average, according to a UNICEF analysis. This is because the global coverage of the first dose of measles stands only at 86 per cent, well below the 95 per cent needed to prevent measles outbreaks.

Widening pockets of unvaccinated children led to alarming measles outbreaks in 2019, including in high-income countries like the US, UK and France.

Among low-income countries, the gaps in measles coverage before COVID-19 were already alarming. Between 2010 and 2018, Ethiopia had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose of measles, at nearly 10.9 million. It was followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (6.2 million), Afghanistan (3.8 million), Chad, Madagascar and Uganda with about 2.7 million each.

Beyond measles, the immunization gaps were already quite dire, according to new regional profiles developed by UNICEF. In Africa, more children have missed out on vaccines over the past years due to rising number of births and a stagnation in immunization services. For example, in West and Central Africa, coverage has stagnated at 70 per cent for DTP3 – which is the lowest among all regions – at 70 per cent for polio, and at 71 per cent for measles. This has led to repeated outbreaks of measles and polio in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Meanwhile, in South Asia, an estimated 3.2 million children did not receive any vaccines in 2018. In Eastern and Southern Africa, the number of unvaccinated children has remained almost the same for the last decade, at around 2 million. All regions are now also battling COVID-19 outbreaks.

UNICEF is sending critical vaccine supplies to immunize children, where possible, in areas with outbreaks and to replenish their routine supplies.In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, UNICEF is supporting the Government with vaccine supplies and protective equipment to continue immunization activities in North Kivu province, where over 3,000 cases of measles were reported since January 1. And in Uganda, UNICEF procured 3,842,000 doses of bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV) to immunize 900,000 children below the age of one year. Children receive three doses of the polio vaccine before they celebrate their first birthday.

As the world races to develop and test a new COVID-19 vaccine, UNICEF and partners in the Measles & Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance are calling on governments and donors to:
:: Sustain immunization services while keeping health workers and communities safe;
:: Start planning to ramp up vaccinations for every missed child when the pandemic ends;
: Fully replenish Gavi, as the alliance supports immunization programmes in the future;
:: Ensure that when the COVID-19 vaccine is available, it reaches those most in need.

“Children missing out now on vaccines must not go their whole lives without protection from disease,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance “The legacy of COVID-19 must not include the global resurgence of other killers like measles and polio.”

COVID-19: Fake Medicines; Trade Restrictions for Medical Supplies/Food

COVID-19: Fake Medicines

The global response to the coronavirus pandemic must not be undermined by bribery
In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, the OECD Working Group on Bribery reaffirms its collective commitment to fight foreign bribery under the Anti-Bribery Convention.
Recent seizures of fake medical supplies being marketed as protection against Covid-19 underscore the need to address a growing international trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals that is costing billions of euros a year and putting lives at risk, according to the OECD and the EU’s Intellectual Property Office.

A joint report, Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products, and an accompanying brief on links with the Covid-19 crisis, says the trafficking and sale of fake or defective medicines is enriching criminal groups and endangering health while draining away vital industry and tax revenues. Analysis of customs seizures over 2014-16 finds that trade in counterfeit pharmaceuticals was worth EUR 4 billion in 2016. That figure excludes fake medicines produced and consumed domestically and shipments of pharmaceuticals that are stolen in transit and rerouted for sale in a different market or country.

“The sale of counterfeit and defective pharmaceuticals is a despicable crime, and the discovery of fake medical supplies related to Covid-19 just as the world pulls together to fight this pandemic makes this global challenge all the more acute and urgent,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “We hope the evidence we have gathered on the value, scope and trends of this illicit trade will help lead to rapid solutions to combat this scourge.”
Interpol recently reported a rise in fake medical products related to Covid-19. Seizures of fake Covid-19 tests, facemasks and hand sanitizers have been reported by customs authorities such as the US Customs and Border Protection, and the World Customs Organisation.

The OECD-EUIPO report finds that most of the counterfeit drugs seized over 2014-16 were fake antibiotics, male impotence pills, painkillers and medication for malaria, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancers, high blood pressure and allergies. The vast majority contain incorrect proportions of active ingredients, meaning they are unlikely to work. Many contain undeclared substances that can pose serious health risks. Forensic tests of suspect samples show that in 90% of cases, counterfeit medicines can harm patients.

Strong global demand, high profit margins and a low risk of detection make pharmaceuticals especially vulnerable to counterfeiting. Criminal groups may traffic medicines made with substandard ingredients or steal legitimate pharmaceuticals destined for hospitals to sell on the street at cut prices, often storing them in poor conditions that reduce their effectiveness.

Read the report: Trade in Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products


COVID-19: Medical Supplies/Food and Trade Restrictions

WTO and IMF heads call for lifting trade restrictions on medical supplies and food
April 24, 2020
As our members grapple with their response to the global health and economic crisis, we call for more attention to the role of open trade policies in defeating the virus, restoring jobs, and reinvigorating economic growth. In particular, we are concerned by supply disruptions from the growing use of export restrictions and other actions that limit trade of key medical supplies and food.

Trade has made cutting-edge medical products available throughout the world at competitive prices. Last year global imports of crucial goods needed in the fight against COVID-19, such as face masks and gloves, hand soap and sanitizer, protective gear, oxygen masks, ventilators, and pulse oximeters, totalled nearly $300 billion. Recognizing the importance of this trade, governments have taken dozens of measures to facilitate imports of COVID-related medical products—cutting import duties, curbing customs-clearance processes, and streamlining licensing and approval requirements.

We welcome these actions. Accelerating imports of critical medical supplies translates into saving lives and livelihoods. Similar attention should be paid to facilitating exports of key items like drugs, protective gear, and ventilators. Anticipating governments’ need to address domestic crises, World Trade Organization (WTO) rules allow for temporary export restrictions “applied to prevent or relieve critical shortages” in the exporting country. We urge governments to exercise caution when implementing such measures in the present circumstances.

This time is different
Taken collectively, export restrictions can be dangerously counterproductive. What makes sense in an isolated emergency can be severely damaging in a global crisis. Such measures disrupt supply chains, depress production, and misdirect scarce, critical products and workers away from where they are most needed. Other governments counter with their own restrictions. The result is to prolong and exacerbate the health and economic crisis—with the most serious effects likely on the poorer and more vulnerable countries.

To ramp up the production of medical supplies, it is essential to build on existing cross-border production and distribution networks.

Trade finance and food items
We are also concerned by the decline in the supply of trade finance. Adequate trade finance is important to ensure that imports of food and essential medical equipment reach the economies where they are most needed. Our institutions are tracking developments and engaging with key suppliers of trade finance.

In addition to restrictions on medical goods, curbs on some food items are starting to appear, despite strong supply. The experience in the global financial crisis showed that food export restrictions multiply rapidly across countries and lead to ever greater uncertainties and price increases. We are also concerned that if critical agricultural workers are not able to move to where the harvest is, crops could rot in the fields. Where new cropping seasons are starting, planting could be hampered, lowering both domestic and international supplies and increasing food insecurity. We urge governments to address these challenges in a safe and proportionate manner.

Cooperative effort needed
Amid the unfolding global financial crisis, global economic leaders in 2008 jointly committed to refrain for a year from new import, export, and investment restrictions. This pledge helped to avoid widespread trade restrictions that would have worsened the crisis and delayed recovery—just as trade restrictions deepened and prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

A similarly bold step is needed today. We call on governments to refrain from imposing or intensifying export and other trade restrictions and to work to promptly remove those put in place since the start of the year. The WTO and the G20 offer two forums for global policy coordination on these important matters.

History has taught us that keeping markets open helps everyone – especially the world’s poorest people. Let’s act on the lessons we have learned.

COVID-19: Food Security/Nutrition

COVID-19: Food Security/Nutrition

Global Report on Food Crises – Joint Analysis for Better Decisions
Food Security Information Network
April 2020 :: 240 pages
GRFC 2020 in brief
The data and the analyses in this report were prepared before the global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and do not account for its impact on vulnerable people in food-crisis situations.

The Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2020 is the result of a joint, consensus-based assessment of acute food insecurity situations around the world by 16 partner organizations.

At 135 million, the number of people in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in 2019 was the highest in the four years of the GRFC’s existence. This increase also reflected the inclusion of additional countries and areas within some countries.

When comparing the 50 countries that were in both the 2019 and the 2020 reports, the population in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) rose from 112 to 123 million. This reflected worsening acute food insecurity in key conflict-driven crises, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan and the growing severity of drought and economic shocks as drivers in countries such as Haiti, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Around 183 million people in 47 countries were classified in Stressed (IPC/CH Phase 2) conditions, at risk of slipping into Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) if confronted by an additional shock or stressor.

An estimated 75 million stunted children were living in the 55 food-crisis countries analysed. These children have limited access to sufficient dietary energy, nutritionally diverse diets, clean drinking water, sanitation and health care, which weakens their health and nutrition status, with dire consequences for their development and long-term productivity.

Drivers of acute food insecurity
Conflict/insecurity was still the main driver of food crises in 2019, but weather extremes and economic shocks became increasingly significant. Over half of the 77 million acutely foodinsecure people in countries where conflict was identified as the primary driver were in the Middle East and Asia. Regional crises continued to see high levels of acute food insecurity, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin and Central Sahel.

Africa had the largest numbers of acutely food-insecure people in need of assistance in countries badly affected by weather events, particularly in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, followed by Central America and Pakistan.

In East Africa, armed conflicts, intercommunal violence and other localized tensions continued to affect peace and security, particularly in South Sudan, and continued to maintain large refugee populations in neighbouring countries, such as Uganda.

The report reflects the growing influence of economic crises on acute food insecurity levels, particularly in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Haiti and the Sudan.

An estimated 79 million people remained displaced globally as of mid-2019 – 44 million of them internally displaced and 20 million were refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. More than half of these refugees were hosted in countries with high numbers of acutely food-insecure people. In countries where funding constraints have reduced assistance in refugee camps, refugees’ food security was severely threatened.

-Short-term outlook for 2020
The acute food insecurity forecasts for 2020 were produced before COVID-19 became a pandemic and do not account for its likely impact in food crisis countries.

The combined effects of conflict, macroeconomic crisis, climaterelated shocks and crop pests, including fall armyworm and desert locusts, were likely to ensure that Yemen remained the world’s worst food crisis.

In East Africa, abundant seasonal rains benefitted crops and rangelands, but fostered a severe desert locust outbreak that will likely aggravate acute food insecurity in complex and fragile contexts.

Protracted conflicts will either maintain or increase acute food insecurity levels in parts of Central Africa. In Southern Africa, post-harvest improvements are likely to be short-lived as poor rains, high food prices and unresolved political and economic instability could worsen acute food insecurity levels. Increasing violence, displacements and disrupted agriculture and trade in tandem with adverse climate in West Africa and Sahel countries will worsen acute food insecurity conditions in many areas.

Violent conflict and currency depreciation will drive alarming rates of acute food insecurity and acute malnutrition levels across the most troubled areas of the Middle East and Asia.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, sociopolitical crises, weather extremes, lack of employment and high food prices are likely to lead to deteriorating acute food insecurity in some countries.

The drivers of food crises, as well as lack of access to dietary energy and diversity, safe water, sanitation and health care will continue to create high levels of child malnutrition, while COVID-19 is likely to overburden health systems.

The pandemic may well devastate livelihoods and food security, especially in fragile contexts and particularly for the most vulnerable people working in the informal agricultural and nonagricultural sectors. A global recession will majorly disrupt food supply chains.


Joint Statement on COVID-19 Impacts on Food Security and Nutrition
FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank on the occasion of the Extraordinary G20 Agriculture Minister’s Meeting
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020— The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic loss of human life across the world and presents an unprecedented challenge with deep social and economic consequences, including compromising food security and nutrition. Responses need to be well coordinated across the world, including by the G20 and beyond, to limit impacts, end the pandemic, and prevent its recurrence.

The pandemic is already affecting the entire food system. Restrictions on movement within and across countries can hinder food-related logistic services, disrupt entire food supply chains and affect the availability of food. Impacts on the movement of agricultural labor and on the supply of inputs will soon pose critical challenges to food production, thus jeopardizing food security for all people, and hit especially hard people living in the poorest countries.

Agriculture and its food-related logistic services should be considered as essential. Increased efforts are needed to ensure that food value chains function well and promote the production and availability of diversified, safe and nutritious food for all. In doing this, it is necessary to give precedence to the health of consumers and workers, adhering to safety measures, such as testing, physical distancing and other hygienic practices.

Currently, the world food market is well supplied and all countries, particularly those with prominent trade shares, need to ensure that it remains a stable, transparent and reliable source of food. During the 2007-08 food price crisis, panic-driven policy responses, such as export bans and rapid escalation in food stock procurement through imports exacerbated market disruptions.

While food supplies were tighter because of weather shocks globally in 2007-08, this behavior stretches the balance between global food supply and demand, increasing price volatility and ultimately contributing to it. These immediate impacts proved extremely damaging for low-income food-import dependent countries, and to the efforts of humanitarian organizations to procure supplies.
Countries need to work together to strengthen cooperation during this pandemic that is affecting all regions of the world. It is important to ensure that policies, such as short-term measures to restrict trade, do not distort global markets.

Collective action is needed to ensure that markets are well-functioning, and that timely and reliable information on market fundamentals is available to all. This will reduce uncertainty and allow producers, consumers, traders and processors to make informed production and trade decisions and contain panic behavior in global markets.

The Agricultural Market Information System – a G20 initiative that combines the expertise of ten International Organizations with the information provided by countries with a high share in world food trade – is monitoring world supply and price developments.

The devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 reinforce the need for investments that prevent future outbreaks of such infectious diseases, recognizing the interconnections between people, animals, plants and their shared environment – the One Health approach. Continued attention is necessary strengthen the resilience of food systems to such disease outbreaks but also to other shocks.

As the pandemic slows down economies, access to food will be negatively affected by income reductions and loss of employment as well as availability of food in local markets. Efforts should focus on supporting access to food for the poor and the vulnerable and those whose income is most affected. Implementing adequate social protection measures, such as cash transfers, and investing in early recovery efforts in response to COVID-19 is critical to saving both lives and livelihoods. Ensuring that these measures reach everyone will be key to avoid further spread of poverty and hunger.

Countries with existing humanitarian crises are particularly exposed to the effects of the pandemic. Its effects could be even stronger in those countries that are already facing exceptional emergencies with direct consequences for agriculture including due to ongoing or emerging conflict and climate shocks or desert locust outbreaks.

The pandemic is likely to have significant repercussions on the delivery of humanitarian and recovery assistance. Maintaining ongoing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups and adapting to potential COVID-19 impacts is critical. Investment is needed to accelerate recovery efforts and build resilience of vulnerable populations, coordinating our efforts with all partners including with the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19.

Decisive collective action is needed now to ensure that this pandemic does not threaten food security and nutrition, and to improve resilience to future shocks. On this, we highlight the 2021 Food Systems Summit as an opportunity to drive transformative action and contribute to the UN Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.

Coronavirus: Commission launches data sharing platform for researchers


Coronavirus: Commission launches data sharing platform for researchers
Press release 20 April 2020
Today, the European Commission together with several partners launched a European COVID-19 Data Platform to enable the rapid collection and sharing of available research data. The platform, part of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan, marks another milestone in the EU’s efforts to support researchers in Europe and around the world in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Launching the European COVID-19 Data Platform is an important concrete measure for stronger cooperation in fighting the coronavirus. Building on our dedicated support for open science and open access over the years, now is the time to step up our efforts and stand united with our researchers. Through our joint efforts, we will better understand, diagnose and eventually overpower the pandemic.”

The new platform will provide an open, trusted, and scalable European and global environment where researchers can store and share datasets, such as DNA sequences, protein structures, data from pre-clinical research and clinical trials, as well as epidemiological data. It is the result of a joint effort by the European Commission, the European Bioinformatics Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL-EBI), the Elixir infrastructure and the COMPARE project, as well as the EU Member States and other partners.

Rapid open sharing of data greatly accelerates research and discovery, allowing for an effective response to the coronavirus emergency. The European COVID-19 Data Platform is in line with the principles established in the Statement on Data Sharing in Public Health Emergency and accentuates the Commission’s commitment to open research data and Open Science, which aims at making science more efficient, reliable, and responsive to societal challenges. In this context, the platform is also a priority pilot, aimed at realising the objectives of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), and builds upon established networks between EMBL-EBI and national public health data infrastructures.

ERAvsCorona Action Plan
On 7 April 2020, research and innovation Ministers from all 27 EU Member States supported 10 priority actions of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan. Building on the overall objectives and the tools of the European Research Area (ERA), the Action Plan covers short-term actions based on close coordination, cooperation, data sharing and joint funding efforts between the Commission and the Member States. It is centred around the key principles of the European Research Area, which will now be used to achieve towards their maximum effect to help researchers and EU Member States succeed in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic…

EMERGENCIES – Coronavirus [COVID-19]


Coronavirus [COVID-19]
Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

Editor’s Note:
We certainly recognize the velocity of global developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. While we have concentrated the most current key reports just below, COVID-19 announcements, analysis and commentary will be found throughout this issue, in all sections.
Beyond the considerable continuing coverage in the global general media, the WHO’s authoritative guidance is available here:
:: Daily WHO situation reports here:
:: WHO Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) daily press briefings here:

Situation report – 96 [WHO]

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
25 April 2020
2 719 897 confirmed (93 716)
187 705 deaths (5767)

European Region
1 314 666 confirmed (30 450)
119 463 deaths (2940)

Region of the Americas
1 047 508 confirmed (52 138)
53 103 deaths (2520)

Eastern Mediterranean Region
154 971 confirmed (5676)
6750 deaths (142)

Western Pacific Region
141 470 confirmed (1688)
5906 deaths (37)

South-East Asia Region
41 073 confirmed (2501)
1658 deaths (104)

African Region
19 497 confirmed (1263)
812 deaths (24)

Global Level – Very High

:: WHO, together with heads of state, global health leaders, private sector partners and other stakeholders launched the Access To COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. More information including the WHO Director General’s opening remarks, full list of participants, and the group’s statement, are available.

:: Although some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate”, there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. More information is available here.

:: WHO has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cyber-attacks directed at its staff, and email scams targeting the public. WHO asks the public to remain vigilant against fraudulent emails and recommends using reliable sources to obtain factual information about COVID-19 and other health issues. More information is available here.


“Immunity passports” in the context of COVID-19
WHO Scientific Briefs
24 April 2020
WHO has published guidance on adjusting public health and social measures for the next phase of the COVID-19 response.1 Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection. There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

The measurement of antibodies specific to COVID-19
The development of immunity to a pathogen through natural infection is a multi-step process that typically takes place over 1-2 weeks. The body responds to a viral infection immediately with a non-specific innate response in which macrophages, neutrophils, and dendritic cells slow the progress of virus and may even prevent it from causing symptoms. This non-specific response is followed by an adaptive response where the body makes antibodies that specifically bind to the virus. These antibodies are proteins called immunoglobulins. The body also makes T-cells that recognize and eliminate other cells infected with the virus. This is called cellular immunity. This combined adaptive response may clear the virus from the body, and if the response is strong enough, may prevent progression to severe illness or re-infection by the same virus. This process is often measured by the presence of antibodies in blood.

WHO continues to review the evidence on antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection.2-17 Most of these studies show that people who have recovered from infection have antibodies to the virus. However, some of these people have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood,4 suggesting that cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery. As of 24 April 2020, no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.

Laboratory tests that detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in people, including rapid immunodiagnostic tests, need further validation to determine their accuracy and reliability. Inaccurate immunodiagnostic tests may falsely categorize people in two ways. The first is that they may falsely label people who have been infected as negative, and the second is that people who have not been infected are falsely labelled as positive. Both errors have serious consequences and will affect control efforts. These tests also need to accurately distinguish between past infections from SARS-CoV-2 and those caused by the known set of six human coronaviruses. Four of these viruses cause the common cold and circulate widely. The remaining two are the viruses that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. People infected by any one of these viruses may produce antibodies that cross-react with antibodies produced in response to infection with SARS-CoV-2.

Many countries are now testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies at the population level or in specific groups, such as health workers, close contacts of known cases, or within households.21 WHO supports these studies, as they are critical for understanding the extent of – and risk factors associated with – infection.  These studies will provide data on the percentage of people with detectable COVID-19 antibodies, but most are not designed to determine whether those people are immune to secondary infections.

Other considerations
At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate.” People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission. As new evidence becomes available, WHO will update this scientific brief.
Citations/References at title link above