Welcome one and all to the last update of this week – the weekend is so near you can taste it, and here’s some news of what the European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) has coming up for you in the weeks and months ahead. Also, in the case that you missed it: here is a link to our report from our Global Conference entitled ‘1st EAPM Global Conference: ‘Forward Together- Where we are now and the necessary next steps for a resilient healthcare System: effective ways of investing in health- care in a COVID 19 and Post-COVID 19 world’, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.
Don’t shake hands or hug…yet
Two epidemiologists have been busy this week, issuing warnings – while slow steps are being taken to gradually remove life restrictions in the wake of the pandemic, we should not be casually hugging again yet, and one of the experts, Erika Vlieghe is also still strongly recommending against even shaking hands.
Italy pauses to remember
On Thursday (23 July) the Italian parliament’s lower chamber voted on a new draft law to make 18 March of every year the national day to remember the victims of the coronavirus epidemic. A moment of silence will be observed in all public spaces, and people may donate money to a scientific research fund, according to Quotidiano Sanita. “It will be an important day not to forget this dramatic time and to remember all the people who are no longer with us,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza tweeted after the law passed.
ESMO and German Presidency conference
In the second half of 2020, EAPM has another two big events coming your way – for the 8th year in succession, EAPM will be present at the prestigious ESMO Congress and will, for the fifth time, be hosting a satellite meeting as part of the events. In the same way as our own recent events, the focus will be on bringing innovation into health-care systems, but with very specific items on the Alliance agenda, which will be on the issue of biomarkers and molecular diagnostics. EAPM’s roundtable is currently scheduled to take place on 18 September (at the premier oncology gathering in Madrid, Spain). Registration will open for this next week.
Hopefully, by mid-September, life will at least be beginning to get back to something approaching normal. One thing is absolutely certain, the situation caused by the novel coronavirus, it’s effect on EU health-care systems, and the fall-out going forward, will be among the hottest topics.
And on 13 October, the German Presidency conference will be the third Presidency conference that EAPM will be holding during 2020 – during the Croatia Presidency, a bridging conference between the Croatia and Germany presidencies, and this final event while Germany is at the helm. All three events reflect the nature of the relative presidency policies in the health-care arena, but also act as major events during what will be the first full year of the two new legislative bodies – the European Parliament and the European Commission.
And, of course, since the start of the year we have been dealing with impact and fall out of the COVID-19 crisis. We need to look ahead to try and understand what a post-COVID world will mean for health-care readiness and sustainability, health-data gathering and sharing, cancer treatments and personalised medicine. Then there is the question of adequate resources being available and, of course, successful implementation.
The optimal use of relevant data is clearly a huge issue as we attempt to optimize health care down the line, and there is clearly a need for better access to information, in order that resources can be more rationally allocated. Other issues that have arisen during the current crisis are those surrounding the need for increased cross-border coordination and co-operation among member states, and adequate capacity – given an ageing population and the fact that the novel coronavirus will not be our last pandemic. More information will be available on these two major events in the weeks ahead.
Health cuts hit hard
In a plenary session in the European Parliament MEPs discussed a resolution that challenges “the Council to justify the massive reductions in the budgets of ReactEU, Horizon Europe, EU4health and the NDICI in the context of the pandemic”. The €7.7 billion cut to the health programme and a separate €13.5 billion cut to the research programme are “dangerous” in the middle of a global pandemic, according to the authors of the resolution.
MEP Christian Ehler, the EPP Group Spokesman in the Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, was certainly forthright on Wednesday (22 July): “The announced severe cuts on research, innovation, health and climate change will only mean one thing,” he said. “Europe will leave the playground to the other big players; notably the US and China.”
And the European Parliament is threatening to veto the Council’s budget agreement in order to get some changes to the deal. MEPs didn’t hold back on the Council cuts – members predominantly from the EPP and Greens pushed back against the agreement that slashed EU4Health funding from €9.4 billion to €1.7bn. Belgium’s Petra De Sutter, from the Greens, warned that Europe might be seeing a second wave soon. As a doctor, she said, she can’t “explain to … colleagues why the member states did not understand this as a priority”.
Will Belgium get tougher on pandemic restrictions?
Belgium’s national security council is meeting today (24 July) to decide on the next steps in response to the pandemic, following a rise in cases in the country, and there will be no new relaxation as of 1 Augus, as initially planned, Health Minister Maggie De Block said on Tuesday (21 July). People coming back to Belgium from countries outside of the Schengen zone are partly to blame for the rise, according to Karine Moykens, chairwoman of the Inter-Federal Testing & Tracing Committee, RTBF reported. “”Some are unaware and others do not want to be quarantined when they return from countries outside the Schengen area,” she said.
And that is all for this week – look out for EAPM’s newsletter early next week and, until then, have a safe and enjoyable weekend.