In December 2019, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first isolated from three patients with pneumonia, connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases from Wuhan, China. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. More about the virus is available in the video bellow.
According to the latest epidemiological data on 25 February, the total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 80,407 globally, and 2,708 people have died from the virus, which puts the mortality rate at nearly 3.4%. This is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation with ongoing outbreak investigations. More about the virus is available at the World Health Organisation webpage following this link>>> and at the webpage of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Outbreak of the epidemic in Italy, neighbouring country to our region, saw 322 cases in a very short period of time, with 11 deaths, while cities of Cremona and Brescia turned into quarantine. First cases were also reported in Croatia, Romania, North Macedonia and Greece and also in Austria. It is pretty realistic that they will appear in other South East European countries.
In the exchange which the DPNSEE Board had, we expressed concern that the health systems may not have fully in their sight the key populations we are supporting (and people with substance use disorder, especially heroin users, are usually in a weak health conditions), that these populations, being side-lined in the community, may not be well informed about the threat and measures they should take to protect themselves and that our organisations, especially those who provide services to people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable groups should also play they role in overall efforts to fight the problems caused by this epidemic.
DPNSEE invited its member organisations to act locally but also to act together, share experiences, actions and results they achieve.
We see our role in three dimensions:
- While the coronavirus is still a threat, you may participate in calming the situation and avoiding panic which may occur, inform people you are supporting about the protective measures against the coronavirus and make all necessary steps internally to be prepared for possible dark scenarios.
- If COVID-19 cases appear in your country, you may intensify communication and advising the key populations, activate full spectrum of protection measures for your staff and establish close cooperation with authorities, especially national and local public health authority to advice on necessary steps.
- If you find yourself locked in a quarantine area, please fully respect all necessary advices and make sure that your people are safe, but also offer services other than your ordinary actions to support overall efforts of overcoming the critical situation.
DPNSEE invites authorities to pay specific attention to vulnerable populations, which may remain invisible in situations when major efforts are needed for an effective respond to the crisis.
The corona virus COVID-19 is a serious treat, but not more dangerous than usual influence we face every winter. With good preparations and respecting necessary prevention measures, its effects may be reduced and minimised. DPNSEE wants to ensure that people we serve, our staff and societies in general are prepared to fight this challenge.
To read the letter that DPNSEE sent to its member organisations follow this link>>>