COVID-19 IN EUROPE: ON-THE-GROUND PERSPECTIVES
Dr Dominique Eggermont, Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: Belgium’s lockdown started at midnight on 14 March.
Masks are also being discouraged. The decision to relax confinement and initiate recovery will be based on a decline in the number of deaths.
The Belgian town of Lanaken has closed the border with The Netherlands
What is International SOS doing on the ground? While the International SOS Assistance Centre doctors are at times over-burdened as a result of requests for judicious advice, the International SOS consultants, a group of 30 experts - all senior doctors - operating worldwide, are being challenged with questions relating to all different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What became clear early on is that what matters to our clients is that International SOS assists not only with the crisis management itself but even more so with the business continuity and recovery phase, and Belgium is no exception.
The current situation where people are confined in adherence with their government’s social and physical distancing guidance provides International SOS with the opportunity to invite its clients to make more extensive use of its TeleHealth platform. Indeed, TeleMedicine has been evolving in leaps and bounds for the benefit of all and it is now being put to the test.
Francesca Viliani, Group Manager - Public Health Programs
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: Denmark was the second country in Europe after Italy to introduce a country lockdown. The announcement was made by the government and the authorities on 11 March for a period of 2 weeks, and it became mandatory for all on the 16 March.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? We are working quite closely with clients to support their staff working from home, to provide medical and psychosocial assistance to their employees stranded abroad, and additionally advising others with their return to work process.
Dr Irina Kuzina, Deputy Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: Hospitals are working normally but the situation may change rapidly. Presidential Decree has extended, declaring all non-working days from 30 March till 30 April 2020 (but may be shorter if situation changes).
Impact on the community: It is recommended that people stay at home and to not go outside unless they have a medical emergency, need to buy food supplies and medication, or need to go to work if the company’s activities were not suspended. This decree may be extended.
Whenever possible, remote working has been arranged. Schools and Institutes are on distance education from 5 April. Most shopping centres are closed, only food stores, pharmacies, optics, massage salons with medical license, vet clinics, zoo shops and mobile shops are open. People generally understand the situation and put themselves on self-isolation. The overall situation is well controlled and quiet.
TeleConsultations have started to be provided by private clinics and hospitals throughout country.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? We continue to support members through the Moscow Assistance Centre with medical or security advice and guidelines during this challenging time. There are a lot of interactions with the clients due to the multiply changes and challenges we facing this time.
Moscow's marketing activity is continued through webinars. Moscow Medical Services continues to operate and support multiply sites (remote locations and sites) in Russian Federation as many sites remain operational.
Dr Pedro Garcia, Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: Very stringent restrictions are in place throughout Spain; people are staying at home, leaving only for essential activities such as going to pharmacy or to buy food. Only the workers of essential activities are allowed to go to work.
Impact on the community: Children and students are attending virtual classes and tele-work has become the rule for many white-collar workers.
Socialising has become virtual, except for the daily 20:00h applause: people open their windows and clap for a few minutes to those that are fighting the disease in the front line: health workers, security forces, army, drivers, logistic employees, supermarket cashiers, and many others.
Hospitals ER and ICUs are saturated and non-urgent and some essential medical care has been delayed. The situation is particularly hard for the elderly living in nursing homes. PPE is hard to source and a significant number of carers and health workers have been infected.
Despite the numbers of infected and deceased, people have a positive mood.
The streets of Madrid are empty.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? Our Assistance Centre is operating 100% via tele-work (the premises are closed except for IT maintenance and urgent hard copy documentation courier).
We are fully operational but the capacity to transport patients is severely impaired due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the saturation of the medical facilities and the limited availability of air and ground ambulances.
Dr Lars Petersen, Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: The essence of the approach in The Netherlands is ‘maximum control’ of the virus. The concept is to allow controlled distribution among groups that are least at risk while protecting nursing homes and home care, and planning that hospitals and especially intensive care units are not overloaded. There should be sufficient capacity to help the people who are most vulnerable.
Impact on the community: In general people are abiding by the rules, but signals are emerging on increased loneliness, depression and anxiety. There has been no major loss of jobs yet as the government are supporting affected businesses.
The healthcare system is coping well, although there are worries around lack of PPE, respirators ICU beds, and so forth. The biggest problem is that regular healthcare is compromised, leading to an increase in problems around chronically ill and vulnerable people.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? We are giving extensive advice and guidance to multiple clients in different segments (banks, engineering, offshore) as consultants/general medical advisors; helping them develop policies and reviewing documentation, and participate in CMT meetings.