Italy, 06-03-2020 : The WHO Rapid Response Team (RRT) has recommended maintaining a strong focus on containment measures across the country, combined with a combination of strategies in areas with wider virus transmission to prevent disease and protect lives.
This is one of the team’s conclusions at the end of its 12-day mission to Italy on 6 March.
This team of experts from WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was deployed to Italy to strengthen understanding about the evolution of the disease and support the national response.
Dr Dina Pfeifer, in charge of clinical management and team lead, highlighted Italy’s commitment, since the beginning, to tackle to the outbreak.
“We appreciate the difficulties that the current situation poses and acknowledge the efforts of the Ministry of Health as well as other national and regional authorities to address it. This is indeed a whole-of-government collaboration, and we are grateful for the transparent information-sharing that is critical for us to better understand this outbreak and support response efforts,” she said.
Recommendations and way forward
Members of the RRT worked in close coordination with national and regional authorities both at central and local levels. They visited hospitals, discussed patient care and infection prevention and control measures with health care workers, reviewed the epidemiological map of Italy, and supported the development of a joint risk communication strategy.
The team has recommended maintaining a strong focus on containment measures across the country, and prioritizing the identification and testing of suspect cases. In areas with wider virus transmission, they recommend a combination of strategies that prioritizes patient isolation and care and hospital preparedness to prevent disease and protect lives.
A nation-wide strategy and technical plans in key areas of work – surveillance, clinical management, infection prevention and control, and risk communication – are instrumental to structure the ongoing response. Strong coordination between all actors in charge of the response at central and regional levels is the basis of an effective response.
In a broader context, Italy can be a “knowledge-generating platform” on COVID-19 within the scientific community.
Another recommendation from the mission is to capitalize on the country’s transparent information-sharing and academic and research capacity, to build understanding of the virus and its behaviour, as well as confirm the effectiveness of response measures.
Support from WHO
During the debriefing with the Minister of Health and his team, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, reiterated WHO’s support to the country to overcome the challenges posed by the outbreak.
In particular, the WHO Regional Office is planning to deploy a senior WHO advisor to work with the central authorities in Rome and establish a field emergency team based in the WHO Venice Office to facilitate liaison with the regions. “We are prioritizing our support to Italy given the current evolution of the outbreak and are ready to scale up our involvement as needed,” he concluded.
Additionally, WHO/Europe is deploying three missions to Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Montenegro in the coming days as part of preparedness and response activities for COVID-19.