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© Alberto Favaro

EC Representation in Malta

New proposal to tackle cross-border crises
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14/12/2011 16:08:58

The European Commission (EC) has adopted a new legislative proposal on the means to address serious cross border health threats.  The new legislative proposal will provide a fully co-ordinated response in the event of a crisis, such as those which have affected Europe in the last years.  The EC said the proposals will improve the means to prepare for and cater for the outbreak of serious European crises. These build on the lessons learned with recent crises such as the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the volcanic ash cloud in 2010 and the outbreak of E. coli in 2011.

    New proposal to tackle cross-border crises

    The main measures proposed include the extension of the existing co-ordination mechanism for communicable diseases to all heath threats caused by biological, chemical or environmental causes. It also includes the reinforcement of the mandate of the Health Security Committee and the strengthening of preparedness for crises.

    Furthermore it will provide the means to recognise a European "health emergency situation" for the purpose of making medicines available faster, it also includes the agreement on European wide emergency cross border measures when a crisis results in large scale mortality and national measures fail to stop the disease from spreading.

    The preparedness for crises will also delve into the possibility of joint purchasing of vaccines.  In the H1N1 pandemic, during 2009, the Maltese government was criticised for over stocking of H1N1 vaccination.  Overstocking of vaccines also occurred in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

    The World Health Organisation was also criticised by a number of countries for declaring a pandemic which has enabled drug companies to rake-in millions following the worldwide scare.

    The European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli said that "In today's globalised society, people and goods move across borders and illnesses can spread around Europe – and the globe - within hours. This is why the European Union and its Member States must be prepared to act together in a fully co-ordinated manner to stop a disease from spreading.”  The proposal gives the EU the means and the structures to effectively protect its citizens across Europe from a wide range of health threats.

    Malta is highly affected by the spreading of illnesses across the border since tourism, both inbound and outbound is high considering it is a small island. In 2010 the number of tourist arriving in Malta surpassed the 1.3 million mark.

    The first two cases of the H1N1 virus in Malta were in fact diagnosed in two men who had just returned from a trip to Girona, Spain.  Five persons died as a result of this H1N1 virus, popularly known as the “swine flu”.
    The Icelandic volcano ash strewn all over Northern Europe in 2010 had also proven to be problematic to the Maltese Islands since a number of flights to and from Malta where cancelled. 

    The EC said that biological, chemical or environmental factors can trigger serious cross border health threats which can materialize as diseases that spread from person-to-person such as flu, food and water-borne diseases such as botulism, infections with E. coli or result from extreme weather conditions like heat waves or cold spells.  The E. coli infection did not spread amongst the Maltese however a prevention warning was issued by the Maltese health ministry.

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    Last update: 15/12/2011  |Top