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EU’s preparation for pandemic ranked average

Earlier this month, the Consumer Choice Center released its Pandemic Resilience Index to identify global health system preparedness for the COVID-19 crisis.

The Index looks at 40 countries through the prism of the following factors: vaccination approval, its drive, and time lags that have put brakes on it, critical care bed capacity, and mass testing. Most EU countries ranked average, which provides a valuable insight into what can be done moving forward to 

At a time of fast globalisation, there is every reason to expect more pandemics in the future, and preparation is key. According to the findings, most European countries demonstrated an average level of resilience except Slovakia, Luxembourg, Austria, Cyprus, Malta, Denmark, and Germany, whose preparation was above average. 

Some EU countries stood out on indicators such as testing or hospital capacity. One such example is Slovakia. In November 2020, the country tested two-thirds of its population, and its average daily tests score is highest among all 40 countries, with Cyprus going second. Germany, on the other hand, has the highest number of ICU beds per 100k people, with Austria and Luxembourg being not far behind, compared to other EU member states.

Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands were remarkably behind on testing than the rest of the European Union. In terms of vaccination drive, Hungary and Malta are explicit outliers. As of March 31st, 32.3 per cent of Malta’s population received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, in Hungary it’s 21.4 per cent.

There is a noticeable variation in terms of the number of critical care beds in the EU. While France and Lithuania have 16.3 and 15.6 per 100 thousand people, Ireland has only 5 and Portugal – 4. The test capacity is more or less the same, with Slovakia, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Denmark being clear outliers. 

With a lag of 37 days behind the UK and over 10 days behind the rest of the EU in terms of vaccine rollout, the Netherlands had the lowest resilience in the bloc.

Although the number of ventilators per 100 thousand wasn’t included in the final ranking due to the conflicting data, the Index features it as an appendix. According to the data that we have, Italy, Belgium, and France – all severely hit by COVID – had a much lower number of those (between 7 and 8 per 100 thousand people) compared to Germany, Bulgaria, and Lithuania. However, health system resilience is only one of the factors that contributed to high mortality, and Spain, on the contrary, had 29 ventilators per 100k people. 

The vaccination rate is where the EU truly lacks behind Israel, UAE, and the UK. Only 16 per cent of the EU population have received a dose of a vaccine, which is only a third of Israel’s rate. The EU’s procurement bureaucracy slowed down the vaccine rollout. Failure to plan forward and negotiate fast and effectively with vaccine producers resulted in supply and distribution problems. 

The EU definitely could have done better in terms of preparedness for the pandemic. However, now that the weakness of health systems have been blatantly exposed, the Union can make the necessary adjustments and look up to countries such as Israel and UAE to avoid past mistakes. 

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