EU will fund transfer of Covid-19 patients across borders to prevent hospitals buckling

The European Union has earmarked 220 million euros ($257 million) to fund the transfer of Covid-19 patients across its borders to prevent the hospital systems in the 27-nation bloc from buckling.



a person standing in a room: Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) care for Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit (ICU) at Thomayer hospital on October 14, 2020 in Prague. - The Czech Republic has the European Union's highest rate of coronavirus infection, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (Photo by Michal Cizek / AFP) (Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images)


© MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) care for Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit (ICU) at Thomayer hospital on October 14, 2020 in Prague. – The Czech Republic has the European Union’s highest rate of coronavirus infection, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (Photo by Michal Cizek / AFP) (Photo by MICHAL CIZEK/AFP via Getty Images)

Europe has become the world’s epicenter of the virus for the second time since the pandemic began, forcing several countries to reimpose national lockdowns as a second wave envelops the region and infections surpass 10 million.

Health officials in several EU countries have warned that their hospitals are near capacity and have raised the alarm that more cooperation is needed to ensure facilities are not overwhelmed.

“Numbers of cases are rising, numbers of hospitalizations are rising, numbers of deaths are rising — not as fast, fortunately, because we understand better today how to treat COVID patients and how to deal with disease,” EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday night.

“But the spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently.”

Von der Leyen made her comments at a meeting with EU leaders, in which she laid out a number of measures to streamline and centralize the bloc’s Covid-19 response, from the use of tests, tracing apps and the distribution of vaccines.

The EU chief said the bloc was intensifying its efforts in obtaining and validating a vaccine, and that its members had agreed to a “fair distribution” to each state.

“The member states will all get vaccines at the same time and at the same conditions, based on their share of the EU population they have,” she said.

The EU will also now carry out rolling reviews from pharmaceutical companies, who will share quicker “step-by-step” updates with the bloc as they carry out their trials.

In terms of testing, the bloc is working to validate rapid antigen tests that can provide quicker results than the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests currently in use. In addition, the EU aims to mutually recognize test results across the bloc.

It will also try to share data collected through tracing apps. Twenty-two of the 27 member states have developed or are in the process of developing an app, and three have connected to a new European gateway since Monday. The 19 others hope plan to join in November.

Von der Leyen said there had been around 50 million app downloads in the bloc, but that was “not enough.”

“We need across the board coverage in the European Union,” she said.

The EU’s effort to centralize its response comes after it was criticized for poor coordination at the beginning of the region’s outbreak. Hard-hit countries like

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EU to fund transfer of COVID-19 patients across borders to prevent hospitals collapse

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will finance the transfer of patients across borders within the bloc to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations spike in the continent.

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen gives a news briefing at the end of a virtual conference with EU leaders about EU government’s measures against the coronavirus disease (COVID19) crisis, in Brussels, Belgium, October 29, 2020. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

After a video conference of EU leaders to discuss the health crisis on Thursday, the head of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen said the EU executive had made available 220 million euros ($260 million) to move COVID-19 patients across borders.

“The spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently,” she said.

At the meeting leaders agreed to better coordinate efforts to battle the virus as infections in Europe exceeded 10 million, making the continent again the epicenter of the pandemic.

EU countries want to avoid divisions which dogged the 27-nation bloc at the beginning of the pandemic, when nations vied with each other to buy scarce medical equipment.

To better trace infections, von der Leyen said the EU would work for the quick validation at EU level of rapid antigen tests, which allow quicker results than the standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) molecular kits.

The Commission is also intensifying its efforts to get potential vaccines against the new coronavirus.

The EU was in talks with four companies, and had already sealed supply deals with another three, she said.

The EU has secured potential vaccines being developed by AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson.

It has also said it is in talks with Moderna, CureVac and a partnership of Pfizer and BionTech. Reuters reported in September that the EU was also in preliminary talks with Novavax.

The chair of the meeting, Charles Michel, said EU leaders committed to a fair distribution of vaccines once available. That would be done in proportion to population, von der Leyen said.

Michel said vaccination plans at a national level were crucial to make sure the first limited doses of vaccines could be distributed quickly to those most in need.

Many countries however have not yet defined their inoculation plans, and have different targets.

($1 = 0.8461 euros)

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, Robin Emmott, Jan Strupczewski; editing by Richard Pullin

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Appeals court upholds Kentucky abortion law requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with hospitals

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a Kentucky law that requires abortion clinics to have written agreements with a hospital and ambulance service in case of medical emergencies.

The 2-1 ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a 2018 district court ruling that found the law, first passed in 1998, violated constitutionally protected due process rights.

EMW Women’s Surgical Center first challenged the law in 2017 after a licensing fight with then-Gov. Matt Bevin (R). EMW was the only clinic that provided abortions at the time, and Bevin claimed that it lacked proper transfer agreements and took steps to shut it down.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky joined the suit later on, claiming that Bevin had used these transfer agreements to block its request for a license to provide abortions. After Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear took office in 2019, the two clinics were allowed to provide abortions.

The court wrote that the “district court erred in concluding that Kentucky would be left without an abortion facility,” according to The Associated Press, and dismissed the clinics’ argument that they were at risk of closing. It further said that the law allows clinics to apply for a 90-day waiver if they are denied a licensing agreement, which they could theoretically reapply for and continue to operate.

“(We) must presume that the Inspector General will consider waiver applications in good faith and will not act ‘simply to make it more difficult for (women) to obtain an abortion,’” the ruling read.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Eric Clay wrote that it “condones the evisceration of the constitutional right to abortion access in Kentucky.”

“At the end of the day, no matter what standard this Court is bound to apply, the majority’s decision today is terribly and tragically wrong,” he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented the clinics, said in a statement that Kentucky’s law means abortion providers have to navigate “needless red tape every 90 days” and warned that the state could be the first without any abortion providers if the governor refuses to grant the waiver.

“This is what it looks like when politicians chip away at protections under Roe — pushing medically unnecessary laws that jeopardize abortion access without ever overturning Roe,” Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said in a statement.

“It must be stated that we are in a dangerous moment for abortion rights and what this moment calls for is leadership to put all people before politics and do what’s necessary to ensure every person has access to the care they need and deserve,” Charbonneau added.

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