Intended for healthcare professionals


Covid-19 exposes weaknesses in European response to outbreaks

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 18 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1075

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  1. Michael Anderson, research officer1,
  2. Martin Mckee, professor of European public health2,
  3. Elias Mossialos, Brian Abel-Smith professor of health policy13
  1. 1London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Imperial College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: M Anderson M.Anderson5{at}

European countries must work together in the common interest

Covid-19 continues to spread across Europe. Italy, Germany, Spain, and France have all diagnosed over 6000 cases.1 Italy, which has diagnosed over 27 000, the highest number outside China, has implemented nationwide restrictions on movement. On 10 March, the European Council met by video link to discuss the joint European approach to covid-19.2 Four priorities were identified: limiting the spread of the virus, provision of medical equipment, promotion of research, and dealing with the socioeconomic consequences. The importance of strengthening solidarity, cooperation, and exchange of information between member states was also reiterated.

Despite high level political commitment from the EU, the ongoing spread of covid-19 exposes important obstacles to developing a comprehensive European response to infectious disease outbreaks. Member states have long guarded their national responsibility for health services.3 There are provisions within European treaties for acting together on public health issues, but they are limited. While existing arrangements allow action on “serious cross border health threats,”4 …

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