TALLINN – Speaking ahead of a video meeting of EU health ministers on Thursday, Estonian Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said that the EU needs a more united and coordinated approach when it comes to public health crises.
"The experience with the COVID-19 crisis showed that in order to make fast and evidence-based decisions during an emergency, preparedness has to be increased and a more coordinated approach ensured in the European Union on the whole," Kiik said according to spokespeople for the Ministry of Social Affairs.
He called for placing greater emphasis on data exchanges and analysis between countries and described it as important for investments to be made in the EU in the introduction of supporting IT solutions and information systems, as it will enable to gather and forward comparable information.
"This, in its turn, will offer a better overview of the situation in different member states," the Estonian minister said.
"Also the availability of data and analysis capacity have to be improved -- this is necessary, for instance, for an evaluation of the epidemiological situation and risks, but also the effect of various measures," he said.
Therefore, Estonia supports the proposal of the German presidency to strengthen the activity of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and to provide them with necessary means for the performance of their tasks.
The minister said that consideration should be given to the introduction of new digital solutions, the creation of an EU-wide pandemic plan, the creation of a task force made up of epidemiologists and public health experts, as well as making non-binding recommendations to the member states and strengthening scientific cooperation with the public health institutes of different countries, international partners and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Another topic to be discussed at the video meeting of EU health ministers is improving the medicines supply of the EU.
"Availability of medicines and resolving the problem of supply difficulties that arose during the coronavirus crisis is in the interests of all member states. The European Union needs long-term and sustainable solutions in this," the Estonian minister said.
He said that, foremost, the wish is to reduce the the EU's dependence on the manufacture of medicines and their active substances in third countries, especially when it comes to generic medicines, antibiotics and vaccines. Estonia considers the development of a comprehensive EU strategy on medicines as important to ensure a supply of medicines necessary for crises as well as equal availability of medicines also in the smaller member states, along with affordability of medicines for the people.