Summary extracted from the RRA:
On 31 December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown aetiology was reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. On 9 January 2020, China CDC reported a novel coronavirus as the causative agent of this outbreak, which is phylogenetically in the SARS-CoV clade. The disease associated with the virus is referred to as novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
As of 11 March 2020, 118 598 cases of COVID-19 were reported worldwide by more than 100 countries. Since late February, the majority of cases reported are from outside China, with an increasing majority of these reported from EU/EEA countries and the UK.
The Director General of the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on 11 March 2020.
All EU/EEA countries and the UK are affected, reporting a total of 17 413 cases as of 11 March. Seven hundred and eleven cases reported by EU/EEA countries and the UK have died. Italy represents 58% of the cases (n=10 149) and 88% of the fatalities (n=631). The current pace of the increase in cases in the EU/EEA and the UK mirrors trends seen in China in January-early February and trends seen in Italy in mid-February.
In the current situation where COVID-19 is rapidly spreading worldwide and the number of cases in Europe is rising with increasing pace in several affected areas, there is a need for immediate targeted action. The speed with which COVID-19 can cause nationally incapacitating epidemics once transmission within the community is established, indicates that in a few weeks or even days, it is likely that similar situations to those seen in China and Italy may be seen in other EU/EEA countries or the UK.
There are no vaccines available and there is little evidence on the effectiveness of potential therapeutic agents.
In addition, there is presumably no pre-existing immunity in the population against the new coronavirus and everyone in the population is assumed to be susceptible. Clinical presentations of COVID-19 range from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe pneumonia; severe disease can lead to death. While the majority of cases (80%) are milder respiratory infections and pneumonias, severe illness and death is more common among the elderly with other chronic underlying conditions, with these risk groups accounting for the majority of severe disease and fatalities to date.
The risk of severe disease associated with COVID-19 infection for people in the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered moderate for the general population and high for older adults and individuals with chronic underlying conditions, based on the probability of community transmission and the impact of the disease.