RIVM – PROUD PARTNER OF PANDEM-2
On January the 24th of 2020, the first COVID-19 Outbreak Management Team (OMT) was convened at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), marking the start of a very intense period of work for public health professionals in the Netherlands. The OMT advises our government on how to best contain an infectious disease outbreak from a public health point of view and consists of both public health and clinical experts, microbiologists and other relevant experts from institutions throughout the country. The National Coordinating Centre for Communicable Disease Control (LCI), our department within the Centre for Infectious Disease Control (CIb) of the RIVM, coordinates the control of infectious diseases and is responsible for rapid and efficient communication about outbreaks nationally and regionally throughout the Netherlands. In the event of an outbreak, the centre is responsible for organizing and preparing OMT meetings and for implementation by health professionals.
The LCI was conceived in response to an outbreak of polio in 1992, with the goal of improving national coordination of infectious disease control. Since then, the LCI has had a three-fold mission:
- Coordinates the prevention and response to outbreaks and threats
- Develop and maintain guidelines for infectious disease control
- Strengthen the network of infectious disease control at both the national and international level
Preparedness has been an important aspect of carrying out these missions from the beginning, by training professionals on the topic of preparedness, and research to improve preparedness. RIVM was a partner in the European-funded Asia FluCap project (2008-2011), has been a WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Preparedness and IHR Monitoring & Evaluation since 2017 and is work package leader in the SHARP joint action and Healthy Gateways project. Participating in international projects is an essential part of our work on preparedness and joining the PANDEM-2 project was an obvious choice. Needless to say, trying to prepare for, or contain a pandemic is impossible without international cooperation and the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted this even further.
RIVM, as a public health agency, is participating in PANDEM-2 as an end-user. Having access to sufficient, accurate and recent data is of utmost importance when giving advice on how to contain a pandemic. Epidemiological data is an obvious requirement, but when an outbreak grows into a pandemic, it soon becomes a heavy burden for the healthcare system. During the COVID-19 pandemic, available hospital and ICU capacity became an important indicator of severity. The infamous ‘code black’, where no ICU beds are available and triage is necessary to decide which patients may be ventilated, was fortunately never reached in the Netherlands, although many elective surgeries had to be postponed and hospitals are still catching up.
Another important indicator is the degree of contact tracing that is possible, which is also tied to testing capacity. With increasing numbers of infections, public health authorities worked hard to scale up and maintain contact tracing capacities. Software applications, including Bluetooth contact tracing apps, were developed to aid in the process.
These are only two examples of the importance of not only having a good overview of the epidemiological state of a pandemic, but of the demand on resources involved as well. RIVM will seek to make a significant contribution to this aspect of the PANDEM-2 dashboard. We will build on the experience of AsiaFluCap and work with the National University of Ireland, Galway and partners in WP4 to provide a resource model which will be included in the dashboard. This resource model will be connected to the epidemiological model, to provide PANDEM-2 users with clear information, assist in planning for and monitoring an outbreak or pandemic, and support policy advice. Furthermore, we will also use our knowledge and expertise to contribute to the other research areas in the PANDEM-2 project.