2022 has been a very busy year for PANDEM-2. Among countless other activities, we’ve released important software that will aid pandemic managers in crises, welcomed expert parties onto our advisory board, and hosted a major emergency simulation exercise bringing professionals from across the EU together. In this post, we look at these top achievements from the year to date.
In April, PANDEM-2 launched the first version of ‘Pandem-source’, an IT solution that will support the work of pandemic managers by facilitating an efficient response to future pandemics across the European Union. These technologies are being developed by project partners and experts in the field including Epiconcept (France), UCLouvain (Belgium), Clarisoft (Romania), and NUI Galway (Ireland).
Pandem-Source is an open-source software designed to meet the specific needs of public health agencies, governments and international organisations such as the ECDC and WHO. It enables the integration of real-time pandemic-relevant data from international systems (ECDC, TESSy), laboratory systems, social media (Twitter) and participatory surveillance which is web-based reporting of symptoms by volunteer citizens (e.g. Influenzanet).
The platform is open to the public and will particularly benefit those focused on systematically analysing and comparing various sources of pandemic-related data. Pandem-Source will feed into the upcoming ‘PANDEM-2 Dashboard’ where its components relating to situational awareness will be further developed through state-of-the-art visual analytics.
Pandem-Source is available to download here: https://pypi.org/project/pandem-source/
2. Irish Defence Forces Join PANDEM-2
In June, the Irish Defence Forces joined the Advisory Board of PANDEM-2. This was a significant milestone for the project with the Defence Forces bringing their extensive knowledge and experience in major emergency management to the development of PANDEM-2.
100 years on from the establishment of the National Army, the Irish Defence Forces play an integral role within the Irish State’s architecture in responding to major emergencies. In addition to their interagency activities during the COVID-19 response on protection of Ireland’s critical infrastructure, the Irish Defence Forces also had a key role in supporting the HSE in a number of areas including construction and operation of testing centres, patient transport and mass vaccination rollout through the joint task force (JTF). In total, 122,698 personnel were deployed throughout the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The Irish Defence Forces also supported the HSE following the cyberattack in May 2021 which led to additional challenges in the management of the pandemic.
3. Pandemic-preparedness Tabletop Exercise
In June, several EU health and emergency response agencies met at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin to conduct a Tabletop Exercise (TTX) to test pandemic preparedness in the EU. This was a major milestone for PANDEM-2, the €10m EU-funded pandemic preparedness and response project coordinated by the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway).
Tabletop Exercises are simulated field exercises that test an organisation’s response to an emergency. They allow preparedness plans, policies and procedures to be tested, with clear definition of roles and responsibilities to respond to a future pandemic. National public health agencies from Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania, Portugal and Finland, the hospital Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands participated in the exercise as well as first responders Austrian Red Cross, Italian Red Cross and Emergency Medical Services in Portugal. The Irish Defence Forces, who recently joined the Advisory Board of PANDEM-2, also participated in the exercise, bringing their extensive knowledge and defence sector experience in drills and exercises as well as experience gained during the Covid-19 response.
The aim of the TTX was to test national public health agencies’ responses to a cross-border health emergency using the PANDEM-2 tools. Two teams of pandemic managers comprising public health officials, clinicians, laboratory experts and first responders from the PANDEM-2 consortium took part in the TTX representing two neighbouring countries in Europe. The teams were required to respond to a series of simulated events following importation of cases of Ebola virus disease into their countries. Risk assessment and communication strategies with the public were assessed as part of emergency management of the outbreak. Biosecurity and biosafety measures relating to patient transport from airports to hospitals and handling of clinical specimens was also evaluated.
Speaking in Berlin, Professor Máire Connolly, (Coordinator of the PANDEM-2 project, and expert in Global Health at NUI Galway) said: “This is a major milestone for the PANDEM-2 project. Tabletop Exercises are an important part of testing levels of preparedness for cross-border health emergencies. Building a pandemic preparedness training platform for Europe incorporating the experience of leading public health and emergency response agencies will help meet our goal of improving the EU’s response to future pandemics.”
Thank you for reading
We look forward to seeing what 2023 has in store. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up to date with all of the latest PANDEM-2 developments.