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March 9 2023 ‘Long Covid’ – LINK –  COVI members met with experts on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss key facts and developments related to “long COVID”, and identify regulatory and policy aspects that need to be addressed in order to minimise the impact of long COVID on European citizens and society. Peter Piot, Professor of Global Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine gave a presentation which stated that over 65 million people worldwide are estimated to be suffering from long Covid. This includes 17m in the WHO European region. He stated that prevalence is highest in people aged 35 to 60, women, residents in deprived areas, the economically inactive and those activity-limited health conditions. He estimates that the condition costs the UK economy £2.5 billion a year. It places pressure on the Labour market and in the US up to 4m people are estimated to be out of work. He estimates that 10% of people who have suffered from Covid have the condition. Vaccination seems to reduce the prevalence of the condition by 15% to 50%.

Long Covid will be on the agenda of the next meeting of EU Health Ministers on 14 March.

March 9 2023 ‘Problems with Pandemic funding’ – LINK –  The World Bank’s pandemic fund—the only large fund exclusively dedicated to pandemic preparedness—was established with a goal of raising $10 billion, which the bank believes is enough to prevent the next pandemic from having such a deadly outcome. In February, the fund began accepting applications from low- and middle-income countries in need of technical and financial support to improve their pandemic preparedness. It made available to them a first round of funding, totalling $300 million. The fund received applications for help that totalled $5.5 billion, according to the fund’s director, Priya Basu. Applications can be filed until May 19, so that number is likely to increase. Despite the significant demand, however, the resources to meet it are limited. As of February, the donors of the fund—which include rich nations, as well as organizations like the Gates Foundations or the Wellness Trust—have only pledged $1.6 billion.

March 6 2023 ‘WHO countries begin negotiations on global pandemic preparedness agreement’ – LINK – Countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) have started negotiations on a draft global agreement aimed at protecting nations and communities from future pandemic emergencies. The discussions took place during the week-long fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which includes WHO’s 194 countries, and are expected to continue over the next year. Roland Driece, co-chair of the INB Bureau, from the Netherlands, said the start of discussions “sends a clear signal that countries of the world want to work together for a safer, healthier future where we are better prepared for, and able to prevent future pandemic threats, and respond to them effectively and equitably”. In accordance with the process set out by governments at a special session of the World Health Assembly in late 2021, a final draft agreement will aim to be produced by the 77th World Health Assembly in 2024. Precious Matsoso, fellow INB bureau co-chair, from South Africa, said: “The efforts this week, by countries from around the world, was a critical step in ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes of the COVID-19 pandemic response, including in sharing life-saving vaccines, provision of information and development of local capacities.