As COVID-19 is spreading in EU countries, national authorities and EU institutions do their utmost to coordinate their efforts to tackle the coronavirus disease and ensure that across the European Union, hospitals and health care professionals will maintain their capacity to provide intensive care to all who need urgent medical attention. Their key objective is to avoid having too many very severe cases of corona virus at the same time as this would force them to sort people based on their need for immediate medical treatment as compared to their chance of benefiting from such care. Triage is done in emergency rooms, disasters, and wars, when limited medical resources must be allocated to maximize the number of survivors[i] .
The EU institutions are also taking action to help national authorities increase their current capacity to cope with the expected sharp increase in the numbers of patients affected by the virus. The EU helps sharing medical information in real time between countries as this is an unprecedented pandemic and it is crucial to pool knowledge and resources, and foster solidarity between health authorities.
In addition, all European countries will receive support for their health systems, as part of a European plan announced last 13 March by the European Commission. This includes the supply of materials, support to hospitals, and financing research to develop a vaccine as soon as possible, as David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, explained, insisting that "The first priority is saving human lives".
Solidarity as the best response
Yet public authorities efforts will only succeed if all of us, including you, take action and act responsibly. This implies following the instructions and respecting the recommendations issued by your health authorities regarding physical distancing. This is everyone’s civic duty and it applies to all generations from the very young to the very old.
To overcome the negative impact such restrictions may have on the most vulnerable, i.e. older persons but also younger persons with chronic diseases or reduced immunity, some of our members have decided to take concrete actions to support the general public health objective by boosting solidarity between and within generations toward the most vulnerable.
“This is a time when we need to help each other within our families, neighbourhoods and communities. We need to rebuild solidarity and social fabric that are so important when a crisis of such magnitude strikes. Since we have to respect physical distancing, let’s be creative and find alternative ways to connect with others through telephone, regular post, internet and social media. There are so many simple ways to stay connected remotely with our dear ones, including our ageing parents or grand-parents. All we need is the motivation to devote them a bit of our free time. When there is a will, there is a way”.
Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary General
'Loneliness will be hard for many'
Drawing parallel with similar situations where some had to remain looked in their home for health issues, The Guardian, a major UK newspaper, explains “there are ways to stay tethered to the world for those feeling the psychological strain of self-solation”.
This article shows that self-isolation is not easy and not only for older persons. Young people too feel uncomfortable when forced to self-isolate. This must be even more the case with the corona crisis, and could explain the denial attitude of some toward the need to restrict their mobility and avoid physical gathering even if they feel fine and consider that the risk for their own health is minimal. Yet it is crucial for them and everyone else that they respect physical distancing instructions.
Technology can help
The Guardian's article also demonstrates that measures to combat isolation and loneliness should not only target older persons but all population groups. AGE would like therefore to call on NGOs representing other social groups to take action and propose actions to help them remain connected through virtual communication means. With schools closing for several weeks, children are expected to follow online courses, but not all children have access to a computer. Help will be necessary to support those who do not have a computer at home. Providing them with cheap user-friendly tablets could be a way to introduce them to the new communication technologies. Then new initiatives could be launched for example to link up children who need support and older persons willing to help them with their homework or to read them stories. Worth trying if schools are going to be closed for quite a while. Such initiative would make both the children and the older volunteers happy and give them both a sense of being useful to each other as well as supported by a person who cares for them.
To overcome the coronavirus challenge, greater solidarity and respect for each other are needed. We count on you!
Good pratices & initiatives
With this new webpage, AGE wishes to contribute to the general effort by spreading good practices, knowledge and experience based on initiatives taken by our members and others which aim notably to provide social and emotional support to older persons at higher risk of isolation and loneliness.
Below you will find some examples of NGOs and other stakeholders' actions. This list will be regularly updated.
If you have a good example to share or know someone who is doing something interesting to help young and older persons cope with the impact of Covid19 crisis on their lives, please let us know (email@example.com) and we will be happy to share it with our large audience.
Covid-19 general information:
from the European Commission (available in all EU languages)
from the European Medicines Agency - EMA
from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC)
from the Council of the European Union
from the World Health Organisation - WHO (available in different languages)
Covid-19 & older persons:
Covid-19: Practical support to informal carers (Eurocarers)
How to maintain good mental health during COVID-19 (WHO recommendations)
WHO guidance to individuals & families:
Human Rights Dimensions of COVID-19 Response (Human Rights Watch report)
No exceptions with COVID-19: “Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions” - statement by United Nations' human rights experts
Coronavirus outbreak: advice by consumer groups (the European Consumer Organisation - BEUC)
Statements from European civil society networks
  Definition of “triage” by Medicinet https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=16736