The 2020 – 2022 Pandemic: Overview of Europe's Actions

May 18, 2022

It's been already two years since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic. COVID-19 has claimed over 6 million lives worldwide. In Europe, over 150 million people have been infected and almost 1.4 million of them died. Poland recorded a total of 5.8 million coronavirus cases and over 113,000 deaths.

The unprecedented challenge of the pandemic has changed how the Europeans view healthcare, and had an impact on measures taken by the European Union. It made us understand the need to reform the system, strengthen coordination of actions among the Member States, as well as of the importance of the health sector for the security of the Old Continent. The fight against COVID-19 has fuelled the efforts to establish the European Health Union. Hardly had the fifth wave of the pandemic ceased, when Europe was hit hard by another crisis – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has stripped us of sense of security – something we Europeans have taken for granted for decades. The humanitarian disaster with millions of people fleeing the war to Poland and other EU countries, calls for consolidation of the Union and even greater solidarity, including in healthcare. It is the only way that for the EU to overcome this crisis and come out of it stronger. 

How long will the pandemic last? How has it changed the approach to the health sector? Has it gained strategic importance in the European Union? How do healthcare facilities handle the fight against the virus and the insufficiency and inefficiency of the system? What changes has the pandemic imposed upon us and are they here to stay? What is the European Health Union all about? Where to draw a border line between the health care competencies of the EU on the one hand, and those of the Member States on the other? Will the experience of the pandemic expand the Union’s powers in this area? What will be the effects for the healthcare systems in Poland and other European Union Member States of the sudden displacement of millions of Ukrainian refugees? What impact may this humanitarian crisis have on the final shape of the European Health Union?

These were the themes of an online debate featuring: Dr. Paweł Grzesiowski, expert of the Supreme Medical Council for COVID-19 (Naczelna Rada Lekarska ds. Walki z COVID-19) and a vaccinologist; Dr. Tomasz Maciejewski, Director of the Institute of Mother and Child (Instytut Matki i Dziecka) in Warsaw, and Dr. Andrzej Ryś, Director at the Directorate-General of the European Commission for Health and Food Safety. The debate was moderated by Małgorzata Bonikowska, President of THINKTANK and Member of Team Europe. The event was held on 3 March 2022, as part of the “Discourses on Europe” series organised by THINKTANK and the Representation of the European Commission in Poland.