Benelux Workshop “Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic” (19 and 20 Oct. 2022)

Presided over by the High Commission for National Protection, the directors and senior managers of the Belgian, Dutch and Luxembourg crisis centres and the Benelux Secretary-General, Alain De Muyser, met in Luxembourg on 19 and 20 October 2022 for a workshop entitled “Lessons learned from the pandemic”. Representatives and experts in the field of crisis and health management from the Greater Region and North Rhine-Westphalia also participated. 

In his welcoming address, the High Commissioner for National Protection, Luc Feller, recalled the 30 months of crisis management since March 2020 and warned that “the virus will remain - until proven otherwise - a reality”. This year, security and energy risks with the war waged by Russia in Ukraine have come on top of the Covid crisis. According to Luc Feller, the key word for the coming months is “anticipation” in order to prepare the actors involved in crisis management for all possible scenarios, particularly in order to manage situations that could affect “our societies in depth”. 

This is why, in the context of its priorities for 2022, the Luxembourg presidency has defined the theme of “emerging stronger from the pandemic” as one of its three priorities, and the Benelux Union’s annual plan has identified as a flagship project the holding of a workshop to share the conclusions of the “lessons learned” exercises that are taking place in the Benelux Member States and neighbouring regions and countries. 

Benelux Secretary-General Alain de Muyser concluded the workshop by saying: “The ambition is now to optimise the flow of information between the crisis centres and the complementarity of actions between neighbours in order to guarantee a harmonised response to future crises that may have cross-border effects. The Benelux is ready to assume its role in coordinating and as an interface.” 

This workshop thus enabled an exchange of views to take place on three specific themes, namely:

1) The impact of the pandemic on the organisation of crisis management structures and more specifically: 

  • The horizontal and vertical organisation of crisis management structures;  
  • The evolution over time of decision-making structures, in particular the crisis cell and associated working groups. 

2) The significant role of logistics and the importance of creating future resilient strategic stocks, in particular: 

  • The assessment of needs and inventory of available equipment from different actors (national stock, hospitals, care homes);  
  • The purchase of materials on an international market that no longer works;
  • Partnership with the private sector;
  • The importance of international cooperation in procurement of equipment; 
  • The adoption of a centralised or decentralised approach to logistical coordination and procurement of equipment;      
  • The establishment of a central purchasing unit and the management of the national stock;
  • Public procurement regulation, particularly at European level. 

3) Epidemiological surveillance of COVID and more specifically the means of monitoring the spread and impact of the epidemic in the population in general, and more specifically: 

  • The implementation of large-scale testing in the population, testing in accommodation structures, access to testing, use of self-tests;
  • The organisation of contact tracing, its advantages and limitations in the surveillance and control of a COVID-19 type pandemic;
  • The organisation of monitoring to obtain an overview of the key figures on the evolution of the pandemic at national level. Data collection, compilation and processing methods; 
  • Reorganisation of care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic - focal point on the organisation of primary care for non-COVID-19 diseases, teleconsultation; 
  • Reorganisation of hospital care: access to hospital, specific COVID care and reorganisation of hospital services. Maintenance of routine hospital activities (emergency care, consultations, interventions, patient follow-up, etc.); 
  • Living together with a virus that will most likely not go away.

Communicated by the High Commission for National Protection / Benelux Secretariat-General  

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