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Rapid risk assessment: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: increased transmission in the EU/EEA and the UK – seventh update

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On 31 December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown aetiology was reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. On 9 January 2020, China CDC reported a novel coronavirus as the causative agent of this outbreak, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Executive summary

As of 25 March 2020, more than 416 916 cases of COVID-19 were reported worldwide by more than 150 countries. An increasing proportion of global cases are from EU/EEA countries and the UK. As of 25 March, 204 930 cases and 11 810 deaths have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK. The number of reported COVID-19 cases is rapidly increasing in all EU/EEA countries and the UK, and the notification rate is increasing at similar trajectory as was observed in Hubei province in late January/early February and in Italy in late February/early March.

Clinical presentations of COVID-19 range from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe pneumonia; severe disease can lead to death. In EU/EEA countries with available data, 30% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases were hospitalised and 4% had severe illness. Hospitalisation rates were higher for those aged 60 years and above. Estimates of crude case-fatality for Germany, Italy and Spain showed that both the risk and absolute numbers of deaths rapidly increased with age for those aged 60 years and above in each country. Among hospitalised cases, severe illness was reported in 15% of cases, and death occurred in 12% of these cases, with higher case--fatality rates in older adults.

Risk assessment

In the present situation where COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in Europe, the current assessment is:

  • The risk of severe disease associated with COVID-19 for people in the EU/EEA and the UK is currently considered moderate for the general population and very high for older adults and individuals with chronic underlying conditions.
  • The risk of occurrence of widespread national community transmission of COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK in the coming weeks is moderate if effective mitigation measures are in place and very high if insufficient mitigation measures are in place.
  • The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EEA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high.