European COVID-19 surveillance network (ECOVID-Net)
The European COVID-19 surveillance network (ECOVID-Net) combines epidemiological and virological surveillance of COVID-19 to provide decision makers and public health experts in European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries with the information required to assess COVID-19 activity in Europe and take appropriate action. ECOVID-Net consists of National Focal Points (NFPs) for Viral Respiratory Diseases and Operational Contact Points (OCPs) for COVID-19 and is coordinated and operated by ECDC.
ECOVID-Net contributes to EU-level enhanced surveillance by reporting data to TESSy on a weekly basis. The COVID-19 surveillance data for EU/EEA countries are transferred, similarly to influenza surveillance data, from TESSy to the WHO Regional Office for Europe and the WHO global surveillance system. ECDC currently publishes the Weekly COVID-19 Country Overview, which covers the EU/EEA, and ECDC and WHO publish the Joint ECDC-WHO Regional Office for Europe Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Bulletin, which covers all of the countries in the WHO European Region. ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe host regular and ad hoc online network meetings that include participation by non-EU countries from the Region.
Virological surveillance activities are coordinated by COVID-19 OCPs for Microbiology, who together form the European COVID-19 reference laboratory network (ECOVID-LabNet), which is a subnetwork within the larger ECOVID-Net.
ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe also jointly coordinate a subnetwork of sero-epidemiological study contact points, which partly overlaps with the OCPs for COVID-19.
European COVID-19 surveillance network (ECOVID-Net) objectives and roles
The European COVID-19 surveillance network (ECOVID-Net) facilitates close collaboration on epidemiological and virological activities among EU/EEA countries to meet the surveillance objectives for COVID-19.
Through an integrated respiratory disease surveillance strategy with a focus on influenza and SARS-CoV-2, as well as other respiratory viruses, the main surveillance objectives for COVID-19 at the EU/EEA level are as follows:
- Monitor the intensity, timing, spread, prevalence and impact of community transmission of SARS-CoV-2; estimate the burden of disease of SARS-CoV-2; and inform appropriate mitigation measures like vaccination or antiviral treatment
- Monitor characteristics of circulating viruses and viral changes of SARS-CoV-2 to inform treatment, as well as drug and vaccine development
- Monitor severity and risk factors of COVID-19 and assess the impact on healthcare systems
Role of Operational Contact Points (OCPs) within ECOVID-Net
- Provide information about the current epidemiological situation for COVID-19
- Participate in consultations for ECDC scientific advice and the production of science-based preventive guidance on COVID-19 and provide feedback
- Suggest experts for ECDC external expert panels on COVID-19
- Maintain data quality and comply with ECDC/WHO reporting criteria
- Participate in other COVID-19-related activities (e.g. meetings, external quality assessments (EQAs), trainings)
As the need emerged in January 2020 for European-level surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and COVID-19, ECDC requested that EU/EEA countries nominate COVID-19 Operational Contact Points (OCPs) for Microbiology, Epidemiology and TESSy on 14 February 2020. As many of the transmission dynamics and features of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 are similar to influenza, there is significant overlap between the members of ECOVID-Net and the European Influenza Surveillance Network (EISN). Therefore, the role and functions of the former National Focal Points (NFPs) for Influenza and other Respiratory Diseases (now NFPs for Viral Respiratory Diseases) were revised and extended to cover both influenza and COVID-19.