ECDC awards 77 M€ to strengthen EU/EEA Member States’ capacities to detect and identify SARS-CoV-2 variants

News story
3 Sep 2021

ECDC has awarded more than 77 M€ to 24 EU/EEA countries to strengthen whole genome sequencing and RT-PCR infrastructures within the countries’ national public health programmes.

The immediate objective is to reinforce countries’ capacities for early detection and enhanced monitoring of emergent and known SARS-CoV-2 variants. The support is a response to a request to ECDC by the European Commission to implement a number of activities that were launched as part of the “HERA Incubator” aiming to support the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 variants across the EU.

The awarded support is based on the individual needs of each country, as described in applications submitted by their public health authorities. Activities are 90% funded by ECDC, while the countries will be required to finance the remaining 10% themselves. Projects will start in September or October 2021 and run until 30 September 2022.

“Through the implementation of these projects, Member States will be able to significantly scale up their capacity to detect and monitor SARS-CoV-2 variants” said ECDC Director Andrea Ammon. “In the longer term, it is also expected that this strengthened infrastructure will contribute to enhanced genomic-based outbreak investigation, surveillance and preparedness also of other infectious diseases, and will help address future cross-border outbreaks and pandemics.” 

ECDC is also continuing to provide EU/EEA Member States and neighbouring countries with access to outsourced whole genome sequencing services for SARS-CoV-2 samples (more than 65,000 samples from 13 countries have been processed between February and August 2021), and to implement a cross-border capacity-building support programme focusing on further laboratory support and training.

Whole genome sequencing maps out the unique genetic blueprints of different strains of the virus, and, as such, it is an essential tool for making informed public health decisions. It is the key to identifying variants, as well as monitoring their spread in communities and populations.

RT-PCR is a laboratory method for detecting the presence of specific genetic material in any pathogen, including a virus