COVID-19 testing, vaccination and implementation of protective measures recommended for reception centres of displaced people from Ukraine

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Displaced people from Ukraine hosted in reception centres should be offered free access to SARS-CoV-2 testing and vaccination for COVID-19. Additionally, protective measures are recommended by ECDC in the report Guidance for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in temporary reception centres in the context of the displacement of people from Ukraine, published on 18 March.

Since the escalation of aggression that began on 24 February 2022, and as of 18th of March over 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, and Slovakia, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). While the majority of those arriving are being dispersed into the community or in transit to other countries, an increasing number of displaced people arriving in EU/EEA countries are also being hosted in reception centres, where there is a higher risk of communicable disease outbreaks.

While vaccination for COVID-19 remains the most essential intervention to prevent hospitalisation and death, many of the people fleeing Ukraine are expected to not be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In the absence of documented evidence of prior vaccination, eligible children and adults from Ukraine should be offered a primary vaccination course against COVID-19 as well as a booster dose, but elderly, pregnant women, the immunocompromised and individuals with underlying conditions at higher risk of severe disease should be prioritised. A physical or digital record of vaccination should be provided, for future reference, including for people in transit to another country.

If not already vaccinated, frontline workers (healthcare workers, volunteers, etc.) in reception centres should also receive a complete primary course of COVID-19 vaccination and a booster dose according to national guidelines.

To reduce the risk of introduction of COVID-19 cases in reception centres, testing of all displaced persons on arrival at centres should be considered. If no testing capability exists, those exhibiting COVID-19 compatible symptoms should be triaged and managed as possible cases, with appropriate supportive care.

Additionally, other measures that can be considered include ensuring accessibility and use of clean water, soap, sanitiser and implementation of proper hand hygiene; promotion of respiratory etiquette; use of face mask, when proper physical distancing cannot be maintained; ensuring proper ventilation of reception centres; ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection of the reception centres.

To improve understanding and compliance with infection prevention and control measures, multilingual signage (information/infographics with pictograms) could be made available in reception centres.

Communicating the risks and prevention of COVID-19 with the displaced population requires community engagement and health communication strategies that are adapted to meet their language, cultural and health literacy needs.

In the context of the mass influx of displaced populations from Ukraine, ECDC recognises that resources and capacities in reception centres may be limited and have the potential to change at short notice. Therefore, the recommendations provided in the report should be considered and adapted according to the available resources and capacities.

In addressing the challenges posed by displaced people arriving from Ukraine, ECDC is engaged in bilateral and multilateral dialogues with concerned countries as well as EU and international bodies to regularly assess needs, plan and implement specific ECDC support.