COVID-19 Updates

​​​This page provides specific information on SDC response at the global and bilateral levels and shows you how our colleagues live the COVID epidemic in their daily work. At the bottom you will find links to scientific analysis on the pandemic and institutional advices.


1. Interviews with our colleagues on how they live the COVID epidemic in their daily work



2. What is the SDC response so far? (as of July 23rd, 2020)


The COVID-19 pandemic has become much more than a health crisis: the world economy is threatened by the fallout of the pandemic. The combination of the humanitarian catastrophe and economic crisis caused by an unchecked pandemic will also make it dramatically harder to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

At its meeting on 13 May 2020, the Federal council approved the allocation of CHF 175 million for the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic (Press release 13.05.2020). These funds will be used for humanitarian aid, the development and production of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and efforts aimed at ensuring equitable access to these medical solutions worldwide. The CHF 175 million is part of a CHF 400 million package approved by the Federal Council end of April.

As part of the Coronavirus Global Response, SDC has followed a comprehensive approach by supporting global initiatives ensuring R&D and equitable access to COVID-related diagnostics, vaccines and therapies for Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). SDC has pledged contributions across the three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A): Diagnostics, Therapeutics and Vaccines. A health R&D package addressing the whole R&D and access spectrum has been defined as follow:


For more details on the three pillars and SDC commitment you can reach out to olivier.praz@eda.admin.ch


Vaccines: Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (Gavi Covax AMC)

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Image: © UNICEF/UNI331376/Haro


Effective, safe and affordable vaccines for COVID-19 would be a major milestone to end the pandemic in a sustainable way. More than a dozen promising vaccine candidates are currently under research, partly with massive public and philanthropic funding, as in the case of the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Coalition initiative (CEPI). Once successful vaccine candidates will come forward, production at scale and access for all need to be ensured.

In order to stimulate production investments and reach an affordable price, The Vaccine Alliance will upfront guarantee manufacturers the purchase of a large volume of vaccines for a high number of low and lower-middle income countries so that these countries have access for their healthcare workers and high-risk groups.


SDC is contributing CHF 30 million to Gavi with the following objectives:

  • Further access for children in low- and middle-income countries to new and under-used vaccines to achieve their routine immunization.

  • Ensure equitable access for people in low- and middle-income countries to efficacious and safe COVID-19 tools, in particular vaccines.

 


​Diagnostics: The ACT-A Dx Partnership (FIND

Image: © Find
Effective testing strategies depend on simple, high-performing rapid tests, preferably that can be administered right at the point of care or even at home. We also need to detect antibodies effectively to determine prior infection. There are two types of tests: firstly, antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs) that can be used for screening and patient management; and better-performing point-of-care molecular tests (POC MDx) that are accurate enough to confirm cases. Access to tests in LMICs remains highly limited: compared to 30,000-50,000 tests per million people conducted in Europe, Africa performs only 1700 tests per million people, with hundreds of thousands of patient specimens waiting for COVID-19 testing due to shortage of test kits in South Africa alone. It has been estimated that 500 million diagnostics tests will be needed in LMICs over the next 12 months, and that 75% of these will need to be appropriate for use in decentralized settings (i.e. primary health care, community level care). Investment in better-performing RDTs must be paired with innovative licensing and manufacturing models to ensure equitable access for all those in need. Additionally, as tests become available, investments are needed to bolster country capacity and infrastructure.

 

SDC is contributing CHF 11 million to the ACT-A Dx. The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) is co-leading the initiative.

The ACT-A Dx overall objective is to accelerate universal and equitable access to safe, quality and effective COVID-19 diagnostics. The initiative focuses on two main outcomes:

  • Local manufacturing capacity enhanced to meet regional demand.

  • Countries are able to utilize digital solutions as part of their COVID response.

In order to meet these objectives, the ACT-A Dx is deploying activities (outputs) on Research and Development (accelerate development and availability of high performing, affordable rapid diagnostic tools, and create robust digital, data and analytics solution); Market readiness (implement market shaping interventions to accelerate implementation including assessment of product performance, validation of use-cases, support for manufacturing and commercialization, price negotiation, and in-country prioritization and regulatory support); Supply (identification of supply availability, demand aggregation and ensure efficient logistics and delivery), and Country capacity building (strengthen health systems and build country capacity and preparedness for rapid and effective test implementation).

 


​Therapies: COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (Wellcome Trust)

© James Gathany / Photo Science Library



Accelerated development, availability and access of therapeutics for COVID-19, particularly ones appropriate for low-resource settings, to mitigate impact of current epidemic and leave sustainable infrastructure in place for future epidemics and pandemic preparedness. The immediate focus is to develop therapies, along with and accompanying rapid diagnostics that can be made available within this year by removing bottlenecks for repurposed marketed products.

SDC is contributing CHF 19 million to COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Wellcome Trust is leading the initiative.

 


The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator aims at:

  • Provide quick, flexible and targeted resources (e.g., funding) to remove bottlenecks, and serve as a nonprofit biotech entity to fill gaps along the R&D value chain;

  • Find ways to add new sources of funding as R&D efforts scale-up to ensure preparedness for successful candidates in the short term;

  • Convene influencers and coordinate “behind the scenes" - connect the dots across various public / private efforts to secure prompt and affordable access of products in LMICs;

  • Establish sustainable infrastructure for the long-term for future epidemics and pandemics.




Some concrete interventions at the national level
Considering the rapid evolving situation, the information published here is neither exhaustive nor complete.

  • In Africa, ​the SDC in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya​) is supporting the development and implementation of national response plans (through WHO and AMREF). In Tanzania, the SDC and her long-standing partner, the Ifakara Health Institute, are contributing to diagnostic tests and capacities. In the Great Lakes region, the SDC is supporting WHO activities in Rwanda and Burundi. In Mozambique, SDC health programmes at provincial level are redesigned to include Covid-19 specific prevention measures (like hygiene promotion and community awareness campaigns).

  • In South-East Asia, budget reallocations for COVID-19 responses within the existing SDC's support (health basket fund and PHC programmes) in Myanmar were made. The WHO country office in Lao also received a specific contribution from the SDC to support the national response plan.

  • In Central Asia, a contribution to Agha Khan Agency for Habitat and UNICEF for protection equipment, communication and health staff training in Tajikistan has been provided by SDC. In Uzbekistan, the Swiss Embassy has made a contribution to the UN Country team. In Kyrgyzstan, SDC working on equipment and training of mobile medical outreach teams.


Kyrgyzstan:

Report on a digital training initiative for medical staff in connection with Covid-19, launched by our MER (Medical Education Reform - collaboration with the HUG) project in Kyrgyzstan

Switzerland donates personal protective equipment for medical workers to fight against COVID-19

Call 118! Switzerland helped to establish call centres in Kyrgyzstan to combat COVID-19?

Switzerland enhan​ces public awareness on prevention against COVID-19 in Kyrgyzstan​​


  • In Eastern Europe, SDC has engaged funds in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the procurement of medical equipment, primarily respirators, and mental health interventions. The Georgian Red Cross has received support from the Embassy for healthy lifestyle, awareness raising and communication material. In Moldova, SDC is redesigning ongoing programs and releasing additional contributions for procurement of protective item, as well as coordination and communication activities. The Ministry of Health of Armenia has received a contribution from the Swiss Embassy for procurement of ventilators.


Georgia: UNDP assists Georgia in raising the alarm about COVID-19 among vulnerable communities

Moldavia (picture):Switzerland and UNDP provide critical medical supplies to help Moldova counter COVID-19

Ukraine: Ukrainian –Swiss project “Medical Education Development” (MED) response to COVID-19

Ukrainian local self-government in response to coronavirus

Kosovo: AQH project response to the COVID-19 outbreak

 



3. Keep yourself updated : what you need to know about the current epidemic


Below you can find a selection of important sources of information: