Western European MPs gather to discuss the implications of COVID-19 on the Tuberculosis response
Updated: Aug 10
Early July, Members of Parliament from Western Europe met virtually to discuss the implications of COVID-19 on the TB response and share their efforts in mitigating the impact of both Covid-19 and TB.
Dr Mishal Khan, Associate Professor and TB Centre Co-Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Hon Oral Ataniyazova, Member of Parliament from Uzbekistan were the main speakers, joined by Hon Anne Kuik from the Netherlands; Federico Calciorlari, representing Hon Lia Quartapelle from Italy; Baroness Alison Suttie, Baroness Susan Masham and Baroness Shaista Sheehan from United Kingdom.
“To date, tuberculosis remains a public health problem even though it is curable and preventable. In 2018, a total number of 1.5million people died from TB. This puts us in a perspective that education and awareness need to be strengthened.”
Hon Deo DeBattista, Member of Parliament of Malta
Dr Khan opened the panel outlining the state of progress against TB prior to Covid-19. With over 4,000 deaths a day TB remained the world’s deadliest infectious disease in the world. She also shared the results of two modelling studies from Stop TB Partnership and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The former estimates that in a worst case scenario the progress against TB would be pushed back five to eight years with an additional 1.5 million deaths as a result of extended lockdowns in high burden countries, the latter predicts an 8-14% cumulative increase in TB deaths over the next five years in the event of substantial disruption to healthcare services.
According to Dr Khan, the first step to mitigating this impact will be to ensure that health care services remain undisrupted or better yet improved for all patients needing them. She emphasised that there was currently unprecedented attention drawn to health issues. The TB community needs to seize this momentum and develop a multi-sectoral approach to advocate for stronger health systems and universal health coverage.
Following Dr Khan's presentation, Hon Oral Ataniyazova outlined the progress made by the Uzbekistan TB Caucus, encouraging the government to formally accept the recommendations from WHO on treatment regimens for MDR-TB and establishing programs tackling stigma. She stressed the importance of holistic policies to decrease TB incidence drawing from her experience in identifying the impact of environmental factors on health, as well as the health implications of social issues and unemployment.
As a way forward all MPs attending unanimously agreed that advocacy and progress on either TB or Covid-19 should not come at the expense of the other, or any other infectious diseases.