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HEALTH

Which countries in Europe have done the best job in handling the virus crisis?

Which country in Europe has been the most accomplished at dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, according to the public? And life in which countries has changed the most? A new international survey sheds some light on how populations across Europe feel.

Which countries in Europe have done the best job in handling the virus crisis?
People wear mask on a metro train in Copenhagen. Some 95 percent of Danes believe their government has done a good job. AFP

The approach to dealing with the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has differed in almost every country and continues to do so.

A new wide-ranging survey from the Pew Research Centre has also revealed that public approval ratings towards government's handling of the crisis also vary widely.

People in Britain were the least impressed with their country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak with only 46 percent of the British population believing that their country has done a good job in handling the crisis.

That was the lowest score out of 14 countries around the world.

At the other end of the scale were the Danes – 95 percent of whom believed their government did a good job in handling the crisis.

Denmark was one of the first countries in Europe to emerge from lockdown and re-open its schools. And after a summer spike of infections that promoted fears of a second wave the spread of infections was once again rapidly brought under control.

In Sweden, where the government has followed a different and more controversial strategy by opting to avoid lockdowns and rely more on the public to enforce social distancing themselves, some 71 percent of the public believed authorities had done a good job.

That number was well below Germany however where 88 percent of the public believed the government had been up to the task.

In France, where the public is famously critical of its leaders some 59 percent thought President Emmanuel Macron and his government had done a good job handling the outbreak.

That figure was well below the 74 percent of Italians who back the government's handling, despite Italy having Europe's second-highest death toll from the virus.

In Spain, which is now struggling to stem a resurgence of infections, only just over half the public (54 percent) thought leaders had done a good job.

Outside Europe, approval ratings were low in the US (47 percent) but high in Australia (94 percent).

 

Have lives changed?

Members of the public were also asked whether their lives had changed as a result of the outbreak and it was Denmark where the pandemic appeared to have had the least impact on people's lives.

Some 73 percent of Danes say their lives have hardly changed as a result of the outbreak. At the other end of the scale 71 percent of Swedes believed their lives had changed by substantially.

A majority of Italians and Spanish also felt the same whilst most Germans (61 percent) didn't think their lives had changed much.

 

Could European and international cooperation have helped?

One thing that populations around Europe did agree on was that “more international cooperation would have potentially reduced coronavirus fatalities”.

“As confirmed cases of the coronavirus top 20 million globally, many in the countries surveyed say that count could have been minimised through stronger international cooperation. 

“Missed opportunities for cooperation to reduce coronavirus cases are felt especially strongly in Europe, where failure to coordinate the initial response led to sudden and severe outbreaks in Northern Italy and Spain.

“More than half of the people surveyed in seven of the nine European countries studied say that more cooperation would have reduced coronavirus cases.”

However this wasn't the view of Danes, who seem to believe their country was better off handling the crisis independently. 

“78 percent of Danes think the number of coronavirus cases would not have been reduced by international cooperation. A majority in Germany also say that cooperation would not have reduced case numbers,” the study said.

Are countries more divided?

People across each country were also asked whether the pandemic had led to more division but in most places the results were not conclusive.

Except, that is, in Denmark, where 72  percent of the population felt the country was more united than before. A majority of Swedes (58 percent) also held the same view). Respondents in other countries were more divided – apart from the US where 77 percent felt their country was divided.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HEALTH

Shortage of medicines in Spanish pharmacies grows by 150 percent

Spanish pharmacies are increasingly struggling to get the proper supply of certain medicines such as paediatric amoxicillin and some anti-diabetic drugs.

Shortage of medicines in Spanish pharmacies grows by 150 percent

In 2022 Spanish pharmacies experienced supply problems with 403 medicines, according to Spain’s General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges (CGCOF).

Though this figure represents just 5 percent of the total 20,000 medicines sold in Spain, it is an increase of 150 percent compared to 2021 and represents what experts have deemed a “worrying” trend that is rising after two years of decline. The shortages last an average of four or five weeks.

This was the warning made by the CGCOF based on its data on the supply of medicines (CisMED), which is focused on ‘supply alert’ notices provided by almost 10,000 of the 22,000 pharmacies across Spain.

READ ALSO – Reader question: Are there limits on bringing medicines into Spain?

On average in 2022, more than 70 medicines were identified as suffering from shortages per week. The weekly average for 2021 was 28 incidents and in 2020 it was 41.

Of these shortages, experts say they are especially pronounced in medicines for the nervous system and cardiovascular groups, and “very significantly” pronounced with paediatric amoxicillin and some anti-diabetic drugs.

Medicines for the nervous system made up around 20 percent of the incidents, followed by cardiovascular therapeutics, with 19 percent, digestive 14 percent, and respiratory 13 percent.

READ ALSO: Pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell medical marijuana by the end of 2022

Call for calm

Stark as this statistic may seem out of context, however, it does not suggest that shelves in Spanish pharmacies are bare nor that Spaniards are being turned away by out-of-stock pharmacists.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, President of the CGCOF, Jesús Aguilar, soothed fears by drawing distinctions between different types of shortages, one, he said, was “when there is none for anyone,” and the other a lack of supply “when there is none today but there will be tomorrow, or when there is none here but there is there”. 

Spain, he said, was suffering the second, adding that pharmacists can always replace or find alternative medicines. “Citizens have to be calm. It’s under control. We have the problem when it comes to looking for the medicine, not the citizens,” he added.

Causes

The causes of the shortages of certain medicines in Spain are various, but many stem from a combination of the centralised nature of production, meaning some medicines are produced only in certain parts of the world or even single factories, and a shortage of raw materials and packaging from Asian countries where production has been slow to recover from the pandemic shutdown, as well as the low price of medicines in Spain.

The issue is “a multifactorial problem that comes from problems with the increasingly globalised nature of drug manufacturing,” Aguilar said. “This supply problem has been affecting Spain for years, as well as the rest of Europe and the world.”

Farmahelp

To try and ease the supply shortages, the CGCOF has launched a new campaign to expand ‘Farmahelp’, a collaborative network of pharmacies that already has almost 6000 participating branches.

The Farmahelp app allows patients to find medicines in nearby pharmacies when they are unavailable and connects the pharmacy branches so they can update one another about the availability of medicines.

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