26/03/2020 3 min

ANSES and coronavirus COVID-19

COVID-19: ANSES takes action to support the healthcare system

Following the lead of the French Ministry of Health and the Regional Health Agencies, ANSES has offered the protective equipment and reagents it had available to hospitals near its 16 sites, to help equip healthcare workers and perform SARS-CoV2 diagnostic tests. ANSES's employees are also working to assist the coordination of research programmes on the disease, provide the Directorate General for Health with their expertise on diagnostic kits, and support hospitals.

From the outset of this unprecedented health crisis, ANSES took action to assess the potential risks associated with contact with domestic animals or possible contamination by food. The opinion published on 9 March 2020 enabled the Agency to inform the general public on these subjects and reassure our fellow citizens. ANSES has also made available the skills of its researchers and experts on animal and human coronaviruses, to answer questions from its supervisory ministries in its areas of expertise and contribute to the expert work of France’s High Council for Public Health (HCSP), which is actively engaged in guiding public decision-making.

In the regions where they are located, ANSES's laboratories have shared with local hospitals their stocks of personal protective equipment (masks, gowns, caps, gloves, etc.), as well as their laboratory reagents and PCR equipment for screening, in order to help support our healthcare system. In addition, ANSES has adapted its organisation to enable its volunteer employees to support hospital laboratory teams in dealing with the surge in molecular diagnosis of SARS-CoV2 infections. Some of them have already been mobilised for the coordination and assessment of emergency research programmes at Inserm and the National Research Agency, or for their expertise on diagnostic tests at the French Directorate General for Health or in hospitals.

As soon as the national lockdown was implemented, ANSES initiated its activity continuity plan, which enables it to fulfil a large part of its missions via teleworking and carry out the other activities on an on-call basis. This plan means that its laboratories can maintain their essential reference activities for the management of health crises in animal health, plant health and food safety.

The Agency and its staff are devoting all their energy and skills to ensuring the continuity of their missions to the highest attainable standard, and supporting the public authorities and our fellow citizens in the management of this major health crisis

Faced with the exceptional situation generated by COVID-19, ANSES is adapting its organization methods in order to continue to carry out its health and safety duties while contributing to the general effort to limit contacts between people. The essential reference activities carried out by its laboratories continue, while its vigilance, assessment and authorisation tasks are now carried out remotely.

ANSES ensures that the instructions issued by the French Ministry of Health to deal with the impact of the coronavirus are diligently applied to ANSES staff and external experts. In keeping with this principle, we have launched our work continuity plan which enables us to pursue our health and safety activities.

Since 16 March, all activities that do not require the physical presence of staff on the Agency's various work sites have been carried out remotely in order to comply with the contact limitation and containment instructions which help to curb the spread of the virus. Expert assessment activities are being maintained, with particular attention being paid to the handling of the highest priority requests. Meetings of our expert groups are now being held remotely.

Activities that cannot be carried out remotely, in particular the essential health and safety activities carried out by our laboratories, are subject to standby duty. Our reference activities for all major pathogens will continue in order to respond to food, animal and plant health alerts.

In view of the circumstances, certain modes of communication may be modified by favouring the dematerialisation of documents in particular, and more specifically as regards our regulated product authorisation activities.