Presidential Foreword

One year on: Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on hepatology care

Dear members, colleagues, and partners,

It has been a year since March 2020, when the fast-spreading coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by the novel Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was officially declared a pandemic and a global sanitary emergency by the WHO through the words of its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock, and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic"

One year later, the global count of COVID-19 confirmed cases is approaching 120 million, and the Romanian count is close to 900,000, according to the WHO SARS-CoV-2 Dashboard. Deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 2.6 million worldwide, with nearly 21,500 in Romania. To date (13 March 2021) more than 300,000,000 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, and approximately 2,120,000 in Romania. The number of vaccinated individuals in Romania is 1,413,635.

COVID-19 has resulted in an unprecedent global response that placed significant constrains on national healthcare systems. As a result, the disruption in diagnosis and treatment plus the reallocation of healthcare resources and medical personnel has had tremendous consequences for many disease areas. For patients with chronic liver diseases, COVID-19 resulted in many ongoing programs being eliminated, programs slowing or stopping, screening programs for early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma and advanced liver disease postponed, generalized delays, difficulties and a fear to even visit medical facilities.

Although the full impact of delaying diagnosis and treatment in hepatology is yet to be seen, the impact of COVID-19 will clearly extend beyond the direct morbidity and mortality associated with exposure and infection.

To mitigate the 1-year hiatus in hepatology care, and reduce excess mortality from delayed access to diagnosis, follow-up programs and treatment, we should deeply engage and prioritize resumption of our activities as soon as it becomes safe to do so.

As we continue our work during the pandemic, I would be remiss not to mention that healthcare workers – physicians, nurses, technicians, administrators - have been on the front lines of the global effort to care for patients with COVID-19 for one long year, while putting themselves at risk for infection and death. As of March 2021, the list of healthcare professionals who have succumbed to COVID-19 includes more than 3030 names of people from 90 countries. They will not be forgotten.

As a professional organization, sadly, we are still not interacting in person, but our mission continues. RoALD remains committed to promoting the best care in hepatology through education, research and public health activities and serving the needs of the many patients suffering from chronic liver diseases in our country.

Despite these challenging times, our educational goals remain to help our community stay professionally connected and embrace the fantastic networking opportunities provided by telemedicine, to excel, advance, and become key members of the vibrant global hepatology community and to maintain the commitment to lifelong learning in hepatology.

Our association will proudly continue to financially support a range of research activities such as doctoral and post-doctoral research, interdisciplinary initiatives, multicenter studies, screening campaigns, and public health initiatives

Finally, we will encourage our members to strive for improving liver health, access to diagnostic facilities and modern therapies for our patients.

Have a good professional and personal year and stay involved.