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Blood donation must continue, despite coronavirus

16:55 13/03/2020
From Flanders Today

The Red Cross is urging people keep on giving blood, despite measures to restrict social contacts because of the coronavirus. If people stop coming, blood supplies will run out very quickly.

“The message from the government that virtually all public events must cease could give the impression that there will be no more blood collection,” said Philippe Vandekerckhove, chief executive of Red Cross Flanders. “The opposite is true: we must mobilise our donors now so that they continue to give blood.”

It would be a disaster if the country were to run short of blood, he added, putting an additional strain on hospitals at a time when they are increasingly busy with coronavirus cases.

The Red Cross insisted that hand and cough hygiene are closely supervised at its donation centres, and one-metre separation between individuals strictly observed.

“Donor centres and mobile blood collection points cannot be compared to other public places where many people come together, such as concert halls,” the organisation said. “In contrast to such locations, we are perfectly capable of creating a controlled setting where all measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus can be strictly observed.”

It urged donors who feel fit and healthy not to cancel planned visits to a donor centre or mobile blood collection point. “The blood they give is vital to the health of many people.”

The message was echoed by Bloedserieus, a student group that works with the Red Cross to encourage blood donation. “All Bloedserieus activities continue as planned, so get off your couch, because your gift remains necessary,” its website said on Friday, adding that anyone feeling unwell should, as always, stay at home.

“Since there is currently no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through blood, both donating and receiving blood products is completely safe,” it explained. “We pay extra attention to hand hygiene for students and staff. Collection staff are asked to thoroughly disinfect their hands after each blood donation.”

Photo: Bob Van Mol/Red Cross Flanders

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)