COVID-19 and social protection in Europe and Central Asia: A moment of opportunity to expand and strengthen social protection mechanisms to safeguard health, well-being and livelihoods, leaving no one behind

The COVID-19 epidemic is a health and a socioeconomic crisis without precedent. Governments across the WHO European Region and Central Asia have introduced a variety of policy responses to mitigate the consequences of the containment measures on well-being and the economy, employment and incomes, and on families and children who are not able to access social and health services. This discussion paper considers some of the key social protection interventions, including health protection, unemployment, family and child support, and measures against social exclusion and housing insecurity. Where comprehensive social protection systems and policies are already well established, they protect people from risks during normal circumstances, but are also better equipped to respond when emergencies hit and mitigate against social and health inequalities. The crisis is a moment of opportunity to accelerate long-postponed reforms in well developed welfare states and to work towards the establishment of national social protection floors in countries whose social protection systems are still fragmented to ensure universal access to health and income security for all.