Tuesday

2nd Jun 2020

Coronavirus

Coronavirus: EU at high risk amid global panic

  • The number of cases of coronavirus registered in Italy jumped by around 50 percent in 24 hours (Photo: Ian Sane)

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Monday (2 March) that the European disease prevention agency has decided that the risk of coronavirus infection in the EU is currently "high", as the outbreak spread to 18 member states.

"The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) announced today that the risk level has risen from moderate to high for people in the European Union. In other words, the virus continues to spread," she told reporters in Brussels.

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As of 2 March 2020, 89,779 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported worldwide, as well as 3,069 deaths - most of them in China - and 45,512 recoveries.

Within a few days, cases of coronavirus in Italy, the most-affected country in the EU, have risen to over 1,700, with 41 deaths.

The number of cases of coronavirus registered in Italy jumped on Sunday by about 50 percent.

Across the entire EU, more than 2,100 cases have been confirmed in 18 member states.

However, according to the health commissioner Stella Kyriakides, "this is a rapidly-changing situation".

EU's response team

As a result, the commission on Monday launched the "corona response team" - formed of five commissioners who will coordinate work on halting the coronavirus outbreak.

Their work will be focussed on three main pillars: healthcare, mobility, and the economy.

Additionally, the commission launched an accelerated joint-procurement procedure for personal protective equipment with 20 member states, over fears that the outbreak of the coronavirus could lead to a supply shortage.

EU health ministers, meanwhile, will gather in Brussels on Friday for the second extraordinary meeting focussed on the last developments of coronavirus.

Likewise, the EU's executive body said that any member state can notify the EU authorities of the intention of closing borders temporary due to the coronavirus outbreak - although local media reported an increased checkpoints in airports and cross border in some EU countries, such as Hungary or Bulgaria.

The commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said that "the effectiveness of closing borders is questionable" and that all measures should be proportionate and based on scientific evidence.

"The commission has a coordinating and supporting approach, but the responsibility for the measures taken lies on the member states," Lenarcic added.

'Too optimistic'

The commissioner for the economy, Paolo Gentiloni, also said that the EU was ready to use all possible measures to safeguard EU's growth and tackle the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy.

Additionally, Gentiloni also said that a 'V-shaped' recovery - a period of economic decline followed by a quick recovery - cannot be taken for granted, and might be "too optimistic".

EU finance ministers are scheduled to have an extraordinary teleconference on Wednesday (5 March) to discuss urgent measures at the national level to reduce risks of an economic crisis.

These measures include public support for healthcare, short-term liquidity measures, or unemployment risk assessments, Gentiloni said.

Finance ministers will also consider the possibility of having a "coordinated fiscal response," which could involve exceptional measures similar to those adopted to tackle the 2008 global financial crisis.

Likewise, the European Central Bank (ECB) stands ready to adjust all of its instruments "to ensure that inflation moves towards its aim in a sustained manner," ECB vice-president, Luis de Guindos, said, also on Monday.

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The European Commission also urged EU member states to review their pandemic plans and to inform it about their healthcare capabilities in response to the outbreak.

Coronavirus: EU ministers urge members to share supplies

EU health ministers voiced concerns about the possible shortage of protective equipment and medicines in some member states, after Germany, France, and the Czech Republic blocked the export of anti-virus gear.

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