Corona response team launched as risk level rose to high in the EU

Five Commissioners will coordinate work on halting the deadly outbreak

Photo: EPA A view of an empty classroom at La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy, 5 March.

While the Covid-19 coronavirus continues to spread even more rapidly over Europe, the European Commission takes new steps to ensure a coherent EU-wide response and to support Member States efforts to tackle the decease's outbreak

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday announced the launch of a corona response team with participation of five EU Commissioners who will coordinate work on halting the deadly outbreak.

The corona response team has basically three main pillars, von der Leyen said. The first one includes medical prevention and procurement. The second big and important column covers mobility, from transport to travel advice and also Schengen-related questions. The third pillar covers the economy, looking in-depth at various business sectors hit by the epidemic.

The Commission also launched a website on the corona response team where all the information will be collected. Later on Thursday the Commission discussed the current coronavirus outbreak with MEPs of Environment and Public Health Committee.

Figures by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that as of 5 March, 4,197 cases have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK. The most affected are Italy (3,089), France (285), Germany (262) and Spain (200). As of 5 March, 112 deaths have been reported: Italy (107), France (4) and Spain (1). ECDC announced that the risk level has risen from moderate to high for people in the EU.

At the same time, several countries trigger new measures in attempt to slow the further spread of the coronavirus. The Italian government decided to close all schools and universities in the country from 5 March until the middle of the month. Professional soccer matches and other big sporting events will be held behind closed doors during the same period.

Florence Parly, France's Minister of the Armed Forces, said that the armies stand ready to intervene if necessary to support the state services in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Polish parliament on Monday adopted exceptional legal measures, according to which the government could, in the event of an epidemic, limit certain civil rights and freedoms, impose exceptional burdens on the public administration, circumvent the public procurement code, intervene directly in the medicines market or deploy the army.

The police and border guards will be able to be mobilised to apply quarantine measures if necessary, Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme said.

The Greek government issued a governmental decree that provides for the possibility of a temporary travel ban to and from countries with high numbers of infected people, as well as the requisitioning of beds in hotels and private clinics. The decree also provides for the temporary closure of covered areas for public gatherings, such as schools, cinemas, theatres and businesses.

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