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EU health ministers boost preparations to fight new virus

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EU health ministers boost preparations to fight new virus

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union health ministers agreed Thursday to boost preparations and organize a coordinated response to prevent the virus that emerged in China from further spreading across Europe.

At an emergency meeting in Brussels, officials from the bloc’s 27 nations said they need to plan more to avoid any possible shortages of medicine or protective equipment during the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has called a threat to global health.

According to Chinese health officials, the outbreak has infected at least 53,000 people worldwide and killed over 1,300 — 99% of them in China. Experts believe the true scope of the outbreak may be much higher.

More people have now died from the new coronavirus than during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, but no deaths have been reported in Europe so far and the continent has less than 50 confirmed virus cases.

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“We will remain vigilant and if the situation changes we will step up our work," said European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

Ministers said early detection and uniform prevention measures — notably at entry points like airports — were key. Agnes Buzyn, the French minister for health, said the EU should also remain vigilant in case the outbreak hurts the production of pharmaceuticals in China, therefore leading to possible medical shortages. She urged the EU to start up a joint procurement plan for purchasing medical equipment.

“Fragmentation of effort will make us all collectively more vulnerable. Unity on our part would also support China’s efforts to contain the virus, and mitigate […]

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