European leaders to hold coronavirus videoconference

EU leaders will catch up on the coronavirus situation by videoconference on Tuesday afternoon amid indications that more countries could take drastic quarantine measures similar to those imposed in Italy.

The videoconference, scheduled for 5 p.m., will allow all 27 heads of state and government to confer without upending their schedules. But disease control experts would also applaud the virtual meeting for limiting travel and large gatherings.

Council President Charles Michel scheduled the call, a senior Council official said, after consulting national leaders who urged the EU to take a more proactive role in coordinating the responses by capitals. Officials have been particularly rattled by Italys bold move to impose strict nationwide quarantine measures.

By law, EU countries are supposed to “inform and consult” each other and the Commission before adopting measures “to combat a serious cross-border threat to health … unless the need to protect public health is so urgent that the immediate adoption of the measures is necessary.” So far, there has been no public notice that such consultations have taken place.

While critics have said Italy may be overreacting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others have spoken out in favor of containment measures, saying it is the only hope of easing pressure on overburdened health care systems and buying time for scientists to develop vaccines as well as for countries to rebuild stocks of emergency medical equipment.

In recent days, tensions have risen between national governments as some EU countries moved to restrict exports of increasingly scarce protective gear for health care workers and other medical equipment, fearful that those resources would soon be needed at home.

A formal request for assistance by Italy, the hardest-hit EU country so far, through the EUs civil protection mechanism was initially met with silence from other countries. Italy already pledged to spend more than €3 billion fighting the virus.

On Monday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed satisfaction with the EUs handling of the coronavirus outbreak so far, including her own appointment of an emergency task force. But she said the group was meeting weekly, even as the situation seems to be shifting by the hour.

And with national capitals taking different approaches, some of the EUs formal emergency response mechanisms appeared to be breaking down. A roundtable meeting of the CouncRead More – Source

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