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Coronavirus: EU health ministers called to Brussels for emergency talks

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Coronavirus: EU health ministers called to Brussels for emergency talks
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The European Union is calling health ministers to emergency talks in Brussels this Thursday, as concern over coronavirus grows.

With the number of suspected cases on the rise, the Commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič, visited the European Emergency Response Coordination Center in Brussels.

"The situation is definitely worrisome, this is a serious danger for the public health. This virus as you know spreads with a great speed. So measures have to be taken and we are trying to see that they are taken in a coordinate manner. And In this context also the Commission very much supports the convening of the extraordinary council of health ministers, which is supposed to take place later this week."

More people have now died from coronavirus in China than during the 2002-2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Coordinating efforts is key for the EU.

"We are in constant contact with the Chinese authorities in order to see how we can jointly in cooperation stop the spread of this virus," Lenarčič told reporters. "Now is the time to put our forces together, now is the time to work together, now is the time to do everything we can jointly to stop this epidemic."

The European Commission is providing the material help it is allowed, but health remains in the hands of member states, such as whether or not quarantine is mandatory.

Our reporter asked whether the Commission thought it would be possible to introduce mandatory measures.

"The type of measures you are referring to are measures which belong at the competence of the member states, so it is up to the member states to take the measures that they believe are the most important. Obviously what is important for us is that we try to have a coherent approach," EU Commission spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker replied.

While the Chinese economy is taking a hit, concerns are rising that European businesses might begin feeling the effects.

"Our paramount priority, our paramount concern should be devoted to public health measures and the economic consequences are of course secondary, although not unimportant," Lenarčič explained.

The current number of cases in Europe remain in the dozens, and EU health ministers meeting Thursday will be hoping to reduce or stabilise that number.