Greater accountability regarding Chines food imports is needed, MEPs say.
Almost 500 people have now died from the coronavirus outbreak. More than 24,000 others have been infected. All but two fatalities and the vast majority of cases have been in mainland China. In Europe, there are now at least 24 confirmed infections. In Brussels, Members of the European Parliament are calling for a coordinated response to the outbreak -- and greater oversight of Chinese food imports.
One of the nine Belgians repatriated from the Chinese city of Wuhan is infected by the new coronavirus, according to the country's Minister for Health.
That takes the total number of cases on EU soil to 24. Now the European Parliament is asking for an assessment from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
"There is a regular exchange between all member states about the measures that they have already taken: informing the public, informing travellers, informing the health care professionals and so on and so forth," the Centre's Executive Director, Andrea Ammon, says. "All the countries have preparedness plans. This virus is new, there are many characteristics that we do not know yet and we are learning along the way. Right now we can not make projections about how long this will take".
Scientists currently believe that a bat hosting the virus contaminated another animal species and that animal might have come in contact with humans at the Hunan Seafood Market in Wuhan.
The president of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, French MEP Pascal Canfin, says the EU can no longer turn a blind eye to China's low standards.
"The traceability system about what the Chinese people eat is totally outdated. Europeans have almost no permission to make audits in China about the products that they export to the EU, especially the food products, and most importantly the animals for consumption," Canfin told Euronews. "I think we need to redress this; maybe in midterm, not tomorrow, but China can no longer function with a yearly rhythm of food scandals".
Some are pushing for EU Ministers of Health to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the coronavirus.
There's also pressure on the Chinese government to allow the World Health Organization to monitor whether its recommendations are being implemented.
New Chinese hospitals
China has built a makeshift hospital with 1,000-beds in Wuhan and is adapting existing conference halls to receive more patients. A second, larger facility is on the way.
The Chinese Ambassador to the EU says his government is putting all its efforts into containing the disease:
"We need to be fully aware of the challenges ahead," Zhang Ming told Euronews. "We will never slack in our efforts in the response. We need to work towards the goal of finally eliminating this epidemic".