M Bellamy, a member of the European parliament, told Europe 1 radio: “We need to find a coherent response to the health crisis at European level.” The absence of a consistent European approach is “totally abnormal,” he continued, before admitting that the rapid rise in infections in recent days had jolted EU leaders into action.
“Europe was slow to react, but a form of cooperation is now being set in motion,” M Bellamy said. “But we really need to do our best to improve the public health response.”
He added: “The danger is if our health systems become saturated with coronavirus cases… We cannot outright stop the epidemic, but we can slow down its spread.”
The total number of confirmed cases in France has risen to 2,281, Health Minister Olivier Véran told a press conference in Paris on Wednesday evening, 105 of whom are in intensive care.
The death toll has risen by almost 50 percent to 48, he continued, adding that new restrictions would be implemented to try and contain the outbreak.
M Véran, however, stopped short of raising the emergency response to “Phase 3,” the highest there is.
His declaration came shortly after the World Health Organisation (WHO) called the virus a global “pandemic” for the first time since it was detected in late December.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters: “We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus”.
“We’re deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Mr Tedros said, adding that the WHO had “rung the alarm bell loud and clear”.
He did not single out any nations for not doing enough – or suggest what further measures were needed –, but instead urged countries to “take urgent and aggressive action”.
Europe has faced a mounting number of cases, including a string of new countries reporting first deaths, prompting governments to roll out increasingly tough measures to contain the virus’ spread.
The flu-like disease has infected more than 22,000 people and killed over 930 across all 27 EU member states, prompting US President Donald Trump to announce a controversial 30-day ban on travel from mainland Europe.
But EU leaders have so far failed to agree on measures to tackle the crisis.
Earlier this week, European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde warned EU leaders that without coordinated coronavirus action, Europe would see a scenario eerily similar to the 2008 financial crisis.
However, the head of the bloc’s executive Ursula von der Leyen said the European Commission would set up a joint investment fund with firepower of €25 billion (£22billion) from existing resources to soften the blow to vulnerable sectors of the bloc’s economies.
The number of cases across the globe has risen to more than 124,000 with 4,500 deaths.
While the majority of infections have been in China, the epicentre of the outbreak, hotspots have emerged elsewhere – namely Italy, Iran and Spain.
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