Tags: Virus Outbreak | Europe

No Health Emergency but Virus Hits Politics in EU's Heart

No Health Emergency but Virus Hits Politics in EU's Heart

Tuesday, 10 March 2020 07:38 AM

BRUSSELS (AP) — A European Union summit via computer. The EU parliament a virtual ghost village in a shortened session. The assembly’s president working from home, self-isolating due to coronavirus.

The disease that shutdown Italy has not hit Brussels in a major way but it has struck at the heart of politics in Europe.

In a rare event, the EU’s presidents and prime ministers have decided to hold a video-conference summit at around 1600 GMT Tuesday to coordinate efforts to respond to the outbreak that has seen a national lock-down imposed in member state Italy.

The European Commission says all 27 member states now have patients confirmed with the fast-spreading illness.

The EU's commissioner for health and food safety, Stella Kyriakides, urged EU countries to “focus on efforts to aggressively contain the virus, particularly where there are few cases. Slowing down the virus must be our greatest priority.”

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control's latest figures, there have been 14,890 confirmed cases of the virus across Europe, including 532 deaths. The EU medicines agency said it’s received no reports of medicine shortages so far but cannot rule out such problems in the future.

The EU has cut down on events, calling meetings between ambassadors and experts only when necessary. The European Parliament was meant to meet until Thursday but will end its session later Tuesday.

The impact of the virus on EU business is clear. The lead diplomat for Croatia’s EU presidency is in self-isolation, leading to the cancellation of some meetings, and the parliament’s Italian president is working remotely.

“I have decided after having been in Italy over the last weekend, as a precaution, to follow the indicated measures and to exercise my function as President from my home in Brussels in compliance with the 14 days indicated by the health protocol,” David Sassoli said in a statement.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, bickered over who is responsible in the almost empty house.

“Europe has been totally absent. Brussels did nothing to help the situation in Italy and in many other countries,” said Italian parliamentarian Mara Bizzotto. Rather than dealing with arrivals from China and other places, she said, Europe simply treated many northern Italians “as if they had the plague.”

Ljudmila Novak, a lawmaker from neighboring Slovenia, said: “I have heard colleagues from Italy blaming the EU for everything it’s failed to do. But has Italy perhaps not failed in its duties to combat the virus.”

The cases in Slovenia, Novak said, “came from Italy and Italian airports.”

Across town, the NATO military alliance said that a staffer had self-isolated after testing positive following the onset of fever-like symptoms. Colleagues in the same area were working from home.

Sam Petrequin contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


   
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A European Union summit via computer. The EU parliament a virtual ghost village in a shortened session. The assembly's president working from home, self-isolating due to coronavirus. The disease that shutdown Italy has not hit Brussels in a major way but it has struck at...
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2020-38-10
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 07:38 AM
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