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European health ministers meet to discuss coronavirus

EU sources insist situation is "under control" as Spanish health official “respects” decision to call off MWC

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13 February 2020 01:05 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

With ever more people affected by the coronavirus in China, and fears over the spread of the disease having an impact, such as the cancelation of Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, European health ministers held an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

In the meeting on Thursday morning, the ministers of the EU's member states were expected to discuss the threat of the coronavirus spreading in Europe, and which measures might be taken in order to prevent and fight the outbreak.

"The idea is to send the message that we are well prepared on both the national and EU levels," said European diplomatic sources ahead of the meeting, who also insisted there is no cause for "panic" and that the situation is "under control."

With over 60,000 people infected worldwide, more people have now died from COVID-19, the name of the disease spread by the virus, than during the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, but so far no deaths from the disease have been reported in Europe.

Spanish minister “respects” MWC decision

The minister for health in the Spanish government, Salvador Illa, said on Thursday that he "respects" the decision of the organizers to call off the Mobile World Congress

However Illa maintains that "there is no reason for public health" to cancel events such as the world’s largest mobile industry trade show. 

"If action must be taken, the Spanish government will take it with the collaboration of the autonomous communities. I respect any decision that any private entity may take," Illa said in a media briefing before meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels to discuss coordination in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite not "minimizing" the seriousness of the deadly disease, Illa claims the Spanish government is taking the necessary steps and that any decision will be made according to expert judgment.

Potential economic impact

There is also concern around the EU that the situation could impact Europe's pharmaceutical market, as many "critical" products are imported from China, and any interruption in production could affect their continued supply.

The outbreak has also had a negative effect on the Chinese economy, with millions of people confined to their homes to help prevent the virus from spreading, and there are now concerns that European businesses could start to feel the effects. 

This week, the EU's commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič, said the union's "paramount concern" is public health, but he also acknowledged that the economic consequences are "not unimportant."

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  • Spanish health minister Salvador Illa speaking to media on January 25, 2020 (by Gemma Aleman)

  • Spanish health minister Salvador Illa speaking to media on January 25, 2020 (by Gemma Aleman)

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