The EU now faces a “moderate to high” risk of “widespread sustained transmission” of the novel coronavirus, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday.
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The elevated assessment — up from the “low to moderate” last week — came as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen suggested the EU could have responded more quickly.
If the virus starts spreading widely through communities, “current containment measures may no longer be an efficient use of resources,” the ECDC said. At that point, it may be better to shift to protecting the populations most at risk, the agency advised. COVID-19 appears to cause few symptoms for most people, but it can be deadly for the elderly or people with an underlying medical condition.
The Stockholm-based infectious disease agency warned of extra stress on health systems, including rising hospital admissions during the already busy flu season and “bottlenecks” for diagnosing the virus.
As of today, 38 have died of COVID-19 in the EEA and U.K., with 2,199 cases.
Today, von der Leyen also appointed a new “Corona response team” of five commissioners responsible for areas affected by the outbreak: crisis response, health, the economy, transport and border issues
“From the very beginning of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the European Union has acted,” von der Leyen told reporters at the EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre. Yet the EU is open to sharing its experiences, she added, “because we don’t want others to repeat the mistakes that we’ve perhaps committed or the steps that we’ve taken too slowly.”
Hans von der Burchard contributed reporting.