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Coronavirus: Share anti-virus gear, EU members states told

EU member states have been urged to share anti coronavirus gear. Smaller EU member states raised the alarm after Germany, France and the Czech Republic blocked the export of some medical supplies that could help slow the novel coronavirus outbreak.

EU health ministers were meeting to plan a coordinated response to the epidemic, but Germany has banned exports of face masks and gloves and France has requisitioned all its own stocks.

After the meeting, officials stressed that all members had understood the need for solidarity, but there was no hiding the concern over the members’ unilateral actions. “There are legal grounds that make such measures possible, but these kind of unilateral measures first have to be notified to the union,” EU crisis management commissioner Jenaz Lenarcic said.

“They have to be proportionate and even if they are legally possible they carry a risk of undermining our collective approach and our collective capacity to handle this crisis.”

Ministers from many member states agreed.

Dutch minister for medical care Bruno Bruins also chimed in, telling the crisis meeting: “In times of scarcity it is even more important to show solidarity, especially within the EU.”

Europe as a whole has not yet been hit as hard as China, but the virus is spreading across the continent and Italy, in particular, has a major outbreak. Italy has already recorded a great number of deaths with the number steady rising.

Vojtech said supplies of protective suits and masks were limited and that European health workers should be first in line as production is ramped up. “We’re trying to negotiate with producers to supply the market, but production is limited. The demand is much higher than the supply worldwide. It is not easy,” he said.

The novel coronavirus strain that erupted in China this year and causes the COVID-19 disease has killed more than 3,300 people and infected nearly 100,000 in about 90 nations.