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German health minister Jens Spahn
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P- Zinken

German health minister: More EU funds for coronavirus

February 12, 2020

Germany has identified 16 cases of the COVID-19 virus. Jens Spahn, Germany's health minister, told parliament that he hoped for a coordinated EU response after a meeting in Brussels on Thursday.


German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday he would like to see the European Union "take on responsibility" in regards to the coronavirus outbreak, allocating some of its budget to efforts to control and contain COVID-19.

Spahn, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats, is set to meet with the EU's health ministers in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the bloc's response to the outbreak.

"And I would also like ... the World Health Organization's request for financial aid to not only be answered by countries, but also that the EU takes on some responsibility with its own budgetary resources," Spahn said after a briefing of the health committee in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament.

Read more: WHO dubs coronavirus 'public enemy number 1'

Spahn also said he hoped EU members would "agree to proceed in a coordinated manner," though he pointed out that "full coordination" is no longer possible because some EU members, such as Italy, have stopped all air traffic to China.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in Brussels on Wednesday that the EU needs to "respond to this challenge in a closely coordinated and united manner" because "viruses know no borders."

A coronavirus evacuee speaks

16 cases in Germany, 14 in Bavaria

The number of coronavirus cases in Germany increased to 16 on Tuesday after two more cases were reported in the southeastern state of Bavaria.

Most of the cases stem the company Webasto, an automotive supplier headquartered just outside of Munich, after an employee from the firm's Chinese branch arrived for a workshop in Germany with the virus. Webasto employees returned to work for the first time on Wednesday.

Two other people were identified with the virus on their arrival at the major airport at Frankfurt am Main.

Spahn said the coronavirus situation in Germany was "under control," which showed that "we have prepared ourselves well and are taking great precautions." 

German authorities hold telephone conferences daily, and sometimes hourly, both nationally and internationally, Spahn said. He stressed that he could not say conclusively "how things will develop over the next few days and weeks."

Spahn proposed that pilots of flights direct from China to Germany should report to air traffic control towers before landing saying whether there were any passengers with coronavirus symptoms on board. Passengers will also be asked to provide information of where they plan to stay for the 30-day period following their arrival. 

Any measures beyond that "would first have to be approved in Germany and ideally in Europe," he said.

Spahn did reject a proposal during Wednesday's discussion in German parliament that would require taking people's temperature at airports, saying such a plan "makes no sense." He said such measurements could create a false sense of security and pointed out that those infected with the coronavirus may not necessarily have symptoms such as a fever at the time of testing.

dv/msh (AFP, dpa)

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