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Germany rules out EU-wide coronavirus travel curbs

March 6, 2020

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has dismissed the idea of travel restrictions within the European Union to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. He spoke ahead of a meeting to seek a bloc-wide strategy.

People stand on the platform near a train stoped by authorities at the train station on the Italian side of the Brenner Pass,
Image: picture-alliance/AP/M. Schrader

In spite of the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday ruled out EU-wide travel restrictions.

Ahead of a meeting of fellow ministers in Brussels, Spahn said a common approach was needed with cases COVID-19 virus now prevalent across the bloc

 Read more: Follow the latest developments in our rolling coverage on coronavirus

"Given what we know about the virus situation at present, I still find any measure leading to restrictions on travel across borders to be inappropriate," Spahn said.

However, he added that EU member states faced a test in working out a way to halt the spread of COVID-19. "The virus is in Europe, the challenge is to slow it down and contain it."

After the meeting, Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros told reporters that health ministers prioritized "joint action" going ahead.

"We adopted resolutions to urge member states to take necessary measures to take action," he said.

Coronavirus spreads in Italy and elsewhere

Medicines and protective gear

Other ministers arriving at the meeting said one focus would be how Europe can supply itself with more medicines and protective equipment.

"This is not something that will be solved tomorrow but we must start this discussion today so that we have a solution after tomorrow," Austria's Health Minister Rudolf Anschober told reporters.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), has predicted difficulties due to a lack of deliveries from China.

Read more: Coronavirus — The latest developments in Europe

DW's Brussels correspondent Teri Schultz said there was a definite sense of urgency among ministers, and a strong sense that they did not want people to panic. The emphasis, she said, was on greater communication.

"Information sharing is the chief priority here because we heard EU official say yesterday that there have been flaws in information sharing with one another what measures they are taking, how many cases they have and where these cases are concentrated."

Read more: Few Germans afraid of coronavirus

The approach to the spread of the virus has varied notably across the EU, with health being an issue for member states to deal with domestically.

Italy, for example, has closed schools while the idea has — for the present — been rejected in Germany.

Italy is the EU country most affected by the epidemic, but there are hundreds of cases in France, Germany and Spain.

The novel strain of coronavirus that emerged in China late last year has killed more than 3,300 people and infected over 100,000 in about 85 nations.

ed, rc/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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