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Health ministers: EU prepared against the novel coronavirus – Member States express solidarity with China

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 13.2.2020 15.26 | Published in English on 13.2.2020 at 16.48
Press release 30/2020

On Thursday 13 February, the EU health ministers met in Brussels for an extraordinary meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO). The main theme of the meeting was the EU’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Finland was represented by Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru.

The health ministers exchanged views on common EU preparedness and response, the significance of a common situational picture and the importance of international coordination and support to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the EU. The ministers adopted Council conclusions on the EU response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In the context of the novel coronavirus, the health ministers wanted to further enhance open exchange of evidence-based information and to increase coordinated inter-sectoral action within the EU.

“The increasing level of international travel is one reason for outbreaks of communicable diseases. We should recognise that new communicable diseases, such as the novel coronavirus, are potentially global threats to public health. That is why the EU will continue its strong, coordinated action to prevent further spread of the virus in the EU, and in Finland,” Kiuru said.

The EU will use existing and established practices and structures and continue international cooperation to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading in the EU. Examples of such structures include the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the EU Health Security Committee and the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), which all work effectively to protect people in the EU.

“I am pleased with the exchange of views in the Council and welcome the conclusions we adopted. It means that the EU is seeking to build a common will and action to prevent the spread of the virus within the EU,” Kiuru said.

The European Commission and the EU Member States, including Finland, are prepared for rapid changes in the epidemiological situation.

“Finland has a long tradition of preparing for different kinds of threats. We will monitor the situation closely and respond as the situation requires. We can count on the municipalities and hospital districts to continue their efficient work to prevent communicable diseases, including this case of the novel coronavirus,” Kiuru said.

The EU Member States underlined the importance of global solidarity in responding to the threat caused by the novel coronavirus. They emphasised the necessity of using the best possible means to support China and third countries with weaker health systems. In this respect, the Commission and the Member States will cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO).

The EU Member States further agreed that any EU response to the threat of the novel coronavirus should comply with the WHO’s International Health Regulations (IHR). The regulations aim to prevent, detect and respond to cross-border health threats.

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