EU seeks unified action against virus as case count mounts

European Union interior ministers on Friday were trying to coordinate their response to the novel coronavirus as cases spread throughout the 27-nation bloc and countries took individual measures to slow the disease down.

With Italy at the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, some of its neighbors, like Austria and Slovenia, have begun taking steps to restrict traffic at their borders, raising questions about the movement of food and medical equipment. But other nations, like the Czech Republic and Poland, are taking action too.

“The problem is on different levels in different countries,” Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told reporters in Brussels, but he said “we hope that all countries that take new measures also inform other European countries.”

“The transportation system must work when it comes to food and to health care materials and these kinds of things that are important to all European countries so that we don’t make problems for each other handling the crisis,” Damberg said.

The coronavirus is now present in all 27 EU countries. More than 22,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across Europe, and more than 1,000 people have died on the continent.

EU member countries are responsible for health and public safety, and the bloc’s institutions have a very limited role to play in halting the spread of the disease.

Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic, who is chairing the talks because his country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said “this crisis shows that as a European Union we need to have models to act in a more coordinated way.”

“If we are acting in one way it would be much better for all of us,” he said.

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