Brussels, 22 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The European Union is well prepared for possible cases of a new type of coronavirus that has so far killed nine people in China and infected hundreds, a health expert told the Belga news agency on Tuesday.
“Europe has the necessary structures and resources to be ready, should a pandemic occur,” Belga quoted Professor Herman Goossens of Antwerp University, the co-ordinator of the EU’s PREPARE epidemic response team.
“I have never seen such a quick response and co-operation as in the case of the coronavirus outbreak,” Goossens said, noting that PREPARE would be ready to respond should the new strain, 2019-nCoV, hit Europe.
Among other things, PREPARE is reaching out to its network of more than 1,000 hospitals across Europe to help them collect standardized data on any travellers diagnosed in Europe, it said in a press release.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) currently rates the likelihood of cases being imported from China to Europe as moderate.
According to the ECDC, three EU airports have direct flight connections to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is first thought to have been transmitted from animals to people.
“The upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations at the end of January will cause an increased travel volume to/from China and within China, hence increasing the likelihood of arrival in the EU of possible cases,” the ECDC wrote on its website on Tuesday.
No cases have been detected in Europe so far. The United States reported its first coronavirus patient on Tuesday, a US citizen who had visited Wuhan. Cases have also been confirmed in Macau, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
Later on Wednesday, the European Commission is organizing a meeting of health experts from EU member states to assess the situation.