Spotlight: EU restricts export of protective equipment amid spike in coronavirus cases

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-16 07:06:18|Editor: zh
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People walk past a closed Barca store in Barcelona, Spain, March 14, 2020. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday confirmed the "State of Alarm" in Spain, announcing that the country will go into lockdown for 15 days from 8 a.m. on Monday morning in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Zhou Zhe/Xinhua)

BRUSSELS/BERLIN, March 15 (Xinhua) -- As Italy reported on Sunday its highest single-day deaths of 368 and France its biggest jump of over 900 new cases of coronavirus in one day, the European Union (EU) adopted a scheme to restrict the export of medical protective equipment and secure the supply within the bloc.

Medical goods including masks, gloves, protective garments can only be sold to non-EU countries with the explicit authorization of the EU governments, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, noting "We need to keep in the EU the protective equipment we need."

HIKE IN NUMBERS

As of Sunday, Italy's confirmed cases amounted to 20,603, with a death toll of 1,809, making it the most affected country in the world other than China.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 7,753 in Spain by 14:00 on Sunday, an increase of more than 1,500 cases in 24 hours. Death toll also jumped to 291, while 517 have recovered.

France has confirmed a total of 5,423 cases of coronavirus infection and 127 deaths. On Sunday alone, 36 new deaths were registered. The country is now at the highest emergency level of its epidemic response plan.

In Britain, confirmed cases reached 1,372 as of Sunday morning, an increase of 232 over the previous day. Fourteen more people have died, bringing its total deaths to 35. Scientists urged the government to take "more restrictive measures" to tackle the outbreak.

The Netherlands reported 176 news cases and eight new deaths on Sunday, bringing total cases to 1,135 and death toll to 20.

Belgium recorded 197 new COVID-19 infections, total now at 886. Greece added 103 new cases, updating its total to 331; Finland saw 30 new ones, total now at 241. Slovenia currently has 219 confirmed cases; Cyprus, 33; Malta, 21; And Hungary reported its first death on Sunday, as its total stood at 32.

Ireland saw 40 new cases on Sunday, the highest recorded in a single day since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country on Feb. 29. The government called for the closure of all pubs and bars across Ireland as confirmed cases amounted to 169.

BORDER CONTROLS

The novel coronavirus has crossed borders and infected thousands more in EU countries, forcing many countries to resort to border controls.

Germany announced on Sunday that it will close its borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Luxembourg from Monday morning due to the coronavirus crisis.

Temporary border controls will come into effect on 8 a.m. on Monday, with exceptions for goods traffic and commuters for work. Travelers without a valid reason are not allowed to travel in and out. The new measures are meant to break the chain of transmission.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Sunday that Portugal and Spain will restrict movement of both goods and people between their borders.

Portugal has reported 245 confirmed coronavirus cases by Sunday, while the numbers of new cases in Spain recorded 1,407, bringing the total to 7,798.

The Moldovan government said on Sunday that all air and ground connection with foreign countries will be closed from Tuesday. The country has reported 12 cases.

Greece suspended all road, sea, air links with Albania and North Macedonia except for the transport of goods and the entry of Greek nationals or those residing in Greece.

Serbia said foreigners won't be allowed to enter Serbia, while all returnees will be quarantined no matter where they are from. "The only ones allowed will be Chinese doctors" who were asked to come to help treat patients in upcoming days," said its President Aleksandar Vucic.

In Sunday's message, von der Leyen also urged EU member states to keep their borders open so that medical supply and life necessities can flow within the Single Market.

The EU will launch joint public procurement with member states for testing kits and respiratory ventilator on Monday, and will present guidelines to national governments on border measures.

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