Italy, which has been the heaviest impacted European country from coronavirus (COVID-19) with deaths surging by 41 over the past 24 hours to 148, has requested face masks through the EU’s civil protection mechanism. But EU member states are refusing to help, highlighting how desperately Brussels is trying to orchestrate a coordinated response to the widespread outbreak. Italy has now been left hoping for help from the European Commission, which could trigger an emergency joint procurement process that enables Brussels to buy urgent medical supplies and distribute them across the continent to the countries that need them the most.
A European Commission spokesman insisted officials are working round-the-clock to get more protective masks to Italy if required.
Darragh Cassidy said: “The EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre is now working 24/7 and has relayed the request to all member states to mobilise offers of assistance.”
But frustration has also been building throughout the bloc over how differently EU institutions are adopting different responses to the coronavirus outbreak.
The European Parliament has limited access to several buildings in Brussels and has cancelled a number of events, while the European Commission and Council have largely continued as normal.
One EU diplomat said: “Health policies are national competence.
“That’s why we emphasise so much information sharing because it’s the best way we can share the best ideas and solutions. Our idea is to push member states and be coordinated.”
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8.31am update: South Korea confirmed cases surges to nearly 6,300
South Korea has confirmed 196 new coronavirus cases on Friday, with the total rising to 6,284.
The Korea Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention also said seven more deaths from the virus were reported, bringing the total to 42.
8.26am update: Japan quarantine sparks South Korea fury
South Korea has strongly protested against a decision from Japan to impose a two-week quarantine for visitors from the country, branding it “unreasonable, excessive and extremely regrettable”.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered a two-week quarantine for people arriving from South Korea and has also banned arrivals from highly affected areas starting on Saturday.
But Seoul’s foreign ministry is summoning the Japanese ambassador on Friday to lodge a complaint, after calling in a senior diplomat late to request explanations.
8.21am update: Huge early queues and limited hand sanitisers at UK chemists
Britons have been rushing to chemists in a desperate bid to buy hand sanitises.
Stock shortages have been evident throughout the country, with shop shelves empty.
Dozens of shoppers were pictured queueing outside Boots in Canary Wharf at 7.30am, but were told hand sanitises were limited to two per person.
8.18am update: Trump admits US economy might take hit from coronavirus
Donald Trump has admitted the US economy might take a hit from the coronavirus outbreak, but brushed off any long-lasting impact and defended his handling of the crisis.
When asked during his first town hall meeting of the 2020 election season before an audience in Scranton, Pennsylvania if the coronavirus outbreak hurt the economy, he said: “It certainly might have an impact.
At the same time, I have to say people are now staying in the United States spending their money in the US, and I like that.
“It’s going to all work out. Everybody has to be calm.
“We have plans for every single possibility and I think that’s what we have to do. We hope it doesn’t last too long.”
8.05am update: Confirmed cases in Beijing rise to 422
Beijing reported four new cases of coronavirus on Thursday that had all come from Italy, the city’s municipal health commission said in a statement.
The Chinese capital now has 422 cases.
8am update: Qantas to cut more international flights as it battles falling demand
Qantas is slashing its international flights as it battles falling demand from the coronavirus outbreak in countries beyond China.
The latest cuts to destinations including Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, Hong Kong and Auckland are on top of its grounding the equivalent of 18 planes as it cut international and domestic capacity last month.
Qantas said in a statement: “The coronavirus situation and its impact on international travel demand is evolving and we’re monitoring closely.
“Further changes are expected.”
7.50am update: Trio of coronavirus cases confirmed in Maryland, US
Three coronavirus have been confirmed in Maryland, US by the state’s public health laboratory, Governor Larry Hogan said.
The patients contracted the disease while overseas but are in a good condition, Governor Hogan insisted.
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