EU health representatives to meet on Monday to discuss coronavirus

Brussels - European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has called a meeting of EU state health representatives on Monday to discuss response options to the spread of a new and deadly strain of coronavirus.

EU ready for coronavirus

"We stand ready to act and step up our response if needed," she tweeted, adding that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is "in the process of updating its risk assessment."

"Europe has the necessary structures and resources to be ready, should a pandemic occur," the Belga news agency 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 travelers diagnosed in Europe, it said in a press release.

First European coronavirus cases confirmed

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.

The first cases in Europe were confirmed in France late Friday.

France and the US, both of which have consulates in Wuhan, have taken steps to evacuate citizens and their foreign spouses and children, according to the South China Morning Post.

Direct Flights from the Chinese City of Wuhan