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Macron says EU leaders will take 'all measures necessary' to tackle coronavirus

French President Macron said on Tuesday that EU leaders had agreed to take all measures  necessary to avoid financial and economic instability that could be sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.
French President Macron said on Tuesday that EU leaders had agreed to take all measures necessary to avoid financial and economic instability that could be sparked by the coronavirus outbreak. © screengrab

French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation on Tuesday evening after a conference call with EU leaders on the coronavirus outbreak, saying that European nations will do everything that is needed to slow the disease’s spread. He also argued that “we musn’t give in to panic”, criticising Austria and Slovenia for closing their borders with Italy.

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Macron said EU leaders have agreed to take "all measures necessary" to avoid economic instability caused by the coronavirus crisis, adding that "at the European level we will be more flexible in terms of state aid" and that countries' health ministers will speak to the European Commission on a daily basis. Nevertheless the French president also reiterated that "we musn't give in to panic".

Earlier on Tuesday Macron declared that "we are only at the beginning of this epidemic", after a surprise visit to the SAMU ambulance service at Necker hospital in Paris

France is the second-worst-affected country in Europe after Italy – which has effectively gone into lockdown to stop the spread of the virus – and Culture Minister Franck Riester and five MPs are among those who have tested positive. Overall, the virus has killed 30 people and infected 1,606 in France.

European Council President Charles Michel said much the same after a video conference attended by EU leaders including Macron: "We stand ready to make use of all instruments necessary."

 

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen adopted a similar approach on Tuesday evening, announcing that a special EU investment fund will be set up for the coronavirus with €25 billion of funding, with €7.5 billion to be released immediately.

Reiterating that “we mustn’t give in to panic”, Macron took aim at Austria and Slovenia for closing the border with Italy, Europe’s most affected country, saying they were making “bad decisions in doing so”.

Slovenia on Tuesday said it would close its 232-kilometre (144-miles)-long border with Italy, while Austria ordered a halt to flights and trains to the country that is the worst hit by the virus outside of China.

 

Macron said France, which also shares a long border with Italy, did not yet need containment measures as drastic as those taken in Italy or China, where the deadly novel coronavirus first erupted.

 

"Today for France, there is no need to go further than what we have determined... we are taking appropriate measures," he said.

 

But, he added, "if tomorrow or the day after there was a reason" to take more drastic measures, "we would take them".

Macron said that taking "disproportionate measures" when France was "only at the beginning of the crisis" would be "counterproductive".

The French leader emphasised that it was "much more effective" to take containment measures in affected regions.

Italy recorded its deadliest day of the virus outbreak on Tuesday, its toll rising by 168 to 631, with a total of 10,149 infected.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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