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EU chief self-isolates as virus makes its mark at a summit

By: AP | Brussels |

October 16, 2020 10:29:41 am


French President Emmanuel Macron, middle, arrives for a spherical desk assembly at an EU summit on the European Council constructing in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool by way of AP)

As a contemporary wave of the coronavirus sweeps throughout a lot of Europe, the fact of the illness struck a summit of European Union leaders on Thursday when one of many 27-nation bloc’s high officers deserted the assembly to enter self-imposed quarantine.

European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen left the summit venue in Brussels shortly after the assembly started as a result of one in all her shut staffers examined optimistic for COVID-19.

“I personally have examined detrimental,” von der Leyen, a physician by coaching, tweeted. “Nonetheless, as a precaution I’m instantly leaving the European Council to enter self-isolation.”

In its newest replace on Thursday, the European Centre for Illness Prevention and Management stated that greater than 4.Four million circumstances of the virus have been reported within the 27 EU nations, plus Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland because the pandemic started. Greater than 198,000 individuals have died. A number of nations are tightening preventive measures.

Pictures from contained in the venue, which is off limits to reporters, confirmed von der Leyen mingling with a number of different heads of presidency and officers, together with the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Portugal and the Netherlands, and the president of the European Parliament.

Just like the others, she principally wore a masks besides when sitting, and gave the impression to be observing satisfactory social distancing. The sprawling summit spherical desk was generously spaced, and some leaders may very well be seen washing their fingers with gel as they entered. The standard hugs and kisses so frequent final 12 months have been changed by elbow bumps.

French President Emmanuel Macron notably engaged in a close-contact speak with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who can be representing Poland as a result of its premier, Mateusz Morawiecki is beneath quarantine after coming into contact with a coronavirus-infected bodyguard. A primary take a look at confirmed Morawiecki was not contaminated. He was to take one other take a look at later Thursday.

Tackling the virus — which was resulting from be debated on Friday — tense post-Brexit commerce talks with Britain, local weather change and EU-Africa relations have been the principle objects on the agenda.

“The talk on Brexit in the present day required a bodily presence and numerous leaders have been in favor of a bodily presence,” European Council President Charles Michel, who’s chairing the two-day summit, instructed reporters. “We have now to adapt within the case of COVID-19.”

“So far as the longer term goes, we are going to systematically assess and have in mind the completely different parts and seek the advice of the delegations about what one of the best ways of working is,” Michel stated.

Because the pandemic first surfaced in Europe in February, EU leaders have held a number of summits by way of videoconference. However they held their final assembly in particular person simply two weeks in the past. Officers say it’s usually the one strategy to get actually delicate enterprise completed. Nonetheless, not everybody was comfortable about touring again to Brussels so quickly.

“This summit ought to be held as a video convention. I’ve on a number of events proposed holding video conferences as an alternative of assembly in particular person,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen instructed reporters on arrival in Brussels. “There are some discussions the place one must be introduced just a little nearer to one another. After which there are different conferences the place you are able to do it as a video convention.”

The query stays whether or not this may be the final in-person assembly for some time if the coronavirus continues to unfold at charges not seen for months. The subsequent official summit in Brussels is scheduled for Dec. 10-11. On Thursday, the European Parliament stated its subsequent plenary session scheduled subsequent week within the French metropolis of Strasbourg can be held remotely.

Parliament President David Sassoli stated the virus has already contaminated numerous EU lawmakers, staffers and their associates. “Touring could be very harmful. The state of affairs in Strasbourg is essential and in Brussels it’s very severe,” he stated.

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