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Spread of COVID-19 pushes EU to monitor export of protective equipment

BRUSSELS, Belgium: As concern about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic reaches new levels around the world, the European Union has taken measures to safeguard personal protective equipment. In a press release, the EU stated that exports of equipment such as face masks and protective spectacles and visors outside of the EU would be subject to export authorisation by member states.

The act, which was released on Sunday, 15 March, makes it necessary for authorisations for exports to countries outside the EU. It will be valid for a six-week period, during which time member states will be consulted on the potential adaptations and scope of the current measure and on future steps which might need to be taken.

In light of the equipment shortages already unfolding in Italy, the EU wants to ensure that its response prevents a situation in which member states take individual approaches rather than working together. It hopes that this will also reinforce EU solidarity. In the press release, EU Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “The challenges presented by the spread of COVID-19 justify the urgency of this action. No effort is being spared by the Commission to offer concrete help to our citizens and all those who take care of them.”

Protection, in general, is becoming a hot topic. At a press conference held by the German Federal Minister of the Interior, Building and Community Horst Seehofer in Berlin on Sunday, 15 March, a journalist enquired whether Seehofer was aware of the reported attempt by US President Donald Trump to acquire exclusive rights to a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine, which is currently being developed by the German company CureVac, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering mRNA-based drugs for vaccines and therapeutics, will be a highly sort after commodity when it becomes available.

In a CureVac press release, the company confirmed that internal efforts are focused on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine with the goal of reaching, helping and protecting people worldwide. It stated: “As a consequence, the company is in contact with especially CEPI [The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] and many other organisations and authorities worldwide, however abstains from commenting on speculations and rejects allegations about offers for acquisition of the company or its technology.”

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