EU unblocks €220 million for cross-border transfers of coronavirus patients
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EU unblocks €220 million for cross-border transfers of coronavirus patients

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The European Union will unblock an envelope of €220 million to assist transfers of Covid-19 patients between member countries in an effort to ease those struggling with mounting hospitalisations.

Following an online meeting with EU leaders, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that rapid and coordinated action was needed to keep health systems afloat.

“The spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently. And it is important to act coherently across the European Union,” she said.

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The envelope will serve to finance the safe cross-border transfer of coronavirus patients where it is needed, with von der Leyen stressing that countries needed to step up real-time data sharing with the bloc’s infectious disease agency for the scheme to work efficiently.

A Commission spokesperson explained at today press conference that the budget is also intended for funding member states’ costs for import of medical equipment and the deployment of medical teams from other countries.

“If we have more data sharing on intensive care unit capacities and [know] where capacity is lacking, we can increase the cross-border patient care and it can be organised early enough,” von der Leyen said in a press statement.

“So the more countries share information, the better we can coordinate the response,” she added.

The Commission chief’s statements come after Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced that Germany had agreed to receive coronavirus patients from overwhelmed Belgian hospitals.

They also follow news that hospitals in Belgium have been instructed to go into the last phase of a national coronavirus hospital management plan as ICU beds continue to fill up.

The move to the last phase will lead to the cancellation of non-urgent non-Covid-19 care and consultations in order to divert care and resources to treat the surge of patients sickened by the viral pandemic.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times