Public health and border control officials at the European Commission currently believe that the risk of imminent transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus across the EU is low to moderate – even as the virus continues to infect increasing numbers of people in Italy.
According to the BBC, the number of cases in Italy reached 400 on 26 February, up by 25% in just 24 hours. To date, there have been 12 fatalities.
Briefing journalists on 27 February, the EU officials said the Italian cases represent a geographical ‘cluster.’ The risk of more clusters developing in the EU is considered moderate to high. But this is not the same thing as the risk of general transmission across the EU as a whole, which they said was lower. For the time being, the EU has the capacity to identify and contain the virus, and containment is the main strategy, they said.
Currently there is no approved vaccine to prevent or treat COVID-19, but multiple efforts are underway to develop one. The US pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc, working with an institute of the National Institutes of Health, has developed a candidate RNA vaccine to help protect against infection. This is expected to undergo its first human testing in April. If successful, the vaccine could be available in 2021. Collaborative research efforts are also underway between the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Johnson & Johnson Inc and Sanofi SA.
Separately, the World Health Organization reported that as of 10.00 CET on 25 February, a total of 80,239 coronavirus cases had been confirmed globally of which 77,780 are in China. Total confirmed deaths are 2,700. The virus has infected people in 33 countries outside of China. The non-China case load has been particularly high in South Korea, Italy and Iran.
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