The European Commission on Monday announced an additional €232 million in aid toward fighting the novel coronavirus.
The infusion of cash was planned ahead of the growing outbreak in Italy over the weekend, officials said a press conference Monday. The country reported five deaths as of this afternoon.
Most of the cash — €114 million — will go toward the World Health Organization’s appeal to fight the disease, known as COVID-19, worldwide. Another €15 million will go toward Africa to boost the continent’s diagnostic abilities.
A public-private partnership for pharmaceutical development could also see up to €90 million, with funding split evenly between the Commission and the industry. The Innovative Medicines Initiative is launching a fast-track call for new proposals next month to fight the coronavirus.
While projects to develop new treatments and diagnostics could be eligible, vaccines will be specifically excluded from the effort, according to IMI.
Another €10 million is earmarked for grants related to research on prevention, treatment and containment, while €3 million will go toward the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to bring EU citizens back from Wuhan, China.
Amid an “evolving” situation, Kyriakides said, “we need to be extremely vigilant, but on the other hand base our decisions on risk assessment and scientific advice.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) updated its risk assessment late on Sunday, saying that the risk elsewhere in Europe of the occurrence of clusters similar to the Italian one “is currently considered to be moderate to high.”
A WHO-ECDC mission will head to Italy on Tuesday, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. The EU’s Health Security Committee is also meeting Monday.
Asked about reports overnight that train travel between Italy and Austria had been stopped, both Kyriakides and Janez Lenarčič, commissioner for crisis management, said the Commission had not been notified about a change in rail circulation policy in Austria.
Jillian Deutsch, Carmen Paun and Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli contributed reporting.
UPDATE: This alert has been updated to correct erroneous information provided by the European Commission. Vaccine-related projects won’t be eligible for up to €90 million in funding from a public-private partnership for new medicines development.
This alert has also been updated to reflect an additional death from COVID-19 in Italy since original publication.