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newsRemarks by Ursula von der Leyen on the Coronavirus response (10 March)

This morning, I met with the Commission's Coronavirus Response Team. We discussed about the situation in Italy and what additional support we can provide. I also spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Conte and expressed my support for the Italian people. We agreed to have a videoconference meeting within the next days to discuss in detail about how we can support more. And what further measures would help Italy was also part of our discussion and will be part of our videoconference.

On the whole of Europe, I asked the Coronavirus Response Team this morning to look into further tools that the Commission can mobilise in order to address the overall impact the Coronavirus outbreak has on the economy, throughout Europe. Many sectors are already suffering. And we will need to look for ways to support them.

For instance, and this is just one example, aviation. The Coronavirus outbreak has a major impact on the European and international aviation industry. We see that the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis. Traffic is expected to decline further. This is why the Commission will put forward, very rapidly, legislation regarding the so-called ‘airport slots'. We want to make it easier for airlines to keep their airport slots, even if they do not operate flights in those slots because of the declining traffic. This is a temporary measure and this temporary measure helps both our industry, but it also helps our environment. It will relieve pressure on the aviation industry, and in particular on smaller airline companies. But it will also decrease emissions by avoiding the so-called ‘ghost flights' – when airlines fly almost empty planes, simply to keep their slots. Again, this is just one example of a sector where help is needed and we are ready to act.

This morning, we also discussed more broadly with the Commissioners about what we can do with the Member States to reduce the effects of the Coronavirus, for example to contain the spread of the virus, coordinate response measures, accelerate research on treatment, on diagnosis, on vaccines. And of course, we discussed about the impact on the economy. I encouraged my Commissioners to get involved with their stakeholders. This morning, Commissioner Breton had a videoconference with manufacturers of protective equipment. And within the next days, he and Commissioner Kyriakides will talk with the pharmaceutical companies concerning the Coronavirus outbreak. It is important to discuss about the state of supply and what the state of play is at the moment being. So you see we are simply looking into all tools that we can mobilise to address the impact of the Coronavirus on people, but also on the economy.

Last but not least, I will inform the Heads of State and Government at the videoconference this afternoon about the tools we can activate in this Coronavirus outbreak at the different stages.

Thank you very much.

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