The European Council met today by video conference: 27 heads of State and government, and also the Presidents of the European Commission, European Council and the European Central Bank.
We all expressed strong solidarity with all Member States that have been affected by the Covid19 virus, especially Italy.
We also agreed that our highest priority as leaders must be protecting public health and human life, preventing the spread of the virus and working to mitigate its impact on our people.
We agreed funding research in Europe to help develop new tests, new treatments, and a vaccine as rapidly as possible.
And we agreed the need for a coordinated approach to the procurement of medicines, medical devices and protective equipment, including establishing an inventory of stock and also production capacity so that our health services are prepared for the number of cases as they continue to increase as they inevitably will.
While health and human life are our over-riding concerns, we also considered the potential economic impact of this crisis, which could be severe and long-lasting.
We agreed that the necessary flexibilities would be made available - State aids, the Stability and Growth Pact - to protect the most exposed sectors, including SMEs and jobs.
To ensure a more coordinated approach at EU level, we agreed that Health and other relevant Ministers should now talk to each other daily.
I welcomed the European Commission’s announcement that it would bring forward legislation to protect airline landing slots where flights are stopped from the most affected areas.
As you know all flights have been suspended between Italy and Ireland.
The Covid19 Cabinet will meet again on Friday and again on Monday to discuss further actions. And I want to assure the public that all actions being taken by Government have been taken on the advice of the expert National Public Health Emergency Team, led by the Chief Medical Officer, and informed by guidance from the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Every action that they have recommended has been taken to date. And every day we ask the experts, is there more that we should do. And they remind us of the need to make the right interventions at the right time for the right length of time, because anything else would be counterproductive. Finally we all know that this virus is passed through close human contact, and the most effective way to protect yourself and others is to follow the advice of the healthcare professionals. Particularly around hand-washing, sneezing, and coughing, and what to do if you have symptoms like a high temperature.