January 29, 2020 / 2:44 PM / 24 days ago

EU Commission advises staff to suspend non-essential travel to China

BRUSSELS, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The European Commission is advising its staff to delay “non-essential” travel to China, the top official in charge of crisis management said on Wednesday, as the number of deaths from a new coronavirus leapt.

The advice concerns only European Union staff, as travel bans and recommendations to citizens are issued by national authorities of the bloc’s 28 states rather than the EU.

Commission officials and EU diplomats have been advised “to postpone or suspend all non-essential travels to China”, Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarcic told a news conference on Wednesday, adding that EU staff in China were also recommended not to return to the EU at this stage.

On Tuesday, Britain’s Foreign Office advised against “all but essential” travel to mainland China due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The EU is helping repatriate Europeans from the Chinese province of Hubei, the hardest hit by an epidemic that has so far killed 132 people.

Eight people infected with the virus have so far been reported in the EU, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Wednesday, confirming that four of them were in Germany and the other four in France.

She said the EU could unlock funds to help develop a vaccine against the new virus if the situation deteriorated, but at the moment there was no need for it. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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