USA

The EU will fund the transfer of Covid-19 patients across borders as hospital systems feel strain

Europe has become the world's epicenter of the virus for the second time since the pandemic began, forcing several countries to reimpose national lockdowns as a second wave envelops the region and infection cases surpass 10 million.

Health officials in several EU countries have warned that their hospitals are near capacity and have raised the alarm that more cooperation is needed to ensure facilities are not overwhelmed.

"Numbers of cases are rising, numbers of hospitalizations are rising, numbers of deaths are rising -- not as fast, fortunately, because we understand better today how to treat COVID patients and how to deal with disease," EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday night.

"But the spread of the virus will overwhelm our healthcare systems if we do not act urgently."

Von der Leyen made her comments at a meeting with EU leaders, in which she laid out a number of measures to streamline and centralize the bloc's Covid-19 response, from the use of tests, tracing apps and the distribution of vaccines.

The EU was slow to coordinate its response at the beginning of the region's outbreak, with hard-hit countries like Italy pleading with the bloc's leaders for support, turning instead to China for medical equipment.

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