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EU sets aside 100 million euros for rapid virus tests

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Brussels has set aside 100 million euros for quicker tests for coronavirus as Europe faces a second wave of the epidemic, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

“Rapid antigen tests are now coming to the market. This can play a significant role, but we will propose an EU approach to approval,” the president of the European Commission said.

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A day before an emergency videoconference of EU leaders, von der Leyen said the European Commission would push for better coordinated action on tracking and tracing virus cases across the bloc.

The antigen test for the coronavirus is not seen as being as reliable as the so-called “PCR test”, in which a sample taken from a nasal swab is sent to a lab for testing.

But it is much quicker, with results available at the testing point within 15 minutes, and European experts think the virus is now moving too quickly to rely on tests that can take days.

“Data from the CDC show that the virus is quickly spreading throughout Europe, we are deeply into the second wave. Now more and more people are getting infected,” von der Leyen said.

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“Last week, the total number of confirmed cases in Europe reached 1.1 million. And the more people who get infected, the more people will end up having to be hospitalised with the virus.”

“Our expectations are that these figures will increase further over the next two to three weeks and they’ll increase rapidly,” she said.

Von der Leyen, backed by her science adviser Peter Piot, said she would urge member state leader to ensure better data sharing through the platform set up by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

“This will help us to know for example, where this ICU capacity, or cross border patient care can be organised when needed,” she said.

Germany has already begun receiving patients from overburdened hospitals in belgium and the Netherlands.

Von der Leyen, herself an epidemiologist before she went into German politics, said she would set up a platform for national science advisers from the 27 EU member states to share their plans.

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