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17 March 2020 The EU launches its plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic

The President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced new drastic measures to fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected 184,795 people and killed 7,529 globally as of March 17. After an extraordinary European Council meeting by video conference, Von der Leyen declared that EU leaders had endorsed the proposed initiative, which includes a 30-day ban on non-essential travel to the EU from third nations. Under these border restrictions, visitors from non-EU states will not be allowed to enter any of the Member States unless they are long-term residents of the EU, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, cross-border commuters, or essential workers like doctors, nurses and researchers. The plan also focuses on accelerating and funding research with up to €80 million to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and on economic measures particularly centered on the flow of protective equipment and medical goods. The European Commission has also proposed a State aid  Temporary Framework for all Member States to support the EU economy during the outbreak. Italy, the second most heavily affected country in the world after China, reports  27,980 cases and 2,158 deaths as of 17 March. The country has the most elderly population in Europe and its health system has been overwhelmed by the growing influx of patients in need of  hospitalisation. According to the World Health Organisation, Iran is the third most affected country, with 16,169 cases and 988 deaths, followed by Spain, with 11,178 cases and 491 deaths. Iran has struggled so far to reduce the number of infections and has blamed US sanctions for hampering its capacity in the fight against the virus.