The European Union (EU) on Thursday took a pledge to close cooperation in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, vowing to address issues ranging from medical supplies to internal market.

Leaders of the EU and its member states issued a joint statement after a video conference that recognized the most acute priority as “ensuring urgent and adequate provision of medical equipment throughout the European Union”, Xinhua reported.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is asked to explore ways to speed up the EU’s joint procurement initiatives for personal protective equipment, ventilators and testing supplies.

According to the statement, it also increases testing capacities as a matter of urgency, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization.

Last week, European Commission approved a proposal by France to guarantee up to 300 billion euros ($323 billion) in state aid to ease the economic burden of the deadly virus.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said that the European Union will impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to battle the spread of the coronavirus.

The EU will do everything possible to support research, coordinate efforts within Europe on COVID-19, including on vaccines, and also work together with key partners in the Group of Seven and Group of 20 countries, the statement further noted.

More than 500,000 people around the world have now contracted the new coronavirus.

The bloc will also increase and accelerate its support to European researchers to share scientific information and to collaborate both within the EU and worldwide, it added.

The leaders also backed the opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, according to the statement.

The pandemic has already, and rapidly, been catastrophic to the global economy.

China said it was barring entry to most foreigners, fearing that imported cases were undermining its success in bringing domestic transmissions way down.

(With inputs from agency)