The European Union (EU) on Wednesday held a videocnonference on its response ot the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a statement, the EU said that "the crisis we face because of coronavirus has both a very significant human dimension, and a potentially major economic impact. It is therefore essential that we act decisively and collectively, to contain the spread of the virus and help patients, and to counter the economic fallout."

After the videoconference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the Commission will hold daily phone conferences with health ministers and ministers of internal affairs, and assemble a team of epidemiologists and virologists from different member states to issue guidelines.

She also said that the Commission is taking stock of protective equipment and respiratory devices, and reinforcing European initiatives to fund research on the coronavirus, including 140 million euros for funding research on vaccines, diagnosis, and treatment.

On the economic level, von der Leyen said: "First and foremost, we must act at the macro-economic level. We will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure the European economy weathers this storm. This requires coordination between Member States, the Commission and the ECB. I am comforted that leaders have called for such a coordinated strategy."

"The Commission will play its full part with no delay," she promised, adding that she plans to set up a task force to ensure that funds begin flowing. "Today marks an important step in a coordinated response that the 27 Heads of State and Government, the President of the European Council and the Commission have been calling for. Now it is time for action."

The EU statement added, that "in order to quickly direct €25 billion of European public investment to deal with the fallout of the Coronavirus crisis, the Commission will propose to relinquish this year its obligation to request refunding of unspent pre-financing for European structural and investment funds currently held by Member States."

"The Member States will be required to use these amounts to speed up their investments under the structural funds. They will use this for the national co-financing they would normally have had to provide themselves in order to receive the next tranches of their structural fund envelopes. In view of the average co-financing rates across Member States, the €7.5 billion will be able to trigger the release and use of some €17.5 - €18 billion of structural funding across the EU.

"This proposal can be implemented through a modification of the common provision regulation for the structural funds. The Commission will make this proposal to Council and Parliament this week. The national operational programmes would then be adapted, where necessary, to channel the funding towards areas such as short-term work measures, the health sector, labour market measures, and sectors particularly affected in the current circumstances."