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EU chief forced into quarantine shortly after summit starts

EU chief forced into quarantine shortly after summit starts
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday she will self-isolate after a top aide tested positive for the coronavirus, leaving an EU summit in Belgium shortly after it opened, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

EU leaders made the decision to meet in person with distancing measures, saying video conferences would not be sufficient for diplomatic discussions.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was among those expressing reservations about the decision, telling Danish reporters, “This summit should be held as a video conference. I have on several occasions proposed holding video conferences instead of meeting in person.”

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Frederiksen acknowledged that there were some meetings that would benefit from being held in person, but said they should be weighed on a case-by-case basis.

“There are some discussions where one needs to be brought a little closer to each other,” she said, according to the AP. “And then there are other meetings where you can do it as a video conference.”

Leaders have so far worn masks and physically distanced from one another in the Brussels meeting room, according to the EU. However, the European Parliament has already announced its next plenary session next week will be held through video conference.

Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in EU members in recent weeks after a period of decline. Earlier this week, EU representatives agreed on new travel guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. EU nations will submit all coronavirus data to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which will publish a weekly map illustrating the severity of regional outbreaks, according to France 24.

“This agreement avoids border closures and favors the least penalizing health control measures, such as testing,” said Clement Beaune, head of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. “Last but not least, essential movements, especially those of frontier workers, will be secured.”