By Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak
ANKARA (AA) - The EU on Wednesday announced it was mobilizing €100 million ($117 million) for rapid and effective novel coronavirus testing across the continent amid the "very alarming" rise in infections.
"To directly purchase rapid antigen tests and deliver them to Member States, the Commission is mobilising €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument," said a European Commission statement.
The commission introduced other new measures as well, including an extension of the temporary suspension of customs duties and value-added tax on the import of medical equipment from non-EU countries.
It also proposed that hospitals and medical practitioners not pay value-added tax on vaccines and testing kits used in the fight against the coronavirus.
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc had to step up its response to the virus, announcing additional measures ahead of the EU leaders meeting about the COVID-19 situation on Thursday.
"Today we are launching additional measures in our fight against the virus; from increasing access to fast testing, and preparing vaccination campaigns to facilitating safe travel when necessary," she said.
She also called for member states to work in close coordination and to link their COVID-19 tracing apps to the European Gateway which is slated to go live in November, for greater data sharing with the bloc's main infectious disease agency, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
"No Member State will emerge safely from this pandemic until everyone does," she said.
"The coronavirus is testing us all. But by working together, coordinating our action and taking responsibility at all levels, we can get control over it, protect everyone's health and gradually return our society and economy to normal," she added.
"The rise in COVID-19 infection rates across Europe is very alarming," also said Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
"Decisive immediate action is needed for Europe to protect lives and livelihoods, to alleviate the pressure on healthcare systems, and to control the spread of the virus,” she added.