Italy criticizes EU for not responding its call for help, 'only China responded bilaterally'

Italy accused the EU and its member states of not responding to the commission's call for ensuring extra supplies of medical equipment amid the outbreak of the COVID-19, urging to take "quick, concrete and effective" emergency actions "beyond engagement and consultation."

"Today, this means Italy; tomorrow, the need could be elsewhere. Italy has already asked to activate the European Union mechanism of civil protection for the supply of medical equipment for individual protection. But unfortunately not a single EU country responded to the commission's call. Only China responded bilaterally. Certainly this is not a good sign of European solidarity," Italian Ambassador to EU Maurizio Massari said on Politico's website.

"We must ensure, under EU coordination, the supply of the necessary medical equipment and its redistribution among those countries and regions most in need," the ambassador urged.

Italy has been hit hardest by COVID-19 outside China with confirmed cases breaking 10,000 on Tuesday. It toughened the nationwide lockdown measures on Wednesday by ordering bars, restaurants and beauty parlors to close after death toll jump 31 percent, the highest daily increase in deaths in any country since the outbreak began.

Responding to the emergency call from Italy, China agreed to send over two million face masks and some 10,000 lung ventilators, 20,000 protective suits, along with 50,000 test kits to Italy under contracts signed after the phone call between the two foreign ministers on Tuesday.

It also sent a medical expert team to Italy to help fight the epidemic at request from Italy.

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China sends anti-epidemic expert team to Italy to help fight COVID-19

During a two-and-a-half-hour "e-summit" on Monday evening, EU leaders vowed to increase coordination and release funds of up to 25 billion euros but failed to agree on a coordinated fiscal stimulus beyond the use of piecemeal national funds to support their healthcare systems and economies.

EU leaders agreed that up to 70 percent of Europeans could be infected by COVID-19.

Amid criticism of the EU's lack of solidarity with Italy, Austria and Slovenia declared Tuesday that they would close their borders to Italy while Germany and France are among the EU countries to have imposed limits on the export of protective medical equipment.

(Cover: A man wearing a face mask walks past the Duomo Cathedral in Milan, Italy, March 4, 2020. /Reuters)