AFP

Health virus NATO,lead March 26 2020 - 8:01 PM

NATO foreign ministers to meet by videoconference ATTENTION - ADDS Stoltenberg consulting allies on coronavirus, details of medical supplies airlift /// Brussels, March 26, 2020 (AFP) - A meeting of NATO foreign ministers scheduled for next week will be held by videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic, the alliance said on Thursday. The April 2 talks "will be held by secure teleconference" for the first time and will be chaired by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. "Precautionary measures are in place at NATO Headquarters to limit the further spread of the COVID-19 virus, including restricted access to visitors, media and non-essential staff," NATO said. These came following the restrictions on movement imposed by the Belgian government since March 18, the alliance added. Stoltenberg has held phone talks with several NATO foreign ministers in recent days to discuss efforts to fight coronavirus, which has hit allied countries Italy and Spain particularly hard. Some delegations had been concerned about the prospect of an in-person ministerial meeting, given the lockdowns and social distancing rules imposed worldwide. The meeting will focus on the economic impact of the pandemic on allied defence budgets and the latest developments for NATO's missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Several NATO countries have made use of air transport schemes overseen by the alliance in recent days to fly in medical supplies from Asia. On Thursday, a cargo plane loaded with 45 tonnes of supplies -- including more than 100,000 protective suits -- landed in Bucharest from South Korea. The C-17 Globemaster heavy cargo plane is one of three operated under the Strategic Airlift Capability, managed by NATO. Earlier in the week Slovakia and the Czech Republic received medical shipments from China under another NATO airlift scheme that gives a group of countries access to huge Antonov AN-124 cargo planes. pdw/dc/bmm

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