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Coronavirus is a ‘common invisible enemy’ and coordinated efforts are needed, NATO’s chief says

The ongoing health crisis is a “common invisible enemy” and a synchronized response is needed, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNBC on Wednesday.

Since it was first detected in China towards the end of last year, the coronavirus has infected close to 880,000 people and killed at least 43,500, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It has overwhelmed health systems, sent countries into lockdown and prompted monetary and fiscal measures from authorities.

“This is a common invisible enemy and therefore, we need common and coordinated efforts by NATO allies,” Stoltenberg told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.

He said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) main task was to ensure terrorist organizations and other adversaries were not taking advantage of the pandemic, but it also had a role to play in supporting civilian efforts to tackle the spread of the disease.

“That’s exactly what we do,” he said, noting that military forces had been involved in controlling border crossings and setting up field hospital

The crisis ‘affects us all’

The situation is different to others faced in the past because it affects everyone, Stoltenberg added.

“Very often, when we face a crisis, it’s a crisis which is only affecting one or two, or a limited number of nations, and then the other nations can provide support,” he said.

“Nations are now also focused on their own needs because this is a crisis which affects us all,” he added, explaining that NATO was calling on allies to help each other out.

He said “quite a few” countries had spare capacity and were extending aid to others. German hospitals, for instance, have offered treatment to Italian coronavirus patients, according to a Reuters report.

Stoltenberg did not address conflict among European states and between the U.S. and Europe that could stand in the way of cooperation between allies.

NATO foreign ministers, who are holding a teleconference meeting from April 2 to 3, will discuss how to “step up and speed up our efforts,” he said.

“We can see what more we can do because this will last. This will take time before we are able to call off all the measures needed in the fight against the crisis.”

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