Minister for Health Simon Harris has said it is important "we call out and condemn, as a union and as member states, the idea that people would spread misinformation" about Covid-19.

Speaking after a meeting of EU Health Ministers in Brussels, Mr Harris said misinformation "can prevent important public health messages getting out".

Mr Harris and ministers from the 26 other EU states met today to co-ordinate what they are doing in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

They were joined by officials from the World Health Organization, the European Centre for Disease Control and the European Medicines Agency.

Mr Harris also said that he welcomes the European Commission's decision to "significantly increase the research funding into Covid-19".

He said that €47m in funding will be devoted "to finding a vaccine and better diagnostics for the virus".

Mr Harris said the European Commission has decided to embark on a joint-procurement project for personal protective equipment.

He said this will see EU member states jointly procure personal protective equipment and he added that the tenders for this project are due back on Monday.

Officials have said that protective gear is already in short supply in most EU countries, which puts doctors and nurses at risk.

In relation to the situation in Ireland, Mr Harris reiterated that we are in a containment phase.

"We are going to see many, many more cases in Ireland, and we are going to see many more cases in Europe," said Mr Harris.

He said: "There is no room for complacency, nor is there room for panic."

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Europe needs to bring medical production back to Europe, because it relies too much on imports from non-EU countries, officials in France and Germany have said.

Both countries have blocked exports of some protective gear to other EU countries, to avoid risks of shortages in their own territory.

France imports about 40% of drug ingredients from China, a situation that the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called over-reliance on Beijing.

Italy, the EU country hardest hit by the outbreak, has also restricted exports and has formally requested help from other EU states to meet its needs for protective gear.

Lithuania and the Czech Republic have restricted exports, too, an EU official said.

At their last extraordinary meeting on the coronavirus in mid-February, health ministers ordered the European Commission to look at ensuring supplies of protective equipment and medical supplies, in the face of probable disruptions to global supply chains.

World health officials have warned that countries are not taking the coronavirus crisis seriously enough, as outbreaks surged across Europe and in the United States where medical workers sounded warnings over a "disturbing" lack of hospital preparedness.

Global markets tumbled again over concerns about the impact on the economy and as countries took more drastic steps to prevent contagion of a disease that has killed more than 3,300 people and infected nearly 100,000 in about 85 nations.

The epidemic has wreaked havoc on international business, tourism, sports events and schools, with almost 300 million students sent home worldwide.

There are now 13 people in hospital in Ireland with Covid-19 infection after seven new cases were confirmed last night.

Six are located in the east of the country, six in the western part of the country, and one in the south - confirmed at Cork University Hospital last night.

Additional Reporting Reuters