EU's Ursula von der Leyen in quarantine after staffer tests positive for coronavirus

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a hasty exit from a Brussels summit of EU leaders on Thursday after one of her close staffers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The EU chief took the action as a precautionary measure, even though she tested negative for the virus.

"I have just been informed that a member of my front office has tested positive to COVID-19 this morning," she tweeted. "I myself have tested negative. However as a precaution I am immediately leaving the European Council to go into self-isolation."

The meeting of the 27 leaders across the bloc, plus numerous top EU officials, was in full flow when the Commission president left.

Brexit and climate change were two of the key topics for discussion at the summit in the Belgian capital, as well as the EU's next steps on tackling the virus sweeping the continent.

Coronavirus red zones

Meanwhile, in its latest update on Thursday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that more than 4.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported across the bloc's 27 member states, plus Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, while more than 198,000 people have died from the virus.

As a result, several nations are tightening measures and the EU themselves have produced a new map issued by the bloc's disease control agency aimed at guiding decisions on travel restrictions.

More than half of the countries on the map, 17 out of 31, were labelled red, which was issued after EU member states decided on Tuesday to coordinate their approach to travel restrictions.

Commission President Von der Leyen later retweeted the map after going into isolation.

For countries that are red and orange, EU states are free to decide what restrictive travel measures, if any, they wish to implement.

Five countries — Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland — did not receive a rating, with the agency citing a lack of data.

jsi/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)