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A worker prepares a Prada store for reopening in Milan, Italy, on May 18, 2020.

Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

The European Commission decided on Wednesday to classify the new coronavirus as a mid-level threat to workers, a move that allows employers in the European Union to apply less stringent safety measures in the workplace than if the virus was deemed a high risk.

The decision may have wide economic and health implications as it could have an impact on companies’ costs in fully restarting business activity and workers’ safety.

Under EU rules, the coronavirus has been classified as a Level 3 hazard in a four-level risk list in which Level 4 is the highest.

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Under EU rules, a Level 3 virus “can cause severe human disease and present a serious hazard to workers; it may present a risk of spreading to the community, but there is usually effective prophylaxis or treatment available.”

Level 4 biological agents are instead those that pose a “high risk” of infection and for which there is no prophylaxis or treatment available.

The European Commission said the decision was taken after consultation with scientists and with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

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