Coronavirus Emergency: In Show of Unity, EU Pledges ‘Whatever It Takes’ to Curb Spread of Covid-19

Written by | Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

In show of unity, European leaders are promising to do “whatever it takes” to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, as Italy reported its biggest single-day death toll since the disease was first detected there last month. The European Union’s 27 leaders met in a videoconference following criticism they had been too slow to deal with the outbreak, which was first reported in China at the end of last year.”We will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that the European economy weathers this storm,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.
Italy, which on Tuesday (10 March) extended its quarantine measures across the whole country, reported 168 more deaths in one single day and more than 10,000 people having been affected by the virus. In a stark contrast, on the same day, China’s President Xi Jinping undertook his first trip to Wuhan where the coronavirus emerged since the outbreak first began. While the city and the surrounding province of Hubei remain sealed off, Xi’s trip has been clearly designed to demonstrate to China and the world that the coronavirus outbreak in the country is under control, as the number of daily infections has slowed significantly.
Meanwhile, in Europe, right-wing populists are using the coronavirus emergency to renew calls to crack down on immigration, even making unsubstantiated claims that migrants from Africa brought the virus to the continent. “The government has underestimated the coronavirus,” said Italy’s Matteo Salvini, one of Europe’s most hard-line voices on immigration and added that “allowing the migrants to land from Africa, where the presence of the virus was confirmed, is irresponsible.” Despite these claims, the World Health Organization (WTO) has warned that trying to restrict border security probably won’t work.
Still, US Vice President Mike Pence this week became the latest leading politician to suggest a connection between the outbreak and Europe’s open borders, pointing to “the nature of the European Union” where “one doesn’t require a passport to move around.” Nevertheless, European leaders are largely unanimous on this account: “I welcome … keeping the borders open and not resorting to what could at this point in time be considered disproportionate and inefficient measures,” Stella Kyriakides, the European commissioner for health and food safety, said in a speech last month.

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