Coronavirus: EU leaders start third day of recovery talks


Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron wear masks at an EU summit in BrusselsImage copyright
Reuters

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This is the first time EU leaders have met face-to-face in months

EU leaders have gathered for a third day of discussions over a massive post-coronavirus economic recovery plan.

Some member states believe the proposed €750bn ($857bn; £680bn) package is too large and should come as loans, rather than grants.

The unplanned third day of talks comes after a record one-day rise in new infections worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that new cases rose by almost 260,000 in 24 hours.

Officials said this was the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began, and the first time the number of new daily infections has surpassed a quarter of a million. The previous record rise in new confirmed cases was recorded by the WHO just one day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus passed 14 million on Saturday, with over 600,000 recorded deaths, according to the tally kept by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

How are the EU talks going?

EU leaders first met on Friday in Brussels to discuss the bloc’s €1 trillion seven-year budget and the planned stimulus package to help countries recover the pandemic.

It is the first face-to-face meeting between leaders since governments began imposing lockdowns in a bid to stop the spread of the virus in March.

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Media captionGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel bumps elbows with EU Council leader Charles Michel

Member states are split between those hit hardest by the outbreak, and those concerned about the costs of the recovery plan.

Some “frugal” northern nations like the Netherlands and Sweden have balked at the package, arguing it should take the forms of loans not grants.

But nations including Italy and Spain are desperate to revive their shattered economies, and have accused the EU of not doing enough to help countries hit by the pandemic. Italy in particular was one of the earliest European countries to suffer an outbreak and has recorded 35,000 deaths – one of the highest tolls in the world.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Europe was “under the blackmail of the ‘frugals”https://www.bbc.co.uk/” and described negotiations as “heated”.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, however, said he thought they were going in the right direction.

The summit resumes at 12:00 local time (10:00 GMT). European Council President Charles Michel will reportedly hand out new proposals before leaders reconvene.

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Getty Images

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European Council President Charles Michel, left, met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, on the sidelines of the summit

Many European nations have ended lockdown restrictions, but the virus remains a major threat.

Officials are facing localised outbreaks across the continent, with the largest appearing in Spain’s north-eastern region of Catalonia. About four million people in ​​Barcelona, ​​La Noguera and El Segrià have been ordered to stay at home for 15 days.

Among the measures imposed are a ban on public or private meetings of more than 10 people; a ban on visits to nursing homes; and the closure of gyms and nightclubs.

EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn tweeted a “solemn reminder” on Saturday that the pandemic is “not over”.

“High time to reach an agreement which allows us to provide the urgently needed support for our citizens and economies,” he wrote.

How is the virus spreading elsewhere in the world?

WHO officials said the largest increases in cases on Saturday were in Brazil, India, South Africa and the US.

Florida is currently the epicentre of the US epidemic. The state recorded more than 10,000 new infections and 90 more deaths on Saturday, bringing its total number of cases to more than 337,000 and its death toll to more than 5,000.

In Brazil, where the coronavirus and measures to contain it have been highly politicised, cases continue to surge – although the WHO announced earlier this week that infections were no longer increasing exponentially.

Scientists have also warned that India could still be months away from the peak of its outbreak – despite already having the third-highest number of confirmed cases. Hospitals in the worst-hit cities, including Mumbai and Bangalore, have been overwhelmed with patients.

India recorded another 34,884 infections in a 24-hour period on Saturday, and another 671 deaths linked to coronavirus.

And South Africa, which saw one of the largest single-day rises in cases, has the highest number of confirmed infections on the African continent.





BBC News