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18th Jan 2021

Coronavirus

EU depicts Africa's health system as a threat

  • "Africa is of particular concern to us," says Borrell (c) (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The European Union is casting Africa's health system as a potential threat to Europe should the pandemic ever spread to the southern continent.

"We have to help Africa in our own interest because if the pandemic spreads there, it will could [come] back to Europe," said Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief.

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Speaking to reporters via videoconference on Friday (4 March), Borrell said Africa is now an even greater concern to the EU.

"Their problems will also be our problems," he said.

"If we don't solve the problem in Africa, it will not be solved in Europe," he added, noting that Europe has 37 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants compared to Africa's one per 10,000 inhabitants.

Borrell did not go into detail how.

But he made the comparison without highlighting the population size and median age differences in Africa and the European Union, which are important factors in the pandemic.

Africa has over 1.2bn people with a median age of less than 20. The EU's population is over 500m with a median age of around 43.

He also did not mention that European nationals were among the first to bring the virus to Africa, with some vacationing Europeans refusing to self-quarantine.

Visitors mainly from Italy, France, Germany and Spain brought the virus to the African region, described as "sporadic importations" by the United Nation's World Health Organisation.

Available figures as of writing show around 6,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Africa, compared to some 555,000 in the EU including the UK, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.

Borrell's comments were part of a broader discussion held, also on Friday, among European foreign ministers.

Together they supported efforts by the United Nation secretary general to coordinate a world-wide response to the pandemic and calls for immediate global ceasefires in counties like Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

Borrell said sanctions imposed on some countries should also be relaxed to allow in much needed medical supplies to fight the virus.

The European Commission, he noted, is bringing forward a paper on how to soften sanctions. European development ministers are set to discuss it on 8 April.

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