Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Analysis

Italy and Spain: worst - or just first?

  • Italy, which expects to reach the peak of the outbreak within a few days, has registered over 10,779 deaths, followed by Spain (7,340) (Photo: Hospital Clínic)

Italy and Spain, the most-affected countries in the EU, have tightened their response to the coronavirus outbreak as the pair together now account for more than half of the world's coronavirus death toll.

As the number of fatalities from coronavirus in Italy increased again on Monday (30 March), the nationwide lockdown due to expire on Friday (3 March) will likely soon be officially extended until 18 April, according to Italian media.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The measures that were due to expire on April 3 inevitably will be extended," the Italian regional affairs minister, Francesco Boccia, told Sky TG24 television.

"I think that it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to talk of re-opening [schools and production sites]," Boccia added.

Similarly, Spain announced the previous weekend (21-22 March) a near-total lockdown in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a televised address, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez announced the halt of all non-essential business activities, as well as a prohibition of layoffs, under the state of emergency.

However, the head of the centre-right People's Party (PP), Pablo Casado, on Monday accused Sánchez of "hiding information" and threatened to vote against the last two decrees laws to fight the coronavirus outbreak and its economic effects.

"We cannot continue rowing in the same direction as the government if they lead us to the precipice," he said during an online press conference, adding that these new initiatives could destroy "the entire productive system" of the country which is already "very affected."

In fact, many companies in Spain have already temporarily suspended their workers' jobs - affecting over 500,000 employees.

Additionally, it is estimated that the economy will lose around €49bn this month alone due to the coronavirus' response.

'Only a handful'

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Spain had seen how the virus hit other countries such as China, then Iran and Italy.

Yet the response of the new Spanish coalition government has been criticised for being late and even clumsy.

During Italy's initial lockdown, Spain was still operating with 'business as usual'.

This means hugging, kissing and mass gatherings - including stadiums full of supporters and mass demonstrations to mark International Women's Day (8 March) all across the country.

"Spain will only have a handful of cases," said the head of Spain's health emergency centre, Fernando Simón when Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte extended the lockdown to his whole country on 9 March.

However, some 85,195 cases of coronavirus were recorded in Spain as of Monday (30 March) - with 12,298 identified among health workers.

Meanwhile, Italy, which expects to reach the peak of the outbreak in the next few days, has registered over 10,779 deaths, followed by Spain (7,340), China (3,304) and Iran (2,757).

Turning point

Spain has defended the government's response to the crisis, claiming that its actions have been based on scientific advice.

However, while Conte's cabinet has been supported since the beginning of the crisis by a special scientific committee on the coronavirus, Sanchez only decided to create a similar such advisory body a week after the lockdown was in place (21 March).

As a result, some have alleged that the risks of the coronavirus crisis might have been underestimated.

When Sánchez announced the state of emergency and nationwide lockdown on 13 March, it took more than 24 hours to enter into force - by which time many people from Madrid and other major cities travelled to remoter parts of the country to be under quarantine in their second residences.

Yet, the lockdown that has been in place since 14 March has been efficiently enforced by law enforcement - which registered over 30,000 reports and 350 arrests.

Meanwhile, Spain and Italy have also called for a new Marshall Plan to overcome the negative impact of coronavirus on the economy - referring back to the US-financed program after the Second World War to rebuild western Europe.

Coronavirus crisis deepens, but solidarity blooms

Despite the horrific impact of the coronavirus on the EU's economy and daily life of its citizens, solidarity is spreading across communities in all member states - with offline and online initiatives.

Analysis

How much will coronavirus hurt European democracy?

Crises, whether terrorism, migration or pandemics, do not mean that "everything goes," experts warn over the measures EU states introduced to fight the coronavirus. Health and democracy should not be seen as a binary choice.

Spain takes 'giant step' on guaranteed minimum income

The minimum income guarantee was a condition included in the coalition agreement between the Socialists and the leftist group Unidas Podemos, after the indecisive results of the November national elections.

Opinion

Cities & regions need support to tackle Covid-19

As president of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, I have witnessed firsthand the efforts and sacrifices of our doctors, nurses, police officers, waste collectors, civil servants, volunteers and countless others.

Opinion

The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

The EU's own analysis has made it clear this is economic self-sabotage, and it's politically foolish three months from European elections where the far-right are predicted to increase support, writes the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

Opinion

Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?

Europeans deserve a digital euro that transcends the narrow interests of the banking lobby and embodies the promise of a fairer and more competitive monetary and financial landscape.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us