COVID-19: EU agreement on economic recovery

(Brussels) At the end of a marathon summit, European leaders reached an agreement on Tuesday on a massive stimulus plan, in the face of the unprecedented recession which threatens the Old Continent, caused by the coronavirus pandemic which continues its devastation on the American continent.

Anne-Laure MONDESERT, with Thibauld MALTERRE in Paris and AFP offices around the world

France Media Agency

Sign that the situation is only getting worse in the United States, the most bereaved country in the world with 130 750 death, Donald Trump must resume his almost daily press conferences on the epidemic on Tuesday.

At dawn, after more than four days and as many nights of sometimes tense discussions, the heads of state and government of the 27 countries of the European Union had finally agreed on the terms of a plan of 750 billion euros intended to help their economy, based for the first time on a common debt.

“Deal! », Tweeted the President of the European Council Charles Michel at 3 am 29 GMT. For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the “response to the biggest crisis of the EU since its creation”. In the evening, French President Emmanuel Macron hailed a “historic day for Europe”, “the most important moment since the creation of the euro”.

Result of intense negotiations, the final agreement downgrades the share of subsidies in the recovery plan, a gesture in the direction of the so-called “frugal” countries (the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria joined by Finland).

The amount of these subsidies was set at 229 billions, against 500 billions initially planned and defended by Berlin and Paris in the name of European solidarity towards countries like Italy and Spain, hardest hit by the virus.

New example of the devastating effects of the plans to fight the pandemic on the economies, in Spain near 14% of bars, hotels and restaurants – either 40 000 establishments have already closed permanently, weighed down by the lack of tourists or office workers, the employers' organization representing the sector said on Tuesday.

The epidemic which, according to the latest AFP count, made at least 604 604 dead and contaminated more than 13 610 130 people around the world, continues to progress.

Florida outbreak

In the United States, more than 60 000 new cases of contamination in the space of 21 hours were recorded for the seventh consecutive day.

The situation is particularly worrying in southern states such as California, Florida and Texas. In Florida, Monday only 17% of beds available in intensive care units.

Barely in the polls, almost a hundred days before the presidential election and criticized for his management of the epidemic, Donald Trump is trying to reverse the trend by relaunching his regular press conferences on the health crisis.

“Huge progress is being made on vaccines and therapies! ! ! », Tweeted Tuesday the President of the United States, to set the tone of his intervention envisaged to 14 h (21 h GMT).

The picture is also still gloomy in South America, especially in Brazil, the second most affected country in the world, where the 80 000 dead was crossed on Monday. President Jair Bolsonaro has contracted the virus, as have several members of his government, and is in quarantine.

The health authorities in Bolivia report a “very rapid escalation” of the virus, especially in La Paz. In the capital, patients are dying at their homes or at the doors of hospitals which are saturated, according to testimonies published on social networks.

Record in Iran

The health situation in Africa – so far the second least bereaved continent with more than 14 000 dead – is also a cause for concern.

In the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, the main hospitals are overwhelmed by the influx of patients with COVID – 17. The beds are running out.

At Andohotapenaka Hospital, “we only receive serious cases,” its director, Nasolotsiry Raveloson, told AFP on Tuesday. “There are only four places left” out of a total of 50, a he specified.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), South Africa, which exceeded Sunday the 2020 deaths, “risk to be a precursor of what will happen in the rest of Africa ”.

In the Middle East, Iran announced on Tuesday that it had recorded 229 deaths linked to novel coronavirus in 21 hours, a record figure since the epidemic began in mid-February in this country, the most affected in the region.

In this context of a resumption of the epidemic or the appearance of new outbreaks, the issue of the vaccine therefore promises to be just as crucial.

Glimmer of hope

Bringing a ray of hope, the results of two separate clinical trials – one British and one Chinese – were published Monday in the British medical journal The Lancet .

The first, carried out by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca, generated “a strong immune response” in a trial on more than 900 patients, while the second, supported by CanSino Biologics, elicited a strong antibody response in another trial in most of the few 500 participants.

Neither project recorded any serious side effects, but trials on a larger number of participants have yet to take place, before considering their marketing.

By then, several countries are stepping up their sanitary measures, such as Austria, where the wearing of a mask will be compulsory again on Friday in supermarkets, at bank counters and at the post office.