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Italy slams EU lack of unity as bloc offers apology over virus

Global coronavirus cases reached 1, 015,709 on Friday, along with 53,069 deaths, according to data collated by John Hopkins University.

The following is the latest on how the epidemic has been affecting Europe over the past 24 hours.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday extended his feud about coronavirus money with EU chief Commission Ursula von der Leyen in the pages of a Roman newspaper.

Conte wrote a letter to Italy’s La Repubblica in response to an apology that von der Leyen had published in the same paper on Thursday.

“I am sorry,” von der Leyen had told Italians. “The EU is with you now.”

Conte sounded unimpressed in his letter.

“Dear Ursula,” he wrote. “I hear ideas (from you) not worthy of Europe.”

He told her it was time for the EU “to show more ambition, more unity and more courage”.

At issue is billions of euros that Italy wants from the European Union to help fight the novel coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 14,000 people in Italy and shattered the country’s economy.

Conte wants the EU to start issuing lots of joint debt bonds — dubbed “coronabonds”— that could let countries such as Italy address the crisis more cheaply.

There has been widespread dismay in Italy over Europe’s response to the pandemic, starting with an initial failure to send medical aid, followed by a refusal by northern countries to endorse joint bonds to mitigate the cost of recovery.

The far-right League party has jumped on the discontent to call into question Italy’s continued membership of the 27-nation bloc, while even staunch pro-Europeans have expressed consternation at the lack of empathy and support by the EU.

EU economy took record hit in March

Business activity in the 19-nation eurozone suffered a record fall in March and hit an historic low, according to the PMI index published on Friday by analysts IHS Markit.

The IHS purchasing managers index for the month was 29.7 — down from Markit’s first estimate for March of 31.4 and well below the level in February of 51.6 points, before the coronavirus epidemic crippled the European economy.


In hard-hit Spain, the death toll rose to more than 10,000 on Thursday after a record 950 people died overnight, but health officials were encouraged by a slowdown in daily increases in infections and deaths.

In hard-hit Spain, the death toll rose to more than 10,000 on Thursday after a record 950 people died overnight, but health officials were encouraged by a slowdown in daily increases in infections and deaths.

The total number infected people also reached 112,065 on Friday.


Germany has recorded 84,794 confirmed cases but has witnessed just 1,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

 The low mortality rate in Germany, at just over 1 percent, is far below its neighboring European countries.


The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data.

The number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 also reached 59,929 on Friday.


Britain’s health minister promised a tenfold increase in the number of daily tests, as a poll said more than a half of Britons think the government was too slow to order a lockdown.

The number of UK hospital deaths rose to 2,921 as a further 569 patients who tested positive for coronavirus lost their lives.


In Russia, President Vladimir Putin prolonged until April 30 a paid non-working period across the country, which has reported 3,548 cases and 30 deaths.

Russian army to send coronavirus help to Serbia

Russia will send 11 military planes carrying medical equipment to Serbia to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Friday.

Russia, which has so far recorded more than 3,500 cases of the virus, has already sent similar shipments to Italy and the United States.

ADB: Global cost of coronavirus could top $4 trillion

The coronavirus pandemic could cost the global economy $4.1 trillion as it ravages United States, Europe and other major economies, the Asian Development Bank warned on Friday.

The estimated impact is equivalent to nearly five percent of worldwide output based on a range of scenarios, but the lender said losses from “the worst pandemic in a century” could be higher.

“The estimated impact could be an underestimate, as additional channels such as…possible social and financial crises, and long-term effects on health care and education are excluded from the analysis,” the ADB said.

The Manila-based bank said a shorter containment period could pare the losses to $2 trillion.

The crisis has sent equity markets spinning as traders fret over the long-term impact on the world economy, though governments and central banks have stepped in to ease the pain, pledging more than $5 trillion in stimulus and easing monetary policy.

(Source: Agencies)

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