Spain, Italy demand help over coronabonds

Top News | AGENCIES 30 Mar 2020

Spain and Italy demanded more European help to fight still-surging coronavirus infections as the confirmed global deaths surpassed 30,000.

"Europe must demonstrate that it is able to respond to this historic call," Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said. "I will fight until the last drop of sweat, until the last gram of energy, to obtain a strong, vigorous, cohesive European response."

Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.

Spain and Italy alone account for more than half of the world's death toll and are still seeing over 800 deaths each day.

Spain's government moved to tighten its lockdown and ban all nonessential work yesterday as it hit another daily record of 838 dead. The country's overall official toll is more than 6,500.

Experts said, however, that virus toll numbers across the world are severely underrepresented due to limited testing and political decisions about which bodies to count. Unlike the United States, France and Italy do not count deaths that take place in nursing homes or in homes among their virus numbers - even though these areas are known to be coronavirus incubators.

"It is the most difficult moment for the European Union since its foundation and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge," Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. Spain, Italy, France, and six other EU members have asked the union to share the burden of European debt, dubbed coronabonds, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from other members, led by Germany and the Netherlands.

European countries have also resisted sharing masks with their neighbors for fear that they, too, will need them in mass quantities soon. Many countries have turned to China to fly in masks and other protective medical equipment.

Worldwide infections surpassed the 660,000 mark, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. More than 142,000 people have recovered. The United States leads the world with more than 120,000 cases but five other countries have more deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Elsewhere, Singapore reported 42 new cases yesterday, taking total infections to 844. The city-state suffered its third coronavirus-related death earlier in the day.

Thomas Schaefer, the finance minister of Germany's Hesse state, committed suicide apparently after becoming "deeply worried" over how to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus, state premier Volker Bouffier said. Schaefer, 54, was found dead near a railway track on Saturday.

Egypt shut its beaches as cases in the Mideast surpassed 50,000. Poland is considering delaying its May 10 presidential election and Russia ordered borders to close today. French former Minister Patrick Devedjia, 75, died - France's first death of a senior official.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has the virus himself, warned "things will get worse before they get better."

As other nations tightened controls, China eased restrictions. Airline flights from Hubei province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak resumed yesterday after subway and bus service resumed on Saturday in the province's capital of Wuhan.

Health officials around the world have been urging people to keep a social distance of two meters from others to slow the spread of the virus but a new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said it might not be enough.

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