Covid-19 Daily Report / 01/01/2017 / Auxipress

Covid-19 Daily Report 23/03 - Media update on the crisis

In this daily report, Auxipress gathers the key facts and figures of the Coronavirus crisis in the Belgian news.The following report is based on the analysis of the media agendas to evaluate the media visibility of the coronavirus. This methodology is based on the monitoring of almost 90 sources of printed and online press.

Number of articles over time

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Evolution of the main media issues related to the Coronavirus/Covid-19 crisis

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Media agenda

Media agenda: overview of the themes present in the total daily media context. i.e. the themes are not specifically linked to the coronavirus.

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Belgian budget severely deteriorating and going to the dogs

Multiple sources report on the Belgian budget. De Tijd notes that as the Wilmès-government is pulling out all the stops to mitigate the consequences of the corona crisis, the national budgetary deficit is likely to reach unseen heights. One speaks of a possible deficit of €23 billion for 2020 alone. That corresponds to almost 5% of the country's GDP. President von der Leyen already said the European Commission would turn a blind eye to exaggerated deficits this year. Most of the measures causing the giant deficit are corona-related, not structural. Het Laatste Nieuws' Noël Slangen says that the coronavirus can only be tackled if the government spends a lot of money, as much as the system can take before the additional money loses its value. In this phase, the solidarity in the euro area will be put to the test. The hardest part comes afterwards when governments will need to find the money needed to tackle the crisis via new incomes and cutbacks. We will then see the difference between tackling a crisis when starting with a budget deficit of €13 billion, such as Belgium, or with a budgetary surplus of €5 billion, such as the Netherlands.

Online video platforms to reduce quality during corona crisis

Several sources report on lower video quality on the Internet to avoid overheating. L'Echo reports that Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube all announced a degradation of their video feeds’ quality in order to create extra room on the Internet in times of crisis. This is a preventive measure as the networks have not yet shown any sign of weakness. Commissioner Breton's call was heard by the main streaming services. Netflix speaks of a traffic reduction of about 25% thanks to the measure. Lesoir.be adds that Mr Breton welcomes Google's decision aiming to keep a good-working internet during the corona crisis. According to L’Avenir, the streaming platform Disney+ will not be launched in France on Tuesday, but on 7 April. The postponement was requested by the French government, in order to preserve the broadband availability for teleworking during the corona crisis. In other European countries where the service will be launched on Tuesday, measures will be taken to reduce the global broadband usage by 25%. This way, the Disney Group is complying with Mr Breton’s request to support the joint effort to keep the infrastructure working. According to Lalibre.be, Facebook also responded positively to Mr Breton's request to reduce broadband usage in Europe. The latter had asked the large digital platforms to continue to "cooperate with telecom operators to adjust the volume of video streaming by proposing a temporary standard definition rather than high definition, taking into consideration the most critical working hours."

Europe repeating old mistakes: The visible hand of the state

Several sources comment on the European response, or the lack thereof, to the corona crisis. In De Tijd, Rik Van Cauwelaert comments on the role of the state in times of crisis. He argues that the state must take over the role of the employers to avoid the recession turning into a depression. Mr Van Cauwelaert regrets that President Michel gave a fully uninformative message and that President von der Leyen limited herself to platitudes. Europe is repeating old mistakes. Meanwhile, President Macron told the truth we are all facing. Mr Van Cauwelaert recalls that the current populist wave is mostly the result of the approach to the banking crisis, during which the real culprits were never called to order. In De Morgen, Geert Mak opines that the coronavirus is exposing a shocking lack of coordination in the EU, except for economic and financial measures. A health crisis like this is able to reshuffle the geopolitical situation. In Hungary, President Orbán placed some companies under a military regime. While China is handling its crisis and generously helping out other countries, the US is only worried about itself and crumbling into chaos. The US will face the biggest carnage of this virus. The crisis will also make or break Presidents von der Leyen and Michel. In L'Avenir, a reader laments that the chaotic responses of member states have reached a new ridiculous low, as Europe cannot possibly respond appropriately this way. Unfortunately, this level of ridiculousness is costing lives.

Russian disinformation about corona

Several sources talk about hackers and disinformation in corona times. De Tijd reports on cybercrime in corona times. Hackers understood very quickly that they could take advantage of corona to step up their illegal activities. It is crucial that citizens report illicit online activities to their administration. Fake shops and fake news are now all over the place. Fake news is not only spread by people who are looking for money. The European Union's diplomatic services announced last week that Russia is misusing the crisis to disseminate false information aimed to create panic and instability. It regards corona-related stories explaining that the virus was made by the Americans as a biological weapon. Le Soir writes that fake news about the coronavirus is potentially lethal. Rumours about fake remedies are being spread on an unprecedented scale via digital platforms. A large part of the disinformation about the virus comes from Russia, China and Iran. According to the American Global Engagement Center, these campaigns were set up to destabilise the West and prevent a coordinated response from the EU. All major platforms are taking measures to suppress the fake news, but encrypted ones, like WhatsApp, remain under the radar.

Germany: Manufacturers of respiratory devices are short of breath

Lesoir.be and Le Soir report on German manufacturers of respiratory devices that cannot keep up with the demand during the corona crisis. There are only a few manufacturers of such apparatus worldwide. Commissioner Lenarčič explains that most countries were taken aback by the coronavirus: "The equipment shortages are pressing." These situations sometimes mean that medical staff has to choose who lives and who dies.

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