Covid-19 Daily Report / 12/05/2020 / Auxipress

Covid-19 Weekly Report 12/05 - Media update on the crisis

In this weekly 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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Belgium still exports face masks to countries outside of the EU

Several sources write that despite the shortage of mouth masks in Belgium, the country has granted 284 licenses to export masks, goggles and other protective medical equipment to countries outside of the EU since 15 March. De Tijd states that in the EU, a ban on exporting personal medical protective gear has been in effect since the latter date. FPS Economy's Chantal De Pauw comments that for every application, and initial analysis is carried out based on provisions in the European regulations: "When in doubt, advice is sought from the competent services." The European Commission has set up a clearinghouse for personal protective gear, among others, to coordinate efforts, match supply and demand, and facilitate the proper functioning of the internal market. When there is doubt about shortages of certain goods in the EU, the FPS will consult the clearinghouse. The number of loads of protective gear exported from Belgium to EU member states is unknown to the FPS as it does not require licenses. Unlike Germany, Belgium never introduced a ban on exporting medical equipment, such as face masks, to other EU members. De Standaard notes that the Chamber of Representatives has many questions about the export of protective material in times of scarcity, even if it was done following the European rules. Minister Nathalie Muylle references Doctors Without Borders, among others, which operates from Brussels. The European Commission is informed about every export license, and the government never received a comment. Both N-VA and PS emphasise that they need more clarification. MP Kathleen Depoorter comments: "Which shipments were they, how many, and where did they go?" VTM news interviews Minister Muylle. She explains that three types of export licences were assigned in Belgium: humanitarian export, Belgian companies exporting to locations abroad, and a commercial company exporting to the Middle East. 

20,000 seasonal workers are allowed to come in

Het Laatste Nieuws writes that the Boerenbond has been allowed to have 20,000 seasonal workers from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria enter the country in May, to work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors. As of today, those people are allowed to travel to Belgium again. A European recommendation on the matter states that work in those sectors is considered a crucial activity. The Boerenbond adds that moves within the EU to work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors must be considered essential movements.

The EU is doing better than you think

A couple of sources criticise the EU. In De Standaard, Caroline De Gruyter notes that despite all the criticism, the EU is dealing with the corona crisis quite well. The ECB immediately used a financial bazooka, and the European Commission readied economic safety nets and subsidies. Meanwhile, the member states are creating a hodge-podge of national bans and obligations to manage public health. While the media focus on the conflicts between heads of state, European scientists are sharing experiences and test results, and hospitals are helping each other out with patients. Digitisation is accelerating and the call for taxing Internet giants, a green economy and more public transportation is growing louder. La Libre Belgique interviews Professor Vincent Dujardin in light of the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. He comments on the coronavirus crisis and the challenges the EU faces. He notes the importance of "solidarity in facts", to quote Mr Schuman, in a common single market. The EU is about to face a solidarity "stress test". Should the EU not be strengthened by the current crisis, it will come out of this very weakened. Trends interviews Minister Alexander De Croo, who is of the opinion that the corona crisis has uncovered the failings of the EU. He notes that Europe's homogeneity is still in question. He further believes that Europe should create a recovery plan. Trends interviews Ackermans & van Haaren's Luc Bertrand who notes that some things must be discussed: "We must think more strategically at the European level about what we should produce and keep in Europe." He also notes that while the Chinese can do almost anything in Europe, it is very hard for Europeans to do business in China: "I do not understand that the European Commission is not pushing harder for a level playing field."

"Tracking: Beware of the undesired use of our data"

Lesoir.be publishes an open letter by a group of experts in the field of computer science and law. They highlight the role played by recent technology in the fight against the coronavirus. However, they fear a form of overexploitation of digital and manual tracking. They regret the lack of democratic debate on the topic. They also lament that despite Belgium having high-skilled legal experts who know heaps about privacy, the decisions seem to be taken in a cavalier fashion. Some of those Belgian experts are advisers to the European Commission.

Storm forecast for Chinese diplomacy

Several news outlets discuss China's role in the world. Le Soir argues that by highlighting its own efficiency and minimising its responsibilities, China fostered the self-fulfilling prophecy of the “united front against China.” Relations with the US, the EU and Australia are under pressure, and so is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Resistance against its influence in Africa is growing as well. This is slowing down China’s economic expansion, which could in turn feed internal resistance against the growing authoritarianism. China’s lack of commitment during the European Commission’s fundraiser for Covid-19 vaccine research, its refusal to cooperate with the WHO’s investigation, and tensions with Taiwan are not helping either. According to La Libre Belgique, Belgian State Security services have warned several times for Chinese economic espionage in the military, medical and scientific domains.

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