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.
Media agenda: overview of the themes present in the total daily media context. i.e. the themes are not specifically linked to the coronavirus.
Some sources wonder how Belgium will pay the corona bill. Trends lists six scenarios, each time explaining the pros, cons, and who will end up footing the bill. Professor Gert Peersman says that the government must first make sure that Belgium absorbs the blow, not caring about the increased budgetary deficit or the debt. After that, economic growth will be a priority. Mr Peersman hopes that the other European countries also conduct growth strategies. A coordinated European policy is crucial, not a half-hearted compromise after a long round of tug of war. Both Mr Peersman and Professor Wim Moesen state that we must not repeat the mistakes from the euro crisis. Trends Tendances wonders if Belgium could turn to a European aid mechanism that is currently being discussed. Jean Deboutte of the Belgian Debt Agency is cautious. So far, it looks like Belgium should be fine on its own, with very reasonable interest rates. Whether or not Belgium turns to that mechanism, however, remains a political decision. We also have to look at the conditions offered by said mechanism. He concludes: "If Belgium would obtain cheaper financing via Europe, then why not?"
VTM's news special interviews Prime Minister Wilmès on the corona measures in Belgium. She explains that Belgium will stay in the lockdown until 3 May, but experts are working on an exit strategy. Ms Wilmès notes that the National Security Council (NSC) gave the people perspective without giving them an exit strategy: the do-it-yourself shops and the garden centres are allowed to open again, and one assigned guest can visit a family member who is confined in a care facility. She adds that next Friday, the NSC will meet again to discuss the following steps: "Not because we want to be slow, but because it is a delicate exercise." She further notes that the timeline of the exit strategy cannot be specific as one should always wait to see which impact the measures have on the hospitals. Mr Wilmès also comments on the summer festivals, and she mentions that there has not yet been a decision on the European level concerning the opening of the borders.
The WHO pops up in two articles by two different sources. L'Echo notes that even though there are some encouraging signs regarding the fight against COVID-19 in Europe, the number of people contaminated by the virus has almost doubled over the last days and has reached nearly one million. For this reason, the WHO calls on the European leaders to continue their efforts and to make sure the epidemic is under control before lifting lockdown measures. The institution supports a very progressive approach in that regard. Nevertheless, many member states have already started or are thinking about applying de-confinement measures. In the US, President Trump expressed his wish to reopen several states before 1 May. Regarding the demand for oil, the OPEC expects a more significant decrease than ever before. Every day, Russia gets a higher number of infected people on its territory. The UK is one of the most impacted countries, so, for the moment, the lockdown measures are maintained there. On a related note, De Morgen states that Chancellor Merkel underlined the critical role played by the WHO in the fight against COVID-19 during a videoconference of the G7 members attended by President Trump. The latter thinks the institution failed in its duty and decided to halt funding. The G7 members, which represent the biggest economies in the world, discussed the coronavirus crisis and agreed on debt relief for the poorest countries in the world.
Several sources report that the European Commission will present its recommendations for gradual release from confinement. Le Soir writes that this way, it hopes to avoid the chaos observed at the beginning of the crisis. The text first specifies that it is not a sign that the measures can be relieved, and countries should be ready to reintroduce or readjust measures if necessary: "We must survive with the virus until a vaccine is found." The Commission calls on member states to first have data showing the disease significantly slowed down for a sustained period, have sufficient hospital beds, rebuild medical supplies stock and have large-scale testing capacity. The Commission explains that the general measures must be progressively replaced by more targeted measures. It also evokes generalised face masks. Reopening the EU's external borders should take place in the second phase and take into account the danger of virus' revival. Het Nieuwsblad's Peter Mijlemans comments on the Commission's proposed lockdown relief measures. He believes that the EU is being torn apart by the virus, as there is still nothing that resembles a common approach. While some EU member states have started unlocking, the EU is still working on a directive on how to do it in a united and efficient way. Mr Mijlemans does not believe that Presidents von der Leyen and Michel have made the ship any more manageable and viable. He thinks that an international crisis can only be handled with a global approach, but the world is choosing every man for himself. On a culturally related note, Lesoir.be notes that singer Lady Gaga called on President Macron to get more involved in the fight against the coronavirus. She also thanked Prime Minister Trudeau and President von der Leyen for their actions in the battle against the coronavirus.
A couple of media outlets focus on air pollution in Europe. Le Soir reports that from 13 March to 13 April 2020, the concentrations of NO2 have decreased by almost a half in several big cities like Paris, Madrid and Rome. This observation was made by the European Space Agency (ESA), which compared the data to that of 2019. They present a margin of error of 15%, but the decrease observed can undoubtedly be linked to the lockdown measures imposed across Europe. The last report from the ESA showed that NO2 was responsible for 68,000 premature deaths a year in the EU.
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