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

Covid-19 Daily Report 26/03 - 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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Tour operators hold on to their vouchers

Several sources cover the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on travel. L'Echo mentions that Belgian travel agencies intend to comply with the Economic Affairs Minister's decision to compensate travellers for cancelled trips with vouchers in the next 12 months. Commissioner Reynders recalls that travellers have the right to reimbursement when trips are cancelled, and that the corona crisis changes nothing. Consumers have a free choice between a voucher and reimbursement. The tourist sector claims that these are exceptional circumstances, and as long as the Belgian law applies, they will comply with it. Lesoir.be writes that following Mr Reynders' reminder, consumer protection organisation Test-Achats calls on the Belgian government to adopt milder measures for travellers whose trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus. The organisation was ignored by Economic Affairs Minister Muylle and wrote a letter to Prime Minister Wilmès. Limiting compensation to vouchers only is a violation of the European directive and entirely illegal.

Opinion: The coronavirus is a bad thing for the climate

In De Morgen, Bart Eeckhout's editorial piece deals with the impact of corona on the climate. The planet seems to be breathing again now that human activity has significantly decreased. The European Environment Agency confirms that the lower emissions of harmful gases have a positive effect. However, one can easily surmise that corona will be bad for climate since all levels of powers would announce measures to boost the economy and save the welfare of millions of people. History teaches us that one uses old (industrial) recipes under challenging times. One should be more worried than ever about the climate.

Research aspects of corona

Le Soir reports on the efforts made by the pharmaceutical sector in the fight against the coronavirus. Although the most efficient way to beat the virus is to avoid human contact, many pioneering biotech laboratories throughout the world are working on about thirty projects, seeking a vaccine. Chancellor Merkel and President von der Leyen earmarked €80 million for the research run by Stuttgart-based CureVac. Ms von der Leyen: "In this health crisis, it is vital that we support researchers and advanced tech industries." Pasteur Institute's Erik Orsenna regrets that there is no such thing as an Airbus of Science: a large-scale programme to make Europe a major player in the medical and pharmaceutical sector.

Schengen closes its borders too

De Morgen compares the closing of Schengen Area borders to the building of the Berlin wall, as all of a sudden, citizens are no longer able to leave the country. While the Schengen agreement allows for temporary borders due to exceptional circumstances like the coronavirus, some fear that this temporary situation may reinforce nationalist tendencies, as migration and now health concerns put pressure on free travel. Still, the virus shows that borders sometimes have little use, as it travelled across Europe without a problem. According to MEP Kati Piri (S&D), this shows that European coordination is necessary. On a related note, La Libre Belgique adds that thousands of Belgian travellers were caught by surprise and are now trying to get back home. Only 25 airlines still fly to Brussels. Repatriation flights are being organised, but this takes time. The EU is trying to coordinate member states' operations, but nationalist tendencies are reinforced by the crisis. Travellers who face closed borders are advised to stay put.

Institutional aspects of corona: The EU in the post-virus era

Several articles are dedicated to the future of the EU after corona. La Libre Belgique recounts how the UE reacted to the coronavirus. Some people criticised the European Commission for acting too late, but it did act, and Executive Vice-President Vestager has approved state aid measures. Several member states sent a joint letter to President Michel proposing common action. The real test of the EU's resistance, endurance and ambition is still to come. If the lessons learned from this crisis are as big as the challenge itself, the European construction could be given an unprecedented impetus.

La Libre Belgique's Olivier Le Bussy writes that as always when a crisis erupts, the EU member states reacted in diverse manners. The Commission was slow to take up its coordination role. The arrival of medical supplies, skillfully staged by China, purportedly shows that European solidarity is a myth and that the EU failed again. However, the EU, including the Commission and the ECB, is active on all fronts. It is slow but learns from past experiences. It now needs to prove that it is efficient. Europe must not disappoint.

Knack interviews Professor Fons Van Dyck, who says: "The Commission decided last week to close its external borders while the member states were already closing their internal borders. Painful. How can one lag so much behind?" He wonders whether a strong leader will pop up in the EU to repair it. That person could be a woman: "It is no coincidence that females lead both Belgium and the Commission. Women have a more holistic approach and are more open to dialogue than men." Knack interviews historian Walter Scheidel, who believes that corona may well slow down European integration. The EU project or the common currency could come under severe pressure, and the EU could lose some prestige.

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