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

Covid-19 Daily Report 24/03 - 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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Proposals to better support businesses

Le Soir reports that the non-food retail sector is worried because of the coronavirus and its consequences. One even expects mass bankruptcies. Dominique Michel, CEO of trade federation COMEOS, says that the federation hopes that the outbreak can be recognised as a case of force majeure. That would allow companies to postpone payments. COMEOS also hopes that the Belgian authorities will give Belgian companies the same weapons as foreign ones, citing the VAT responsibility of big platforms such as Amazon. Mr Michel explains that the Belgian government should implement a European directive in that regard.

The search for a vaccine and a cure

Several media report on the research to find a cure for the coronavirus. De Tijd mentions that Professor Herman Goossens coordinates a study in which potential medicines are tested on 4,000 patients. He is heading COMBACTE, a European network of over 1,000 hospitals and laboratories in 42 countries. It was created to be able to quickly launch pan-European clinical trials. All tested therapies have shown promising results beforehand in labs, animal tests or hospitals. "We have to act now, while we have the patients to do so," Mr Goossens says. He estimates that about €12 million is needed for the tests, an amount that has not yet been reached, but one cannot wait around for the money. Mr Goossens hopes that Europe and member states will support the study. De Standaard adds that the World Health Organization will launch a study to test four medicines to tackle the coronavirus: the malaria drug chloroquine, the ebola inhibitor remdesivir, and the two AIDS inhibitors ritonavir and lopinavir. The European part of the test is financed with European money. L'Echo reports that both Europe and China are testing vaccines on corona patients. The pharmaceutical sector is going the extra mile in times of crisis.

The climate needs more than a virus

More than one article is published about the coronavirus' impact on climate change. De Standaard argues that while the corona crisis pushes down CO2 emissions from aircraft, road transport and industrial installations, it will take long-term investments to achieve a CO2-neutral society. The European Commission indicated that the corona crisis will not jeopardise the Green Deal. However, the Visegrad countries may have a different opinion. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency calls the crisis a historic opportunity to accelerate the energy transition and direct the vast sums of money that are currently being made available towards sustainable energy. The daily specifies that German CO2 emissions this year may be 40% to 45% lower than in 1990, allowing the country to meet its objective of a 40% reduction in emissions, which was long thought unattainable. Still, Agora Director Patrick Graichen sees no reason for merriment, as the CO2 emissions will likely spike again after the crisis, and investments in renewable energy are currently put on hold.

European solidarity is put to the test

Multiple sources report that the coronavirus is testing European solidarity. De Standaard reports that MEP Guy Verhofstadt (RE) calls on the European Commission to encourage "cross-border mechanisms" between EU member states, following the news that French patients were taken in by neighbouring countries. One diplomat notes that during financial and migration crises, member states revert to national reflexes, forgetting that they are linked via the euro or Schengen Area. China and Russia highlight European flaws. The European economic and financial solidarity is more abstract and difficult to fathom, although the Commission is now also acting to secure mouth masks and breathing equipment. MEP Verhofstadt wants Europe to have real decision power; this crisis shows the failure of intergovernmental Europe. The daily adds that the French patients will go to Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Via this first cross-border cooperation, the regions involved hope to convince other European countries as well. 

On a related note, Le Soir writes that the Czech government seized 680,000 mouth masks from a company that was planning to sell them to the highest bidder. However, 101,000 of those masks were sent by the Chinese Red Cross to Chinese expatriates in Italy. The Czech authorities have acknowledged the mistake and decided to send 110,000 masks from their own stock. The Commission states that it is in contact with Prague to ensure that the material arrives in Italy.  De Wereld Vandaag interviews Professor Patrik Vankrunkelsven, who advocates European solidarity for corona patients. Some people die because there are not enough beds or medical equipment, while elsewhere in Europe there is enough capacity both for beds and equipment. He wonders why Europe takes so long to help Italy and Spain, while neighbouring countries are already helping France. The Commission must urgently launch initiatives and not wait while hundreds of people die each day.

Sacrificing economic taboos to the corona demon

Several sources report on economic measures to fight the corona crisis. De Tijd's Bart Haeck writes that President Lagarde implied that the ECB would finance Italian debt if necessary. Germany decided to pump another €750 billion into its economy. British conservatives chose to help out private railway companies for six months. A Belgian minority government got the support of ten parties to fight off the corona crisis. Le Soir adds that the European Finance ministers decided to forego European budget rules temporarily to support health systems and businesses during the crisis. The exemption clause of the Growth and Stability Pact was activated, as announced by the European Commission, for the first time ever. De Tijd quotes Pictet's ECB watcher Frederik Ducrozet: "The latest decisions by the Fed and the ECB are absolutely gigantic. They will change the financial-economic landscape forever." In De Tijd, Itinera economist Ivan Van de Cloot calls on banks and the government to make critical and sustainable decisions. In L'Echo, Alain Narinx argues that Belgium is limited in its measures because its budget position was already precarious before the crisis. However, austerity is clearly not the answer. The daily wonders whether a European economic relaunch plan is in the making, as called for by Prime Minister Sánchez. Italy suggested "Corona bonds." L'Echo specifies that Germany's state aid to the economy will amount to 10% of its GDP. Partial or entire nationalisations are possible. According to La Libre Belgique, the €410 billion euro area rescue fund could be activated, but the conditions for countries to apply for such aid are the main question. RTBF La Première reports that President von der Leyen told the euro area countries to go ahead and inject all the money necessary to save their economies. To that end, she proposed to alleviate European budget rules.

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