As Covid-19 global deaths soared past the 600,000 mark and Hong Kong raised the alarm about its increasing outbreak, EU leaders battled to save a beleaguered €750 billion (USD857 billion) virus recovery package at a summit yesterday.
The worst-affected country by far is still the United States, which has 143,00 deaths and nearly 3.9 million infected. As of now, 14.6 million people in the world are infected. Officials were again facing the dilemma of imposing lockdowns or loosen restrictions to save struggling businesses, as clusters spiked up again from Spain to Australia.
Angry demonstrators illustrated the shrinking room for the government to manoeuvre, as they took to the streets in Israel to protest against their government’s handling of the crisis.
The pressure was felt by scientists as well as Britain ramped up its tit-for-tat row with Russia yesterday over claims that British labs where virus vaccines are being developed were hacked by Kremlin agents.
As the European continent faces a crippling recession, economic recovery is the primary concern in policymakers’ minds, making it difficult to agree upon the terms of its massive package to help the most-affected countries.
Charles Michel, EU Council President, in a moving speech urged the bloc’s 27 leaders to come together to complete a “mission impossible” and reminded them of the devastating human cost of the pandemic which is estimated at 600,000 deaths out of which 200,000 of those are from Europe.
“The question is this: Are the 27 leaders, responsible for the people of Europe, capable of building European unity and trust?” Michel said. “Or will we present the face of a weak Europe, undermined by mistrust?”
The terms of the rescue deal were supposed to be finalized by the summit, but a handful of countries led by the Netherlands are reluctant to hand over funding to Spain and Italy, nations they regard as wasteful.
On the fringes of the EU, disunity was present as Britain and Russia continued their spat over Moscow’s alleged spying on British scientists.
Dominic Raab, British Foreign Secretary, echoed accusations made by several countries earlier this week and said “we’re absolutely confident that the Russian intelligence agencies were engaged in a cyberattack on research and development efforts in organisations in this country.”
Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday “there is no sense in it,” and dismissed the claim, further adding that “I learned about their (the hackers) existence from British media. In this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country, it is impossible.”
The US is struggling to open up the economy as tens of thousands of new infections pop up each day along hundreds of deaths.
Spain imposed local lockdowns with non-enforced stay-at-home advice in its Catalonia region while other nations are struggling with the same dilemma. A tougher approach was taken by officials in the Australian state of Victoria.
Face masks will be mandatory starting this Thursday for roughly five million people in and around Melbourne, with a fine of US$140 (RM596) for offenders.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said “most of us wouldn’t leave home without our keys, we wouldn’t leave our home without our mobile phone. You won’t be able to leave home without your mask.”
Starting today, people will risk a fine of €135 in France as well, if they refuse to wear a mask in public places indoors in compliance with a new decree to do so.
Daily infections in Hong Kong were confirmed by leader Carrie Lam yesterday to have passed 100 for the first time in the territory, which led to tightened measures.
Business were already ordered to be closed by Lam and usage of facemasks made compulsory for public transport, and for the insides of any public indoor venue, Lam said it would soon be mandatory as well.
20th July 18:40
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