EU faces ‘biggest test yet,’ Merkel says, as coronavirus strains continental bonds
The EU is facing the biggest trial in its history, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned, urging impatient citizens to put aside thoughts of ending coronavirus-related restrictions and focus on survival as a bloc.
“Germany can only do well if Europe is also doing well,” Merkel told reporters on Monday. “The answer can only be: more Europe.” EU member states have quarreled over border closures, medical supply shipments, and fiscal stimulus policies during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Merkel added that her country’s goal was not to overwhelm its health system, and suggested that the easing of quarantine restrictions would occur in phases, though she insisted that it was “not the time” to talk about such things just yet.
But while she preached closer ties, Germany was blocking a “corona-bond” aid package proposed by the EU that would help Italy, Spain, and France, the hardest-hit countries from the epidemic in Europe, rebuild their shattered economies. Berlin is wary of tying itself to the debt-stricken nations, solidarity or no solidarity, even as the EU came out with an apology for leaving Italy all but stranded in its time of need.
While Germany has 100,186 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Monday, its death rate is a fraction of those of Spain and Italy. To date 1,590 people have died in Germany with the virus since the epidemic began, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Merkel herself recently ended a period of self-isolation after testing negative for coronavirus. She has floated the idea of a “voluntary” coronavirus-tracking app, though privacy advocates have slammed the idea, concerned it would run afoul of European privacy laws. Others noted that the most at-risk population — the elderly — are the least likely to have smartphones.
The developers of one potential EU-wide tracking platform have proposed bluetooth-enabled armbands to track those without cellphones. Another German initiative involves conducting antibody testing with an eye toward issuing ‘immunity certificates’ that would allow the bearer to emerge from quarantine. The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research told reporters they hope the tests, which reveal who has had the virus and recovered, can eventually be used to decide when to end the lockdown entirely.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!