EU grapples over virus recovery as global death toll passes 600,000 - International | NTV

EU grapples over virus recovery as global death toll passes 600,000


Sunday July 19, 2020


European Union leaders were due to meet for a third day Sunday to try and agree on a giant post-coronavirus economic recovery plan as the global death toll climbed to more than 600,000, an AFP tally showed.

The pandemic, which has spawned economic mayhem worldwide, also saw the G20 -- the world's most industrialised nations -- consider extending debt relief for coronavirus-hit poor countries in the second half of 2020.

EU leaders in Brussels remained deadlocked Saturday over the COVID-19 recovery plan due to resistance from the Netherlands and its "frugal" allies: Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

European Council president Charles Michel was expected to propose another plan to the 27 leaders at noon (1000 GMT) Sunday after his blueprints for a 750-billion-euro ($850 billion) package were refused by the richer northern member states.

Michel's latest proposal would keep the total recovery budget at 750 million euros, but shift the balance slightly from grants -- down from 500 million to 450 million -- to loans, which rise from 250 million to 300 million, according to a document seen by AFP.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has insisted member states retain final approval of any funding -- an effective veto -- for recipients.

He says EU oversight is necessary to oblige countries like Spain and Italy to reform their economies to handle future crises better.

Michel's latest plan includes a "super emergency brake" that gives any country a three-day window to trigger a review by all member states of another's spending plans.

Meanwhile Barcelona, one of Europe's most visited cities, effectively went back into lockdown Saturday.

Spain's COVID-19 death toll of 28,420 is one of Europe's worst and the country has identified more than 150 new virus clusters across the country.

The regional government of Catalonia urged nearly four million residents of metropolitan Barcelona to stay home unless absolutely necessary, banning gatherings of over 10 people and shutting cinemas, theatres and nightclubs, after the number of new cases tripled in a week.

The virus has now killed 600,523 people and infected over 14.2 million worldwide, an AFP count based on official data showed, as the disease continues to surge across the globe despite months of unprecedented lockdowns.

The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 has doubled in just over two months, and more than 100,000 new deaths have been registered in the three weeks since June 28.

The US, the hardest-hit country in the pandemic, on Saturday added more than 60,000 new cases, raising its total to 3.7 million, with almost 140,000 deaths.