Beware – here be EU Commissioners
It’s a grim start to the week. Nothing matters – not Brexit, not the Budget, not even the weather – only the coronavirus epidemic. So let’s see how the fabulous EU is coping with this epidemic. After all, they’ve told their citizens via Ms vdLeyen that Brussels was going to be ‘strong’ and coordinate strategic responses and all that jazz.
Well, here we are, with case numbers rising everywhere and the death toll rising as well. Italy is worst hit, according to this report, with nearly 400 deaths as of yesterday. Whole regions are now put in quarantine there, just as in China. Here at home, with supermarkets rationing online food orders and the government going to talk with them today, there’s also this:
“Forecasters have warned that the quarantine in northern Italy could lead to a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables as key supply routes are affected.” (paywalled link)
No more ‘Five-a-Day’, is it? Ah well … but surely the mighty EU has other member states where fresh fruit and vegetables are being grown for export? Meanwhile, I’ve taken a long look at those EU’s official sites addressing the coronavirus epidemic. After all, they surely must have better advice and strategies than our government, after Brexit, right?
In the first instance, one can go to the EU’s Commission official home page (here). There’s a lovely yellow button right at the top, linking to their ‘response’. When you go there, you’ll firstly and certainly most importantly see the names of those five Commissioners who are making up that “EU Response Team”. Then there’s a whole list of links to articles which anyone can find anyway, nothing to do with the EU, and then, lower down there’s this:
“The role of the Commission is mainly to support Member States in addressing the crisis, providing recommendations on a common course of action. The Commission wants to avoid Member States taking uncoordinated or even contradictory measures that ultimately undermine common efforts to fight the outbreak. Coordination and recommendations are therefore necessary in the areas of public health, but also transport, border control, internal markets and trade. The ARGUS crisis coordination mechanism of the Commission has been activated and the Crisis Coordination Committee meets regularly to synergise the action of all the relevant departments and services of the Commission and of the EU agencies.” (link)
Phew – they’ve ‘activated’ a ‘mechanism’ and are coordinating! Thank God for that! I’m sure the Italians will be well pleased … ! Should you want to know what the EU has actually been doing, go here. The information on that site is dated 24th of February, so you can estimate how wonderfully urgent this Brussels response is:
“The European Commission is working on all fronts to support efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes ongoing coordination with Member States to share information, assess needs and ensure a coherent EU-wide response. The Commission is also […] supporting China with emergency medical supplies to tackle the outbreak at its source.” (link)
How generous of Brussels to support China … Delving further into that site we find this amazing statement:
“4) To boost global preparedness, prevention and containment of the virus, new funding worth €232 million will be allocated to different sectors, namely:
– €114 million will support the World Health Organization (WHO), in particular the global preparedness and response global plan. This intends to boost public health emergency preparedness and response work in countries with weak health systems and limited resilience. Part of this funding is subject to the agreement of the EU budgetary authorities.
– €15 million are planned to be allocated in Africa, including to the Institute Pasteur Dakar, Senegal to support measures such as rapid diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance.
– €100 million will go to urgently needed research related to diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention, including €90 million through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a partnership between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry.” (link)
Yay the EU – ever so generous with our money, world-wide! You’ve not forgotten that we’re still paying them Danegeld, I hope. I cannot resist quoting the following paragraphs, showing the EU at its best: halo-creating, mutual back-slapping, praising themselves for doing what they ought to be doing anyway:
“Member States continuously inform the Commission and share information regarding their levels of preparedness. According to the information provided by the national authorities, there is a strong overall level of preparedness with countries having response measures in place to provide treatment for the cases in the EU and to mitigate any further transmission within and into the EU.” (link)
And then reality hit, in Italy first and foremost. Remember, this EU site was set up on the 24th of February, and the urgency with which Brussels has been addressing this outbreak can be savoured here:
“On 13 February, an extraordinary EPSCO Health Council brought together all Member States at a political level to discuss and coordinate measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak and further preparedness measures to be considered for the future.” (link)
So that’s all right then – from the 13th of February to today, 9th of March, not much has really happened except meetings producing statements, it seems. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the site describes how Brussels is meeting with other supranational organisations and how generally everybody is well prepared. Yes, really!
There’s another EU entity concerned with this epidemic, the ECDC. They seem to be a bit more factual, but are still given to EU waffle:
“The ECDC provides technical support for the EU-level response to disease threats. It produces rapid risk assessments and epidemiological updates; and, together with the European Commission, can provide outbreak response in support of countries or international organisations. In the context of COVID-19, the role of the Commission and of the ECDC is to provide risk assessments and guidance. To support public health preparedness in the EU Member States, ECDC publishes daily epidemiological updates for the situation worldwide. ECDC also provides support on the ground to assess the situation and look at what further measures might be taken as events unfold.” (link)
Shouldn’t the ECDC support EU member states first, rather than international organisations? Mind you, I’m sure they’ve worked hand-in-glove with the Italian government! Next though, look at the page ‘Daily Risk assessment’, dated 8am, 8th March, where you’ll find the following headings – I’m not going to quibble about the content of their assessment:
“The risk of acquiring the disease for people from the EU/EEA and the UK travelling/resident in areas with no cases, […].” – “The risk for people from the EU/EEA and the UK travelling/resident in areas with more widespread local transmission […]” (link)
Note well: contrary to the wails of Remainers, we’re still a member of this particular organisation. We’re not condemned to be a lonely outpost, abandoned because of Brexit, left helpless in the face of the epidemic, unable to do anything
I’ll refrain from assessing the actual value of the EU’s ‘response’. It sends shivers down my back when I reflect that Macron wants an EU Army, to stand against Putin. By the time the EU Commissioners would have met and formulated a response, Putin would already be in Brussels – and Paris.
And what is our government doing? Here’s a quote from an article in the DT published early today:
“The UK Government on Sunday night insisted checks at airports for passengers on arrival were not necessary because airline crew were monitoring the health of passengers during flights from Italy. They added that checks were no use because the flight time is between two or three hours and the disease can incubate for 120 hours so “almost all cases will be missed”.“ (paywalled link)
Well, you decide if that’s a common-sense approach or more like a CYA (old meaning) one, the same going for this one:
“A Government source said: “The evidence is clear: temperature checks are not effective. Instead, we have a clinically-informed, evidence-driven approach to identify those at risk and take the necessary action to keep the public safe. […] Public Health England announced on Sunday night that anyone returning from the affected parts of northern Italy should go into self-isolation for two weeks, even if they show no symptoms.” (paywalled link)
Switzerland, bordering Italy, has not yet closed that border for economic reasons. Many of those living in the Tessin are commuting to work in Lombardy, one of the now quarantined regions.
Meanwhile, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a particularly deep ‘gloom-and-doom’ assessment in the DT today, but some of the points he makes are worth considering:
“The world’s geopolitical order will be unrecognisable once Covid-19 has done its worst. […] Those Western democratic governments that have been most complacent or incompetent will be torn to shreds by unforgiving electorates. Social media will see to that. Covid-19 is turning into a strategic contest between the social control model of China’s Communist Party and the unruly, free-spirited pluralism of the West. How that comparison plays out will shape the global order in the 21st Century. In this country, Brexit scarcely matters right now. […] Boris Johnson will be judged on whether or not his administration allows avoidable decimation of the elderly – and the not so elderly – and whether the National Health Service buckles in catastrophic institutional failure.” (paywalled link)
So will we let the Left rampage on social media, blaming ‘Toree Austeritee’, or will we ourselves see to it that common sense prevails over the ‘MeMeMe’ attitude which empties the shelves of supermarkets or orders so much from online grocery stores that they need to ration items?
Will we finally start standing up to the ghastly metropolitan attitude of ageism where those inside the Westminster Bubble secretly seem to think that ‘culling’ all of us who are over 60 is probably a ‘good thing’ because it’ll get rid of all us Brexit voters?
We’ll have to wait and see – so my advice, as always, is to take care, to take precautions, and to bloody well