In June 2020, a number of authoritative sources of information were highlighting a new centre of COVID-19 infection in Beijing, reporting that some districts appeared to be reintroducing lockdown or movement restrictions. Flights to and from the Chinese capital had been cancelled and travel into and out of the City were restricted. Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Isabela Tovaglieri raised concerns over the second wave of the virus after a series of new COVID-19 cases in China. Members of the European Parliament from all political groups have repeatedly raised concerns following the notification announced by China at the beginning of the year on the initial outbreak of the virus in Wuhan.
On the occasion of the suspected second outbreak in Beijing, the Chinese authorities, already known for their somewhat less than transparent and non-cooperative behaviour during this pandemic, attributed the new wave of infections to the alleged consumption of ‘infected’ fish products.
In light of China’s approach to the spread of COVID-19, which has been highly criticised at an international level, MEP Isabella Tovaglieri filed a parliamentary question to the European Commission in June. MEP Tovaglieri asked that considering “the Chinese authorities have furnished information and their versions of the situation, does the Commission know any more than this and what is its assessment of the situation?”
The parliamentarian further asked how the European Commission was “monitoring developments in this centre of infection” and “could this have repercussions for Europe too?” Finally, the Italian representative requested “can precautionary measures be taken urgently to protect EU citizens from a possible ‘second wave’ of infections” and “if so, what would they be” and “which ones?”
On 17 August 2020, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides on behalf of the Commission, reported that “the Commission is working with the Member States and international partners on overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Commissioner explained that “in Beijing, after 50 days of no reported cases in the city, an outbreak was confirmed on 11 June 2020 traced to a wholesale food market in the Fengtai district” and ‘Chinese authorities imposed several measures to control the outbreak including the lockdown of several districts and extensive testing. After several weeks of only sporadic cases, the Chinese authorities reported a larger number of cases in the two weeks following the detection of the cluster, and a significant decrease over the following two weeks.”
Commissioner Kyriakides emphasized that “while the extent of community transmission can vary between regions, there is still ongoing worldwide community transmission of COVID-19” and that “clusters and a resurgence of cases stress the need for a robust monitoring framework and expanded testing strategy and contact tracing, as addressed by the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC) in its recent rapid risk assessment”.
Commissioner Kyriakides underlined that “the ECDC monitors the situation with a focus on the EU countries, but also provides on its website daily updates of the worldwide epidemiological situation through its epidemic intelligence’. She also reported that “in its recent Communication on ‘Short term EU health preparedness for COVID-19 outbreaks’ the Commission presented actions to enhance preparedness, including testing and contact tracing, access to medical countermeasures such as personal protective equipment as well as reinforcing the capacity of healthcare systems to deal with COVID-19 and other diseases (such as seasonal influenza)”.
MEP Isabella Tovaglieri raises the concerns of many European citizens, and especially Italians, who have faced socio-economic hardship due to the lack, and censorship, of information and data initially presented by China. As recent news reports claim that the virus will be here permanently, the fears of any additional strains or new virus must be addressed immediately.
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