Scaremongering – Coronavirus epidemic

Scaremongering – Coronavirus epidemic

The coronavirus emergency has now reached Europe. Italy’s response has been exemplary, channelling resources and efforts into protecting the public, carrying out some 9000 swab tests thus far to detect the virus and promptly isolating areas where a new outbreak might occur.

Scaremongering, which paradoxically has been fostered by Italy’s focus on prevention, may have very serious economic and social consequences, with potential losses of earnings in all sectors of the economy, in particular, the tourism and agri-food industries.

On 03 March 2020, Italian Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Dino Giarrusso of the Non-attached Members, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Giarrusso requested to know “does it intend to draw up a single prevention protocol for all the Member States?” and “does it also not see a pressing need to set up a communication task force to counter unfounded public fears linked to the broadcast of uninformed news reports in recent days, with potentially very dangerous results?”

On 25 November, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides responded on behalf of the European Commission. She declared that “the Commission works to ensure coordination across the EU concerning preparedness and response to COVID-19, notably via the Health Security Committee and the Early Warning and Response System.”

Commissioner Stella Kyriakides reported that “the Commission put forward a communication in July 2020 on Short-term EU health preparedness for COVID-19 outbreaks and the Health Security Committee agreed to recommendations for a common EU testing approach”. She also added that “the Commission proposed the EU Vaccines strategy and has so far signed three contracts with pharmaceutical companies, to ensure that EU citizens have access to vaccines when authorised” and “under the Emergency Support Instrument, the Commission has provided 10 million masks for healthcare workers and 33,800 treatment doses of Veklury (Remdesivir) across the EU”.

The Health and Food Safety Commissioner underlined that “access to continued supplies of Veklury has also been ensured by a new joint procurement organised by the Commission” and “this is coupled with ongoing joint procurements covering personal protective equipment, ventilators and laboratory supplies, as well as upcoming procurements covering vaccination supplies and intensive care unit medicines”.

Commissioner Kyriakides also clarified that “the Commission proposed a comprehensive EU4Health programme, which is expected to provide funding over the next 7 years to support structural changes and resilience in EU health systems” and “together, all these elements combine to support a coordinated EU preparedness and response to COVID-19”.

Finally, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides declared that “European institutions are committed to addressing the spread of false and misleading information given its potential to endanger public health, as outlined in a Joint Communication by the Commission and the High Representative” and “the Commission has a dedicated disinformation corner on the coronavirus response webpage”.

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