France not yet at the peak, Spain’s deaths rise again

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PARIS, FRANCE – APRIL 06: A woman wearing a protective mask walks past next to the Eiffel Tower during the coronavirus epidemic (COVID 19) on April 6, 2020, in Paris, France.

Chesnot

France has not yet reached the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s health minister warned Tuesday, while the daily number of new infections and deaths has risen again in Spain.

European countries are still at odds with COVID-19, the virus that emerged in China in late 2019. In France, the second largest euro zone economy, there were 5,171 new infections and 833 more deaths from Sunday to Monday, according to the French health ministry. France is on track to be the fifth country worldwide to cross the 100,000 threshold for the number of confirmed cases.

“We are still in a worsening phase of the epidemic,” Olivier Veran, the French health minister, said in a TV interview Tuesday.

Parisian authorities also announced Tuesday that people will not be allowed to do individual exercise between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. starting Wednesday, in an effort to stop joggers going out at the same time as grocery shoppers.

Meanwhile, new figures out in Spain have fueled concerns that the worse is also not yet over. The daily rate of deaths came in at 743 and the number of new cases rose by 5,478 from Monday to Tuesday, according to figures released by the health ministry.

Spanish authorities had hoped that a recent slowdown in the number of new infections and deaths was materializing. Maria Jose Sierra, deputy head of Spain’s health emergency committee, said Monday that it was important to wait a few days to confirm a trend, but the number of new daily infections had been falling until that point.

Spain has now recorded 13,798 deaths and 140,510 infections so far.

In Italy, the government announced Monday further financial help to businesses hit by the pandemic, through public guarantees for up to 400 billion euros ($433 billion) in loans and investments. The country has had 132,547 cases so far, of which 16,523 have died from COVID-19; according to data from Italian authorities out Monday afternoon.

Roberto Gualtieri, the Italian finance minister, said on Twitter that the new fiscal package represented an “unprecedented intervention that will allow many companies to overcome the crisis and start again.”

The pandemic has brought major EU economies to a halt, with all non-essential shopping closed for an indefinite period of time. As a result, the various governments have mobilized different fiscal packages to support their respective economies. 

More fiscal stimulus

However, euro zone finance ministers are due to discuss Tuesday additional funding to support the 19-member region.

One of the possibilities is to develop a credit line, through the region’s crisis fund — the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which could reach 240 billion euros ($260 billion). However, the ministers still need to work out the details of how these loans would work. 

In addition, the ministers are expected to green light a proposal to raise 100 billion euros in financial markets to deal with unemployment levels. They are also expected to approve further help through a pan-European guarantee fund that could ultimately reach 200 billion euros.

As a result, the finance ministers could present a financial package of about half a trillion euros. 

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