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#Coronavirus response: Cohesion policy continues to support Italy's recovery

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The European Commission has approved the modification of Tuscany's Operational Programme in Italy, redirecting €154.7 million from the European Regional Development Fund towards coronavirus-related measures. Of this amount, €10m will be used to strengthen the health sector, €141m to support SMEs and €3.7m for digitalization in schools. In addition, the EU co-financing rate will be increased to 100%.

This will help beneficiaries of the funding to overcome liquidity scarcity in the implementation of their projects. Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira (pictured) said: “As one of the most affected countries by coronavirus in Europe, I am glad to see that Italian regions are more and more taking advantage of the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative. It shows the comprehensive approach we need to respond effectively to people's needs in such hard times: from health to economy as well as education, in line with our motto not to leave anyone behind.”

Tuscany has been among the first regions in Italy to benefit from cohesion policy flexibility, now exceptionally possible thanks the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII).

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Support Taiwan’s inclusion in the post-COVID-19 global public health network

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have more than 40 million cases and more than one million deaths around the world. The virus has had an enormous impact on global politics, employment, economics, trade and financial systems, and significantly impacted the global efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), writes Republic of China (Taiwan) Health and Welfare Minister Dr. Chen Shih-chung (pictured, above left).

Thanks to the united efforts of its entire people, Taiwan has responded to the threats posed by this pandemic through four principles: prudent action, rapid response, advance deployment, and openness and transparency.

Adopting such strategies as the operation of specialized command systems, the implementation of meticulous border control measures, the production and distribution of adequate supplies of medical resources, the employment of home quarantine and isolation measures and related care services, the application of IT systems, the publishing of transparent and open information, and the execution of precise screening and testing, we have been fortunate enough to contain the virus.

As of 7 October, Taiwan had had just 523 confirmed cases and seven deaths; meanwhile, life and work have continued much as normal for the majority of people.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has reminded the world that infectious diseases know no borders and do not discriminate along political, ethnic, religious, or cultural lines. Nations should work together to address the threat of emerging diseases.

For this reason, once Taiwan had stabilized its containment of the virus and ensured that people had sufficient access to medical resources, we began to share our experience and exchange information on containing COVID-19 with global public health professionals and scholars through COVID-19-related forums, APEC’s High-Level Meeting on Health and the Economy, the Global Cooperation Training Framework, and other virtual bilateral meetings.

As of June 2020, Taiwan had held nearly 80 online conferences, sharing the Taiwan Model with experts from governments, hospitals, universities, and think tanks in 32 countries.

Taiwan’s donations of medical equipment and antipandemic supplies to countries in need also continue. By June, we had donated 51 million surgical masks, 1.16 million N95 masks, 600,000 isolation gowns, and 35,000 forehead thermometers to more than 80 countries.

To ensure access to vaccines, Taiwan has joined the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) co-led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; and the World Health Organization. And our government is actively assisting domestic manufacturers in hopes of accelerating the development and production of successful vaccines, bringing them to market as quickly as possible and putting an end to this pandemic.

To prepare for a possible next wave of the pandemic as well as the approaching flu season, Taiwan is maintaining its strategies of encouraging citizens to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, and strengthening border quarantine measures, community-based prevention, and medical preparedness. Furthermore, we are actively collaborating with domestic and international partners to obtain vaccines and develop optimal treatments and accurate diagnostic tools, jointly safeguarding global public health security.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that Taiwan is an integral part of the global public health network and that Taiwan Model can help other countries combat the pandemic. To recover better, WHO needs Taiwan.

We urge WHO and related parties to acknowledge Taiwan’s longstanding contributions to global public health, disease prevention, and the human right to health, and to firmly support Taiwan’s inclusion in WHO. Taiwan’s comprehensive participation in WHO meetings, mechanisms, and activities would allow us to work with the rest of the world in realizing the fundamental human right to health as stipulated in the WHO Constitution and the vision of leaving no one behind enshrined in the UN SDGs.

The opinions expressed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Latest Eurobarometer survey (July-August): Economic situation is EU citizens' top concern in light of the coronavirus pandemic

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In a troubled period marked by the coronavirus pandemic, trust in the EU remains stable and Europeans trust the EU to make the right decisions in response to the pandemic in the future. In the new Standard Eurobarometer survey released today, European citizens identify the economic situation, the state of member states' public finances and immigration as the three top concerns at EU level. The economic situation is also the main concern at national level, followed by health and unemployment.

In the new Eurobarometer conducted in July and August, concern about the economic situation is reflected in the perception of the current state of the economy. 64% of Europeans think that the situation is ‘bad' and 42% of Europeans think that their country's economy will recover from the adverse effects of the coronavirus outbreak ‘in 2023 or later'.

Europeans are divided (45% ‘satisfied' vs 44% ‘not satisfied') regarding the measures taken by the EU to fight the pandemic. However, 62% say they trust the EU to make the right decisions in the future, and 60% remain optimistic about the future of the EU.

  1. Trust and image of the EU

Trust in the European Union has remained stable since autumn 2019 at 43%, despite variations of public perceptions during the pandemic. Trust in national governments and parliaments has increased (40%, +6 percentage points and 36%, +2 respectively).

In 15 Member States, a majority of respondents says they trust the EU, with the highest levels observed in Ireland (73%), Denmark (63%) and Lithuania (59%). The lowest levels of trust in the EU are observed in Italy (28%), France (30%) and Greece (32%).

The proportion of respondents with a positive image of the EU is the same as that with a neutral image (40%). 19% of respondents have a negative image of the EU (-1 percentage points).

In 13 EU member states, a majority of respondents has a positive image of the EU, with the highest proportions observed in Ireland (71%), Poland and Portugal (both 55%). In 13 other member states, the EU conjures up a predominantly neutral image for respondents, with the highest proportions observed in Malta (56%), Spain, Latvia and Slovenia (all 48%).

  1. Main concerns at EU and national level

Citizens mentioned the economic situation as the most pressing issue facing the EU - over one-third (35%) of all respondents, a strong increase of 16 percentage points since autumn 2019, and rise from third to first concern. Concern about the economic situation has not been this high since spring 2014.

Europeans are also increasingly concerned about the state of member states' public finances (23%, +6 percentage points, the highest level since spring 2015), which moves from fifth to second place on a par with immigration (23%, -13 percentage points), the latter now being at the lowest level since autumn 2014.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, health (22%, new item) is the  fourth most mentioned concern at EU level. The issue of the environment and climate change has lost ground, down 8 percentage points to 20%, followed by unemployment (17%, +5 percentage points).

Similarly, the economic situation (33%, +17 percentage points) has overtaken health as the most important issue at national level, rising from seventh to first position. Although in second position, health has had a notable increase in mentions since autumn 2019 (31%, +9 percentage points), taking it to its highest ever level over the past six years.

Unemployment has also increased considerably in importance (28%, +8 percentage points), followed by rising prices/inflation/cost of living (18%, -2 percentage points), the environment and climate change (14%, -6 percentage points) and government debt (12%, +4 percentage points). Mentions of immigration (11%, -5 percentage points), are at their lowest level for the past six years.

  1. The current economic situation

Since autumn 2019, the proportion of Europeans who think that the current situation of their national economy is ‘good' (34%, -13 percentage points) has declined considerably, while the proportion of respondents who judge this situation to be ‘bad' has increased sharply (64%, +14 percentage points).

At national level, a majority of respondents in 10 countries says that the national economic situation is good (down from 15 in autumn 2019). The proportion of respondents who say the situation of their national economy is good ranges from 83% in Luxembourg to 9% in Greece.

  1. The coronavirus pandemic and public opinion in the EU

Europeans are divided on the measures taken by the EU institutions to fight the coronavirus outbreak (45% ‘satisfied' vs 44% ‘not satisfied'). However, a majority of respondents in 19 Member States is satisfied with the measures taken by the European Union institutions to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The highest positive figures are found in Ireland (71%); Hungary, Romania and Poland (all 60%). In seven countries, a majority of respondents is ‘not satisfied', especially in Luxembourg (63%), Italy (58%), Greece and Czechia (both 55%) and Spain (52%). In Austria, equal proportions of respondents are satisfied, and not satisfied (both 47%).

However, more than six Europeans in ten trust the EU to make the right decisions in the future (62%). The most frequently mentioned priorities for the EU's response to the coronavirus pandemic are: establish a strategy for facing a similar crisis in the future and develop financial means to find a treatment or vaccine (each 37%). 30% think that developing a European health policy should be a priority.

Europeans' personal experiences of confinement measures were very diverse. Overall, close to three Europeans in ten say that it was fairly easy to cope with (31%), while a quarter say it was fairly difficult to cope with (25%). Finally, 30% say that it was ‘both easy and difficult to cope with'.

  1. Key policy areas

Asked about the objectives of the European Green Deal, Europeans continue identifying ‘developing renewable energy' and ‘fighting against plastic waste and leading on the issue of single-use of plastic' as the top priorities. More than one third think the top priority should be supporting EU farmers (38%) or promoting the circular economy (36%). Just over three in ten think reducing energy consumption (31%) should be the top priority.

Support for the Economic and Monetary Union and for the euro remains high, with 75% of respondents in the eurozone in favour of the EU's single currency. In the EU27 as a whole, support for the eurozone has increased to 67% (+5).

  1. EU citizenship and European democracy

A majority of people in 26 EU member states (except Italy) and 70% across the EU feel that they are citizens of the EU. At a national level the highest scores are observed in Ireland and Luxembourg (both 89%), Poland (83%), Slovakia and Germany (both 82%), Lithuania (81%), Hungary, Portugal and Denmark (all 80%).

A majority of Europeans (53%) say they are satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU. The proportion of respondents who are ‘not satisfied' has increased, by 3 percentage points since autumn 2019 to 43%.

  1. Optimism for the future of the EU

Finally, in this troubled period, 60% of Europeans say they are optimistic about the future of the EU. The highest scores for optimism are observed in Ireland (81%), Lithuania and Poland (both 75%) and Croatia (74%). The lowest levels of optimism are seen in Greece (44%) and Italy (49%), where pessimism outweighs optimism, and France, where opinion is evenly divided (49% vs 49%).

Background

The ‘Summer 2020 – Standard Eurobarometer' (EB 93) was conducted face-to-face and exceptionally completed with online interviews between 9 July and 26 August 2020, across the 27 EU member states, in the United Kingdom and in the candidate countries[1]. 26,681 interviews were conducted in the 27 member states.

More information

Standard Eurobarometer 93

[1] The 27 European Union (EU) Member States, United Kingdom, five candidate countries (Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey) and the Turkish Cypriot Community in the part of the country that is not controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus.

 

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German health minister expects COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021 - Spiegel

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Germany’s health minister expects a COVID-19 vaccine to be available early next year and believes a large proportion of Germans who want the shot could be vaccinated within six to seven months of enough doses being available, writes Caroline Copley.

Jens Spahn (pictured) was quoted as saying in Der Spiegel that a vaccine could be available in January, or maybe in February or March, or even later, but said there would be no compulsory vaccination.

“Of course, it would be best if a vaccine could prevent new infections. But it would also be a benefit if it makes the course of the disease milder,” said Spahn, who tested positive for coronavirus this week.

Daily Bild reported that Germany is making preparations to start vaccinations against the coronavirus before the end of the year.

The paper said the health ministry plans to create 60 special vaccination centres to ensure the vaccines can be stored at the proper temperature and has asked the country’s 16 federal states to provide addresses for them by Nov. 10, Bild reported without citing its sources.

Spahn told Der Spiegel that Germany was securing “considerably more” doses of vaccines then it would potentially need, and said it could sell any surplus shots to other countries or donate them to poorer nations.

He has asked experts, including the ethics council and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, to decide who should be tested first, but said nurses, doctors and health professionals would be at the top of the list.

Spahn said he wanted to set up a digital appointment system to organize the vaccinations, as well as an app to record possible side-effects.

While ideally there would be a single digital tool to do all this, experience has shown that things can go quickly wrong when being developed under time pressure, so the ministry is planning “several stand-alone solutions”, he said.

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