The Brief – What if Coronavirus reaches Africa?

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [Bumble Dee/Shutterstock]

Amongst mounting concern about the coronavirus outbreak, EU health ministers will gather in Brussels on Thursday to discuss Europe’s readiness to face a potential large-scale epidemic of the virus.

This follows a warning from Professor Gabriel Leung, the chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University, who told The Guardian that coronavirus epidemic could spread to about two-thirds of the world’s population unless appropriate controls are put in place.

But as Europe is stepping up its efforts to combat the spread of the virus, there is one continent that has been absent from the conversation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has voiced its concern that the outbreak outside China might worsen and the virus might spread to countries with weaker health systems.

But the question is, has the WHO considered the impact of a large-scale Coronavirus epidemic in Africa?

Although there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus on the continent, there have already been some suspected cases.

An EU official told EURACTIV on Monday that the possibility of coronavirus reaching Africa is a matter of concern for Brussels, especially given Africa’s close relationship with China.

“Africa has the most fragile healthcare systems globally,” the official said.

With health systems already stretched in many countries across Africa, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has recently admitted that the country is not prepared for an outbreak of the disease.

“We don’t have the capacity to build hospitals in seven days, right? So we must do everything that we can within the limited resources to ensure that we keep this virus completely away,” the US National Public Radio quoted Kenyatta as saying.

Over the past couple of decades, economic links between China and Africa have grown exponentially, with China being Africa’s biggest trade partner since 2009.

According to Chinese state media, more than a million Chinese workers and entrepreneurs are estimated to be living on the continent.

Not to mention that several airlines, including Ethiopia Airlines and Air Algérie, have come under fire for their decision to continue flights to China, including one to Chongquing, which neighbours the area from which the disease originates.

Can Europe afford to leave out its neighbours from its containment strategy? Given our close ties to the continent, it shouldn’t.

The Roundup

Belgium stands to be the fourth EU state most affected by Brexit economically – behind Ireland and Malta – and its food and beverages, administration, and textiles sectors are the ones most vulnerable to Brexit-related job losses.

Members of the European Parliament have written to the European Commission voicing concern that EU spending on LNG and other gas projects “may not be in line with the Union’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement”.

GSMA, the global mobile network industry group, is set to decide on Friday whether this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona will go ahead, amid concerns that the event may aggravate Europe’s management of the deadly coronavirus.

The French government has been ordered to adapt its policy on plants developed using a new plant breeding technique (NPBTs), called mutagenesis, in order to adhere to stricter rules for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a French court ruled.

The European Commission’s new proposal for enhanced accession process of the Western Balkans is ‘a small masterpiece of European compromise’ that could foster momentum and reforms. But it still lacks details on funding and convergence and realistic target years.

Check out this week’s edition of Sam Morgan’s Transport Brief.

Look out for…

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the Strasbourg plenary on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework.

NATO defence ministers meet in Brussels.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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