Madrid Desk, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- The European Commission chief said Wednesday it was too soon to withdraw financial policies designed to buoy economies damaged by the pandemic while France reclosed 81 schools amid increasing Covid-19 cases.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Czech Republic saw a new record for daily infections and Madrid residents braced for further restrictions after a spike in cases and deaths in the Spanish capital.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen praised the EU’s coronavirus furlough scheme during her maiden state of the union address.
“If Europe has so far avoided mass unemployment seen elsewhere, it is thanks in large part to the fact that around 40 million people applied for short-time work schemes,” she said.
“From Lithuania to Spain, it will give peace of mind to families who need that income to put food on the table or to pay the rent.”
She told European Parliament that it was still too soon to repeal emergency stimulus policies designed to help economies and businesses weather the pandemic, which prompted lockdowns across the continent.
The German politician said the EU had authorized three trillion euros to help SMEs.
“Now is the time to hold our course. We have all seen the forecasts. We can expect our economies to start moving again after a 12 percent drop in GDP in the second quarter.
“But as the virus lingers so does the uncertainty – here in Europe and around the world. So this is definitely not the time to withdraw support.”
A health official in Madrid said tougher restrictions and localized confinement measures could be imposed in the Spanish capital this week to curb an upward trend in coronavirus cases, although did not go into detail.
Madrid’s deputy health minister Antonio Zapatero said “more drastic” action was needed to stop the spread of contagion and that “selective confinement measures” would be applied to areas with the highest concentration of cases.
Madrid accounts for a third of the total number of infections reported each day in Spain with 1,207 reported Tuesday, and one in five hospital patients in the capital have Covid-19.
The worst-affected parts of the city, which is home to half of the region’s 6.5 million people, have been working-class and densely populated neighborhoods.
People are currently allowed to meet up in groups of up to 10, while restaurant capacity is capped and outside dining tables must be 1.5 meters apart.
Health minister Jean-Michel Blanquer confirmed that 81 schools and 2,100 classrooms had been closed due to coronavirus outbreaks since the reopening of education centers earlier this month.
He told LCI news that this number was minimal considering there were 60,000 centers of learning across France.
“With only 0.13 percent of schools and 0.3 percent of classes closed, the return to school has been good.”