Ambassadors from Italy, Spain Have Frank Discussion of COVID-19 Effects
WASHINGTON – Ambassadors from two of the European countries hardest hit by COVID-19 gave details on the rapidly unfolding situation in a virtual briefing Thursday morning hosted by the Meridian International Center. H.E. Armando Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy, and H.E. Santiago Cabanas, Ambassador of Spain, shared thoughts on the global pandemic and how it may ultimately affect world economies and political institutions.
“Italy is so unfortunately ahead of the curve,” said Ambassador Varricchio, reporting that over 80,000 in Italy had tested positive for the virus as of briefing time. “We were the first Western democracy to be hit. The numbers are [high], but it needs to be considered the very high number of tests, as well. Since the beginning, the decision was taken to be fully transparent.
“We had to combine tight measures concerning health while preserving freedoms and values… Containment can produce important results,” he added.
Early decisions in Italy included ceasing all non-essential activities and shuttering businesses as well as tightening social distance controls, which Spain also did when it announced its own state of emergency on March 14, 2020. Now both countries are starting to see positive effects — health-wise — from their lockdowns. Economically, it’s set to be a different story.
Both countries will be hit most heavily long-term by a decrease in tourism, with other national businesses and individuals also suffering devastating effects.
Ambassador Cabanas confirmed that the Spanish government had approved a €700 million ($771 million) aid package that included a measure to suspend evictions of vulnerable households for six months after the state of emergency is lifted. Additionally, he touted microcredits to pay rent, a moratorium on mortgage payments (extended to include the self-employed) and barring water and power utilities from cutting off clients over unpaid bills.
With citizens everywhere calling on governments to make decisions quickly, the diplomats agreed that, even in a pandemic, policy-makers need to thoughtfully consider options before taking action.
“The crisis is putting pressure on the health of our citizens and the health of our democracies… and procedures enforced to cope with extraordinary events need to get back to normal when things return,” said Ambassador Varricchio, citing concerns about moves by fellow European Union partners, like Hungary’s parliament endorsing a bill to give Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sweeping new powers.
“If there is to be a serious global economic recession, there is a danger of a return toward nationalism and danger in questioning our democratic institutions,” said Ambassador Cabanas. He further warned that “we may see the rise of authoritarian models and an increase in political pressures.”
To combat this, he suggests strengthening international prevention systems in cooperation: “Solidarity is the keyword, not only in the pandemic but also in the European Union.”
Both Ambassadors shared that they believe this crisis should be fought globally, and its aftermath will require working together and calling upon shared values.
“Nothing will be the same after coronavirus,” said Ambassador Varricchio. “Now that we are experiencing a sort of war, there will be a rethinking of [everything].”
“This crisis has shown us that we are very fragile. We are fragile as human beings, we have fragile economies and fragile political systems,” added Ambassador Cabanas. “But we have solidarity, and we might be going into a different world after this, but Western values are one of our greatest strengths.”
In The News
WASHINGTON - A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted unanimously Friday to recommend emergency use authorization of a booster... Read More
WASHINGTON - A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted unanimously Friday to recommend emergency use authorization of a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine six months after full vaccination in people 65 and older and those at high risk of severe Covid-19. But the same... Read More
WASHINGTON — Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19's delta variant found that vaccine efficacy... Read More
WASHINGTON — Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19's delta variant found that vaccine efficacy was higher among recipients of the Moderna vaccination at 95%, higher than both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The CDC collected data in... Read More
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that no nation has the perfect health system, but a report from the Commonwealth Fund... Read More
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that no nation has the perfect health system, but a report from the Commonwealth Fund finds the U.S. trails far behind other high-income countries on measures of health care affordability, administrative efficiency, equity, and outcomes. By analyzing 11 high-income countries and... Read More
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- A year-long study conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California finds that getting vaccinated... Read More
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- A year-long study conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California finds that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can actually improve mental health. “We were interested to see what the short-term effects of getting a COVID-19 vaccination would be on people’s mental... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden was meeting Wednesday with the CEOs of Walt Disney and Columbia Sportswear, and other... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden was meeting Wednesday with the CEOs of Walt Disney and Columbia Sportswear, and other business executives and leaders leaders to discuss his recently announced vaccine requirement for companies that employ at least 100 people. The White House meeting comes less... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 3 million consumers took advantage of a special six-month period to sign up for subsidized health... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly 3 million consumers took advantage of a special six-month period to sign up for subsidized health insurance coverage made more affordable by the COVID-19 relief law, President Joe Biden said Wednesday. He called that number encouraging and urged Congress to help keep... Read More