Thu. Nov 5th, 2020
‘We must avoid a tragedy’: European Council head on Covid-19 mistakes

The email dropped late on Tuesday night: “A word from the president.”

This was a missive from Charles Michel, the European Council president who has taken to sharing his thoughts in the form of a newsletter. A former Belgian prime minister, Michel is the man who has chaired the meetings of the European Union’s national leaders since December, with the task of nudging them towards consensus. Since March, that has meant a lot of pandemic co-ordinating: on re-opening borders, on sponsoring vaccines, on helping the economy.

The subject of his letter? It’s all gone wrong.

“Within the space of just a few weeks, the situation has escalated from worrying to alarming. Now we must avoid a tragedy,” Michel wrote. “This was not how things were supposed to turn out.”

It comes after a week in which 1.1 million new Covid-19 infections were logged in Europe alone. An average of 1,000 Europeans died of the virus each day, a rise of one third compared to the week before. Hospitals across the continent began warning that they had no beds left, and that too many staff were sick with the virus to care for the patients they had.

How had this happened?

“When in late spring we succeeded in drastically slowing the speed at which Covid-19 was spreading, the priority became the recovery of economic, social and cultural life,” Michel wrote.

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