The European Union’s single market is on the brink of a dramatic collapse as the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to grip the bloc, Italian prime minister has warned. Giuseppe Conte said European leaders will have to come together after the crisis to “rewrite” the rules of the EU’s flagship policy. He accused Brussels bureaucrats of leaving businesses and households at risk from financial meltdown by not sanctioning sufficient rescue measures. “The approved measures are not sufficient,” he told Italian daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
Damage will be serious and widespread. A true ‘reconstruction plan’ will be needed.
“After the coronavirus nothing will be as before, we will have to sit down and rewrite the rules of trade and the free market.”
Mr Conte has already unveiled an economic support package of £22.7 billion, with a cabinet meeting scheduled today to see if new measures can be approved.
The Italian leader said: “We are responding within rules that will allow our economy to face the costs of the emergency.
“We are ready, if necessary, to intervene again to relaunch the country.”
Italy is the second worst hit country after China, where the coronavirus originated late last year.
The outbreak shows no signs of slowing as it emerged the death toll had reached 1,809 by yesterday, increasing some 368 in a day, the largest daily rise to date.
The total number of cases continued to rise, reaching 24,747 after a jump of 3,590 in 24 hours.
Mr Conte said it was important to “scrupulously” respect the bans imposed on school, shops, sporting event closures and ordering people to stay home except for essential travel.
“Scientists are telling us that the outbreak has not reached it peak, these weeks will be the most risky, and the maximum precaution is needed,” he added.
The European Commission has vowed to look at how its single market operates after the coronavirus crisis.
A spokesman said the bloc must prioritise on ensuring goods, especially medical products, keep flowing between countries.
He said: “We need to make sure that the single market actually works that it keeps functioning in order to supply the goods in particular that are required in this context.
A crisis like the one provoked by the Coronavirus has as we see impact on many policy fields and I believe that all public authorities will be reflecting on what are the lessons to be drawn once we’ve come out of the crisis.
“But at the moment we’re focused on ensuring we can meet the needs of patients of those who care for them and more widely of citizens who need to continue to carry on their lives in Europe.”