Coronavirus in Europe: shortage of medical equipment and panic purchases of food
European countries are afraid to repeat the fate of Italy, where doctors have to choose who to help
European states are trying to procure tens of thousands of additional ventilators and protective equipment for health workers while trying to reassure the public about food supplies as the coronavirus crisis continues to escalate.
Countries compete for essential medical equipment and fear the fate of Italy, where the number of cases and deaths continues to skyrocket despite the country’s tight lockdown..
Due to the acute shortage of equipment, Italian doctors have to decide which of the severe patients to connect to ventilators.
Exponential rise in infections is alarming across Europe: authorities fear that health care systems will not be able to handle the burden.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed industries, including carmakers, to produce what the healthcare system needs. We are talking, in particular, about the production of 20 to 30 thousand ventilators in addition to the existing 8000.
Italy has commissioned the only domestic manufacturer of ventilators to quadruple production, from 125 to 500 units per month, and has donated military personnel to help the company meet the challenge. However, according to the authorities, even this will not be enough.
Italian ministers have turned to other EU countries, but they are in no hurry to help.
Neighboring countries are wary of distributing their supplies, which they may soon need themselves. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, complaining about the lack of solidarity, turned to China. Other states, including countries of Central Europe and the Balkan region, are also seeking help from China..
France and Germany this month banned the export of durable medical equipment and protective gear, prompting criticism from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who announced last week that Brussels was creating a reserve of medical equipment. Germany lifted the ban on Monday, however, given the shortage of ventilators and other essential devices around the world, most EU countries are focusing on their own needs..
Many companies across Europe have agreed to re-equip their factories for medical needs. The perfume houses Givenchy and Christian Dior produce hand sanitizers, as do some alcohol brands, including Absolut Vodka. Zara manufactures face masks and hospital gowns.
Meanwhile, some European governments are concerned about the behavior of their own citizens, especially with regard to panic buying..
British consumers stocked up on over a billion dollars worth of food in just a few weeks, and supermarkets are forced to impose restrictions on the most popular items..
The UK’s National Health Service tried to shame shoppers by reminding them that this behavior prevents health workers who work late in hospitals to buy basic necessities..
According to ministers, British manufacturers have increased production by 50 percent, and supermarket chains are agreeing to cooperate in the field of delivery and storage..
British Minister of Environment, Food and Agriculture George Eustis on Saturday urged consumers to “behave responsibly and think of others.”.
Other European countries are also facing panic purchases that risk provoking food price inflation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns..
There are also concerns that food supply chain disruptions may occur due to border restrictions imposed by some European countries..