The survival of the European Union is at stake as the continent weathers its worst crisis since the second world war, Spain’s prime minister has warned, calling on Europe to implement its own Marshall plan to rebuild the continent’s economies.
Pedro Sánchez’s view, published on Sunday in the Guardian and nine newspapers across the continent, comes as the number of daily deaths dropped significantly in Spain, raising hopes the Covid-19 epidemic there is peaking.
European leaders have clashed in recent weeks over how to respond to the economic shock of the crisis, exposing deep faultlines as countries such as Italy, France and Spain accuse other member states of being too timid in their response.
Failure to act in solidarity could imperil the union’s future, said Sánchez. “Europe must build a wartime economy and promote European resistance, reconstruction and recovery,” he said, reiterating his call for “coronabonds”, or EU-backed debt instruments, as well as a European Marshall plan of massive public investments to counter the economic blow of the pandemic.
“Europe was born out of the ashes of destruction and conflict,” said Sánchez. “It learned the lessons of history and understood something very simple: if we don’t all win, in the end, we all lose.”
His stark words come amid tentative hints that the coronavirus is beginning to loosen its grip on Spain and Italy, Europe’s hardest-hit countries.
In Spain, the number of deaths in the past 24 hours stood at 674 – the lowest daily reported death toll since 26 March. The virus has claimed 12,418 lives in the country and the number of confirmed cases is now 130,759, according to data from the health ministry published on Sunday.
The latest data suggests the growth in the number of infections has slowed to about 5% – the smallest increase since officials began tracking the outbreak.
While officials urged caution in interpreting the data, they noted the figures hinted at a downward trend, with fewer hospitalisations and a drop in patients needing critical care.
“The sense that we’re getting from the regions is that the pressure is easing,” said María José Sierra from Spain’s health emergency centre. “It’s what we expected after three weeks of distancing measures.”
In Italy, the number of deaths has passed the 15,000 mark. Deaths on Saturday rose by 681, the lowest daily rise in almost two weeks.
Officials on Saturday said the number of patients in intensive care had fallen for the first time since they began tracking the outbreak, with 3,994 people in intensive care on Saturday, down from 4,068.
“This is important news, as it allows our hospitals to breathe,” said Angelo Borrelli, the chief of the civil protection authority.
In Germany, the number of confirmed infections rose by 5,936 in the past 24 hours to 91,714 on Sunday, the third consecutive day that the daily rate of new cases had dropped, data from the government’s Robert Koch Institute showed.