Italian PM Conte warns EU could fail over outbreak

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Italy’s prime minister has told the BBC that the European Union risks failing as a project in the coronavirus crisis.

Giuseppe Conte says the EU must act in an adequate and co-ordinated way to help countries worst hit by the virus.

Mr Conte says the European Union needs to rise to the challenge of what he calls “the biggest test since the Second World War”.

This was his first interview with the UK broadcast media since the pandemic exploded in Italy seven weeks ago.

The Italian prime minister told the BBC that Europe’s leaders were “facing an appointment with history” that they could not miss.

“If we do not seize the opportunity to put new life into the European project, the risk of failure is real.”

He was speaking as Italy and some other EU countries try to push more frugal members of the bloc to issue so-called “corona bonds” – sharing debt that all EU nations would help to pay off. The Netherlands in particular has opposed the idea, leading to a clash between finance ministers of the eurozone.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC on Thursday Italy may start to lift current lockdown restrictions by the end of April if the spread of the disease in the country continues to slow, adding “We need to pick sectors that can restart their activity. If scientists confirm it, we might begin to relax some measures already by the end of this month”.

He warned that restrictions would only be eased gradually, adding that Italy could not lower its guard to the threat of the virus.

On Wednesday, there were 542 coronavirus-related deaths in Italy, lower than 604 the previous day. The death toll now stands at 17,669.

The number of people in intensive care also declined from 3,792 to 3,693.

Read more via BBC

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