EU warned Italexit back on the table if Brussels fails to back Italy in coronavirus fight

The European Union has been accused of adopting a timid response to the coronavirus pandemic spreading through its members, with Italy, in particular, grappling with over 15,000 COVID-19 patients and 1,000 deaths. European Central Bank boss Christine Lagarde also came under fire after effectively telling governments across the eurozone they are widely responsible for protecting their economies from a potential recession. Enrico Franceschini, the foreign correspondent for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, warned Brussels response reignited fears of a resurgence of demands for Italexit. 

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Franceschini said: “Italy expects more of Europe at this time.

“Christine Lagarde from the Cental Bank…people were very disappointed.

“Decisions have to show that we are in this all together otherwise Italians are warning we might have again people pushing for Italexit after Brexit.”

The ECB boss confirmed a £120bn (£106bn) stimulus will be made available to help eurozone member states prepare for a possible recession after admitting the pandemic will have a significant impact on the economy.

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Italy asked swift intervention from the European Commission to help the country cope with the growing number of COVID-19 cases but has so far received no practical help from the bloc.

France and Germany have banned all exports of facemasks, including to Italy which relies solely on imports.

The locked-down country on Thursday received the first wave of support from China, where the current coronavirus outbreak originally broke out, whose Government dispatched nine specialised doctors as well as additional protective gear and testing kits to help.

China only reported 24 new cases on Wednesday, compared to thousands per day last month, and the country is now seeing cases being brought in from overseas with six recorded cases in Beijing coming from outside the country: five from Italy and one from the United States.

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In Italy, many of the 62 million inhabitants have been encouraged to stay home and police across the country have patrolled cafes to ensure owners kept customers one metre apart during daylight hours and then enforced a strict 6pm closure order.

After the first wave of protective measures issued on Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Wednesday a majority of shops were to be shut down to help contain the spread. 

Top doctors in Italy have said intensive care wards should place an age limit on beds as a way of prioritising medical resources.

Guidance for the worst-case scenario published by the Society of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SAARI) suggested that rather than admit patients on a “first come first served” basis, hospitals should swap to “catastrophe medicine” guidelines.

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The guidelines mean those with the greatest chance of survival are given priority.

The measures the SAARI outlined are typically used in war zones and during natural disasters.

If a limit on beds is implemented it could mean elderly patients with no signs of coronavirus being turfed off ICU wards to make space for younger patients who have longer left to live.

The warning came hours after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

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