European markets opened significantly lower on Friday, ignoring all the stimulus pledges by governments this week, as the deadly Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread. Europe now accounts for more than half of global infections.
Britain’s FTSE 100 is plummeting more than three percent during early trading in London. Stock markets in Germany and France are down over two percent.
The market fall comes as EU leaders fail to come to an agreement over the economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. During a video conference summit on Thursday, the leaders of the 27-member bloc argued over how to pull their economies through the crisis, with Italy accusing other member states of having a timid response to the unprecedented economic shock.
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has called for “extraordinary and exceptional measures” to help Europe’s battered economies. Along with France, Spain, and seven other Eurozone countries, Italy wants a “European recovery bond,” also known as ‘coronabonds’, EU-backed debt to lift member states out of recession and increase spending on healthcare.
The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, criticized the EU member states for “looking out for themselves” during the early phases of the crisis. “When Europe really needed an all-for-one spirit, too many initially gave an only-for-me response. And when Europe really needed to prove that this is not only a fair weather union, too many initially refused to share their umbrella,” she told the European parliament in Brussels on Thursday during a session to vote through emergency measures.
The overall number of deaths in Europe due to coronavirus has exceeded 14,000 since the first recorded fatality in France on February 15. The majority of deaths have occurred in Italy, with 8,215. March 26 was the deadliest day so far in Europe, with 1,918 virus-related deaths recorded in 26 different European countries.
Spain and Germany are also among the world’s worst-hit countries in terms of infection levels. Spain follows Italy as the fourth most infected country, with the number of infection cases at 57,786 and 4,365 deaths. The total amount of confirmed cases in Germany grew from 36,508 to 42,288 over a single day. The nation’s death toll is now 281.
Europe accounts for more than half of coronavirus infections worldwide with almost 280,000 cases. The total number of Covid-19 infections in the world stands at 537,436 people.