Massive Euro bailout tabled as face mask debate goes on

It took a while for Europe to warm to face masks. Now, as a line of defence against COVID-19, they are almost essential.

The debate rages - is a basic face mask worthwhile in a COVID-19 climate? Photo: Shutterstock

The debate rages - is a basic face mask worthwhile in a COVID-19 climate? Photo: Shutterstock

Earlier this week, Austria made it compulsory for them to be worn in supermarkets while Israel made it a blanket rule - when you're out, masks are on.

The same rule now applies in Sceaux, a small city near Paris. It became the first French municipality to make masks mandatory in public. The city of Nice is expected to follow next week.

France's Academy of Medicine has recommended masks be required nationwide. The government has not gone that far, but it has urged people to wear them, just as the US government has.

To meet its quite obvious need inmates in three Italian jails have been called into action. Eight machines with daily output capacity of 400,000 masks will be installed starting from mid-April in three jails in Milan, Rome and Salerno.

Overnight European Union finance ministers agreed to more than half a trillion euros worth of programs to lift economies mangled by the coronavirus.

The package is explained as including a 100 billion euro ($109 billion) loans scheme to fund unemployment benefits, 200 billion euros in loans to smaller businesses, and access to 240 billion euros in loans from the eurozone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, that should be broadly spent on funding health-related programs.

Further details will be made clearer at another meeting next week.

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva said overnight she is expecting the worst since since The Depression of the 1930s.

The IMF was created for times like these, and, she said, stood ready to deploy $US1 trillion in lending capacity.

The first world leader to be hospitalised with the coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, remains in hospital but is out of ICU.

US President Donald Trump described it as "great news".

Coronavirus could yet cause constitutional chaos over the ditch where the New Zealand opposition has floated a 2021 election.

Jacinda Adern announced a September 19 election back in January but now deputy PM Winston Peters wants that moved out to November 21, his party's long-time preferred date. Apparently the date is now "under review".

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This story To mask or not to mask? first appeared on The Canberra Times.