‘These are the riskiest weeks’: Italy’s PM calls for EU unity on coronavirus

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned on Monday that his country was entering "the riskiest weeks" and urged a coordinated European response to the coronavirus pandemic.

'These are the riskiest weeks': Italy's PM calls for EU unity on coronavirus
'Come on everyone, stay at home': Italy was the first EU country to impose a nationwide quarantine because of the coronavirus. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“European coordination on health and economic measures is needed,” Conte told the Corriere della Sera newspaper ahead of a planned videoconference on Monday between Group of Seven (G7) leaders.

“It is time for courageous choices and Italy can offer a significant contribution as the country that was the first in Europe to have have experienced such a wide spread of the virus,” he said.

LATEST: Record coronavirus deaths in Italy as Lombardy warns of hospital bed shortage

Italy was the first EU member state to shutter schools and almost all businesses to try to slow a global pandemic that has killed 1,809 people in the Mediterranean country since last month.

It has recorded more than half the deaths officially reported outside China.

Conte said “no new prohibitions are needed” but urged everyone to stay home as much as possible and only venture outside alone.

“Scientists tell us that we have not yet reached the peak. These are the riskiest weeks and we need the utmost precaution,” said Conte.

READ ALSO: 'You must learn from Italy's mistakes', health expert warns Europe

A health worker outside an emergency structure set up outside a hospital in the town of Brescia, in Lombardy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy is facing two simultaneous threats to its healthcare system.

World-class hospitals in the richer north where the overwhelming majority of the deaths and infections have been reported are running out of beds and relying on overstretched staff.


But Conte fears that medical centres in the poorer south which has largely avoided contagion will be unable to cope should it be hit just as hard.

“We can no longer afford behavioural errors,” said Conte. “Things like people leaving Milan on weekends to spend time with their family or at their residences in the south must absolutely stop.”

The virus “is our most important challenge of the past decades,” Conte said.

Find all The Local's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy here.

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‘A great day for consumers in Europe’: EU votes for single smartphone charger

The EU parliament on Tuesday passed a new law requiring USB-C to be the single charger standard for all new smartphones, tablets and cameras from late 2024 in a move that was heralded a "great day for consumers".

'A great day for consumers in Europe': EU votes for single smartphone charger

The measure, which EU lawmakers adopted with a vote 602 in favour, 13 against, will – in Europe at least – push Apple to drop its outdated Lightning port on its iPhones for the USB-C one already used by many of its competitors.

Makers of laptops will have extra time, from early 2026, to also follow suit.

EU policymakers say the single charger rule will simplify the life of Europeans, reduce the mountain of obsolete chargers and reduce costs for consumers.

It is expected to save at least 200 million euros ($195 million) per year and cut more than a thousand tonnes of EU electronic waste every year, the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said.

The EU move is expected to ripple around the world.

The European Union’s 27 countries are home to 450 million people who count among the world’s wealthiest consumers. Regulatory changes in the bloc often set global industry norms in what is known as the Brussels Effect.

“Today is a great day for consumers, a great day  for our environment,” Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba, the European Parliament’s pointman on the issue, said.

“After more than a decade; the single charger for multiple electronic devices will finally become a reality for Europe and hopefully we can also inspire the rest of the world,” he said.

Faster data speed

Apple, the world’s second-biggest seller of smartphones after Samsung, already uses USB-C charging ports on its iPads and laptops.

But it resisted EU legislation to force a change away from its Lightning ports on its iPhones, saying that was disproportionate and would stifle innovation.

However some users of its latest flagship iPhone models — which can capture extremely high-resolution photos and videos in massive data files — complain that the Lightning cable transfers data at only a bare fraction of the speed USB-C does.

The EU law will in two years’ time apply to all handheld mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, headsets, portable speakers, handheld videogame consoles, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, mice and portable navigation systems.

People buying a device will have the choice of getting one with or without a USB-C charger, to take advantage of the fact they might already have at least one cable at home.

Makers of electronic consumer items in Europe agreed a single charging norm from dozens on the market a decade ago under a voluntary agreement with the European Commission.

But Apple refused to abide by it, and other manufacturers kept their alternative cables going, meaning there are still some six types knocking  around.

They include old-style USB-A, mini-USB and USB-micro, creating a jumble of cables for consumers.

USB-C ports can charge at up to 100 Watts, transfer data up to 40 gigabits per second, and can serve to hook up to external displays.

Apple also offers wireless charging for its latest iPhones — and there is speculation it might do away with charging ports for cables entirely in future models.

But currently the wireless charging option offers lower power and data transfer speeds than USB-C.