COVID-19 - let’s stick together
NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Thomas Wiersing (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Well, of course sticking together is not really meant literally here. But in our mindsets.

We are in this together – and we will overcome it only together. Addressing this global crisis requires cooperation and solidarity at the national and international level. The EU is acting in full transparency and is coordinating closely with its partners such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Cooperation and solidarity are critical to overcome this pandemic. This crisis has definitely highlighted the importance of multilateral cooperation. The world is simply too interconnected for action in full isolation.

At the same time the Philippines, the EU – proud of it’s usually open borders – and many other countries are undertaking similar efforts to fight COVID-19 in an attempt to slow down the transmission of the virus. But that is temporary because that is not the world we want to live in. We will need to get the balance right.

As the acting Head of Delegation of the EU Delegation to the Philippines my top priority at this point in time is obviously to assist EU Member States in repatriating stranded EU tourists back to their home countries – because home is where you feel safest when you need it most. Some have special medical situations, some are pregnant, some had to sleep in front of domestic airports. And getting them out is a shared objective. Over the last few days I had the opportunity to meet with Foreign Affairs  Secretary Locsin and was in contact with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and too many other government officials and airlines to be named. I am profoundly grateful for their efforts to help these tourists, knowing that their countrymen also are faced with most difficult circumstances. Many countries – EU Member States and others – have already conducted repatriation flights. And I sincerely hope that many of these tourists one day will return to the Philippines – to fully discover the country and for the benefit of the country’s tourism industry.

Albeit badly hit by the virus, the EU is trying its best to face the crisis and its consequences. At the beginning of the crisis, we provided more than 56 tonnes of personal protective equipment to China. As COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, we have decided to add €232 million to help the global fight against COVID-19. €100 million funding for research on vaccines, diagnosis and treatment. €113.5 million will support the World Health Organisation to boost global preparedness, prevention and containment of the virus. Most of the funds will support countries under particular strain and weaker health systems.

Transparency is also very important. The Philippines has set up a communication mechanism to keep the public informed. After all, transparent government action and free press are important to strengthen trust in official messages. As receivers of information, everyone is duty bound to ensure that the right message is conveyed to others and right sources of information are used.

The fight against COVID-19 is not yet over. More than ever, now is the time to take stock more of our lives and of our humanity, and to cherish moments with people who matter to us most.

During this lockdown, we must show gratitude to our frontliners – officials, doctors, nurses, medical technologists, security officers in checkpoints and in the hospitals, voluntary helpers at repatriation flights, staff in convenience stores and groceries, couriers, janitors and drivers – just about everyone who continues to help mitigating the effects of COVID-19. Hats off to all of you!

We are all in this act together. In solidarity, there is strength.

Keep safe.

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(Thomas Wiersing is Charge d’Affaires, a.i. of the EU Delegation to the Philippines)


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