How Europe sleepwalked into the COVID-19 crisis

Barely a month before Europe started to scramble for masks, ventilators and test kits…

European Union governments told Brussels their healthcare systems were ready and there was no need to order more medical supplies.

That’s according to internal and public documents seen by Reuters.

In the minutes of a closed-door meeting with diplomats from member states on Feb. 5, a European Commission official had said, “Things under control.”

And - "There is strong level of preparedness in member states, most have measures in place” to detect and treat COVID-19.

According to the minutes, the official was relaying comments from national envoys.

Europe is now anything but under control, with overwhelmed healthcare workers and crowded hospitals.

The overly optimistic outlook came just two weeks before the first victims of coronavirus in Italy, where more than 13,000 people have since died from the virus.

And - Nearly 10,000 Italian health workers have been infected.

Asked whether the documents seen by Reuters showed the European response had been too slow, a spokesman for the EU executive said quote: "As from January, the Commission offered the possibility of support to member states.”

In mid-February, the EU agency for disease control said risks that healthcare systems might exceed their capacity were considered "low to moderate.”

A month later, it said that no countries would have enough intensive care beds by mid-April.

And today - Italy has only a fraction of the 90 million face masks its medical workers need each month to fight the pandemic.