By Helena De Felipe Lehtonen

In light of the current pandemic, which is affecting us all, but especially those of us who are older or have poorer health, I wonder whether the virus was developed in a laboratory and subsequently released, whether intentionally or not. As ordinary citizens don't know the answer to that question, and even though a vaccine may be available by autumn 2021, how do we know that another virus won't appear next winter with similar consequences? (Let's not forget the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.)

In the face of all these unknowns, is the shutdown of the economy and the extensive use of reserve funds seen in almost all countries the best way to preserve jobs and keep the economy productive? Or should we perhaps put all our logistical and economic efforts into giving our health services the resources they need to analyse and treat infections in people requiring medical care?

I don't think the world's economies could remotely handle a similar situation in 2021, either through bailouts or borrowing, as productive economies will slump, resulting in job losses. Perhaps we will reach a stage where states will have to take control of civil society because no private economy will be able to cope.

People are no longer waiting for the European Union to fulfil its role by demonstrating clear leadership and showing its Member States which path to take in the face of this pandemic in terms of healthcare, the economy and social considerations. Every country has taken its own measures, based solely on the assumptions of the WHO, which of course does not consider the economy. This is another key way to assess the EU's leadership.

As a member of the European Economic and Social Committee representing European and Spanish SMEs, which have an average of two to three workers each in their productive fabric, I believe that the emotional, economic and personal damage will be irreversible. We should therefore take a short to medium-term view rather than copy health policies from totalitarian countries that are not at all suited to free-market economies.