How can corona rules be eased?

Austria has taken the initiative and began easing its lockdown measures for containing the coronavirus on Tuesday. Plans for an exit strategy from the restrictions are also being made in other European countries. Journalists discuss when such steps can be taken and what dilemmas societies face.

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Público (PT) /

Economy needs a glimmer of hope

Público is aware that the most difficult decision is yet to come:

“In March we had to choose between public health and the insecurity of disrupting normal life. In May we will have to choose between public health and an economic disaster of unimaginable proportions. ... The days of isolation that the country and Europe are experiencing are numbered. Because even if the threats posed by the pandemic continue to be real, they are, despite everything, less frightening. ... We must find an answer to this terrible dilemma within weeks - a dynamic strategy which brings production and consumption back to normal levels in as much as possible, can be adapted to the threat of the virus, and gives businesses a glimmer of hope.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

School reopening boosts morale

The Netherlands is also considering relaxing its strict control measures. According to the Danish model schools should be the first to reopen, De Volkskrant urges:

“A gradual normalisation is appropriate. ... The reopening of schools can also provide new insights into how the virus spreads. If the daily infection figures put out by the National Institute for Public Health aren't negatively affected, this can also hold out hope for the reopening of other sectors. If schools start functioning as usual it can boost morale: it offers a perspective for the rest of society.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Ease up only with maximum discipline

The point isn't to return to the old normality but to find a new one, Lidové noviny stresses:

“The different policies adopted by the European countries have a common denominator: to aquire more freedom we need even greater discipline in public life. ... Different paths lead out of the lockdown, but they don't lead directly to the normality that people imagine. The Czechs can count themselves lucky that from the very start they placed the highest importance on maximum discipline - in particular the compulsory wearing of masks. At least now there's no need to make masks obligatory as a condition for lifting restrictions.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Restrictions can always be reimposed

Új Szó considers a relaxation of the lockdown measures to be risky but unavoidable:

“We have to find a balance between the security of society and a serious economic collapse. In addition, the steps taken by other EU member states must also be taken into account because Slovakia has an open economy that is closely linked to other European economies. And it's not clear that the process of opening will be a one-way street: in the event of an increase in the number of infections renewed restrictions will be necessary. Despite all the difficulties, however, we must start relaxing the restrictions, otherwise the negative repercussions will accumulate over the coming weeks and months.”

Keskisuomalainen (FI) /

Loss of lives must be endured

Keskisuomalainen is slowly losing patience with the lockdown measures:

“The healthcare system has been able to cope with the number of coronavirus patients. In the area around the capital the virus spread more quickly than elsewhere in Finland, but here, too, there were enough hospital beds. ... Now the time has come to lift at least some of the restrictions. ... Society must accept the fact that we can't just hide from coronavirus until a vaccine is developed. So life must return to normal in a controlled manner, and we must endure the loss of human lives caused by the virus. The price could be lower than the human cost of continuing the lockdown.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Economy will soon take priority over life

At some stage saving lives will no longer be the priority, columnist Xenia Tourki predicts in Philelefheros:

“So if no vaccine or medicine is found, are we prepared to repeat the restrictive measures and put the economy on hold again just when it's starting to recover? Without the measures, the consequences for the economy would not be so painful but we would have a much higher number of deaths. As difficult as it may be, the time will come when we will calculate the losses against the gains. Let us admit that there will come a time when human lives don't come first.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Keep an eye on the limits of what is tolerable

To ensure the public's well-being flexibility is now more called for than strict rules, political scientist Alberto Mingardi warns in La Stampa:

“If we want to try to revive the economy we'll need personal protective equipment and social distancing at companies as well. We'll also need mental agility to find ways to make virus containment compatible with a certain level of activity. ... This is not just a question of money: it's also a question of how much freedom we have in this new situation. ... As time passes it will become clearer - even if we haven't yet worked out the exact point - that there is a 'maximum sustainability' of the lockdown. A threshold beyond which it implies a drastic reduction in our well-being.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

People can live with clear goals

Eesti Päevaleht expects the state to formulate clear criteria for ending the state of exception:

“The criteria proposed by US scientists for a gradual easing of restrictions sound sensible. First, the number of new cases goes down over a period of two weeks. Second: hospitals are able to care for all patients. Third: all patients with Covid-19 symptoms can be tested. Fourth: all patients and their contacts can be monitored. We expect the state to come up with a quick plan for exiting the state of emergency and concrete milestones that everyone can observe. Then it will be easier for people to comply with the restrictions despite the beautiful spring weather.”

Trud (BG) /

Lockdown only for risk groups

Generalised restrictions do more harm than good in the long run, Trud writes, adding that it's time for a rethink:

“We can't bury our heads in the sand forever in the hope that the danger will pass. ... The restrictions don't have to be abandoned immediately and completely, nevertheless they can be gradually eased over time. The billions we're now spending on combating coronavirus could be used to isolate the risk groups, while the rest of the population builds up herd immunity. ... It would be unforgivable if we didn't rethink the situation before it's too late, because we've already paid too high a price for the extreme lockdown measures.”

Ziare (RO) /

State must plan for a reboot

Romania isn't even engaging in a debate over how to exit the lockdown, Ziare writes in annoyment:

“There can be no putting off adopting gradual measures aimed at returning to normality. But no one seems interested. We should be talking about this rather than about austerity measures which only cause panic because they haven't been worked out in detail. Instead of wage cuts, rebuilding the state sector would for example be more useful in the long run. ... Cogent measures for rebooting the economy must be worked out so that people can see the bigger picture and not just live with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. If the government doesn't get a move on it's to be feared that people will try to push through a reboot on their own, driven by hunger and despair.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Criticism should be allowed

Even in these difficult times, criticism must not be dismissed as treason, La Repubblica believes:

“Surely it's permissible, after two months of fighting against evil and especially in the darkest hour, to point out what doesn't work? To point to the mistakes and delays which are making today's war more painful and tomorrow's rebirth more difficult, without belittling the spirit of national unity which is necessary in these times? Let's be honest: the coronavirus is mercilessly bringing to light the problems that complicate the present and encumber the future. From the enormous national debt to the reprehensible dismantling of the national healthcare system.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Debate must not be stifled

The Süddeutsche Zeitung finds it unsettling that attempts are being made in several countries to stifle the discussion about relaxing coronavirus measures:

“In a democracy, not only should a debate about when the measures will be eased be allowed, it must exist - and right from the beginning. ... Many politicians are afraid of this debate: worried that it will develop its own dynamic. Under no circumstances do they want to find themselves in a situation in which, against their better judgement, they feel compelled to open schools and shops 'prematurely' - with the consequence that the virus would then devastate thousands of people within a few weeks. But you can't prevent such a momentum by stalling the debate.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

The main thing is that we obey

Governments are making demands on citizens without answering key questions, columnist Vasiliki Zenonos complains in Phileleftheros:

“They ask us to choose between our private sphere and our health, and impose total surveillance on us. ... We're asked to become spies and denounce anyone we suspect is acting in an 'illegitimate' way. But we're not being told what to say to friends and relatives who are facing financial disaster. ... We're not being told what measures have been taken for refugees in detention and accommodation centres, where the virus can spread within hours. ... We're not being told what to say to asylum seekers who have been waiting for food vouchers since March 10 and have nothing to eat. The main thing is that we obey.”