Coronavirus: can Europe keep it in check?

The number of coronavirus infections is rising in many places in Europe. The French and Belgian governments have introduced strict laws enforcing the wearing of masks to counter this trend. In Austria such a law was introduced and then abolished, only to be introduced again soon afterwards. Many commentators also take the view that wearing masks should be made compulsory to avert a second wave and a new lockdown.

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De Standaard (BE) /

Strict measures required

Belgium already has comprehensive mask rules. Der Standaard says this is the only option:

“If there's another lockdown with strict restrictions on freedom of movement, there is still the risk of the bloodbath that was prevented in the first wave with unprecedented and still unpaid aid measures. ... Many companies that gritted their teeth in desperation and started up again would go under. ... There are other countries that opted for a lax approach, such as Sweden, the US, Britain and Brazil, and which are now paying dearly for this. ... Laxity only prolongs the malaise. The seriousness of the situation cannot be overestimated.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Obligation to wear masks is unavoidable

A surge in the number of infections in the Netherlands has sparked a fierce debate about whether wearing masks should be mandatory. De Telegraaf is in favour, and can't understand why certain authorities believe such a rule would be hard to enforce:

“It's easier to enforce an obligation to wear nose and throat protection outside the home than it is to oblige people to respect a social distance of 1.5 metres, which many no longer do. ... [Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed] Aboutaleb rightly says: 'It's much easier to control this. Either you're wearing one or you aren't.' The mayor rightly points to other countries where people are already required to wear masks, and he is backed by Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam, where many shop owners have made masks compulsory. Stricter measures are inevitable given the repeated flare-ups of the virus.”

Newsweek Romania (RO) /

Masks as essential as traffic lights

Editor-in-chief Răzvan Chiruţă wonders in Newsweek Romania why so many people seem to have difficulties adhering to the coronavirus rules:

“If I obey the traffic rules, there's a good chance that I'll reach my destination intact. But if I ignore them on the grounds that they were imposed by someone else, that traffic lights restrict my freedom and that the solid line is ruining my day, there's every chance that I'll end up on the list of traffic deaths. And it's the same with the coronavirus: masks are the traffic lights and the minimum social distance is the solid line. And when I give you right of way, I'm ensuring that both you and I get home safely.”

ABC (ES) /

No plan and too few tracers

ABC is concerned about the rising number of new infections, particularly in the Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia:

“Fear of a second wave of infections, perhaps even before the autumn, is growing apace with the increase in infection figures reported by the autonomous communities on a daily basis. Now that the state of emergency is over the government lacks a legal framework in which to act, and the instruments for contact tracing have also proved to be totally inadequate for keeping the pandemic under control. ... On average there is just one Covid 19 contact tracer per 12,000 inhabitants in Spain - making this the main reason for the infection situation and uncontrolled spread of coronavirus in at least two regions.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Easing measures futile without civic responsibility

The number of coronavirus infections is starting to rise again in Belgium, while at the same time the authorities are being criticised for doing too little to track infection chains. But just pointing fingers at politicians is too easy, De Standaard warns:

“Sometimes the problem is that information is lacking, but more and more often it comes down to nonchalance. We can blame the authorities, but we also have to show a sense of citizenship ourselves. More and more places around the world are having to lock down again because the virus has flared up - causing human and economic collateral damage. If we don't all shoulder responsibility, all the easing measures will soon be reversed. Then we can at least console ourselves with the thought that we only have ourselves to blame.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Solidarity has vanished

Philosophy professor Konrad Paul Liessmann detects a rapid change in popular mentality:

“The much-vaunted solidarity of the first hours, the mutual consideration for the good of everyone's health has turned into a new cold-hearted stance that plays off the right to unrestricted fun against the observance of even the most basic hygiene standards. ... Contrary to a widespread belief, crises do not make us innovative, but conservative. We stubbornly demand an immediate return to the former status quo! The idea of renouncing something, if only for a limited time, collides with a long-propagated sense of entitlement.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Government gambling away the people's trust

After the Constitutional Court overturned a government decree on home and hospital quarantine, it took 14 days for parliament to agree on a new law. All this will hardly encourage Romanians to continue behaving responsibly in the pandemic, spotmedia.ro sighs:

“Why do people no longer believe the situation is serious? ... Yes, conspiracy theories also play a role. But above all the government has to ask: Why don't the people believe us? What are we getting wrong? ... The only way to restore trust is through very precise communication and by combating excesses and radical discourse.”

Der Standard (AT) /

We won't be knocked over the next time

The experience gained so far will help society deal with a new spread of the virus, says Der Standard:

“It is a question that is currently preying on everyone's mind: will there be a second wave of coronavirus, and if so, when? ... But perhaps it's high time to say goodbye to the term wave. A wave knocks us over, a rise in infections like the one we have now won't. We are better prepared than the first time, we know which are sensible hygiene measures, we have learned from our mistakes, the medical establishment is better equipped, and we know what our top priority is: to protect the risk groups. After all, it's not just how many people are ill that counts, but also who gets infected.”

Polityka (PL) /

The new normal is here to stay

The pandemic is still in full swing worldwide, Polityka writes:

“There is practically nowhere in the world where the coronavirus has become less prevalent. The Australian and South Korean governments have had to step up local stay-home measures again while Iran and the Philippines are currently struggling with the highest infection rates since the pandemic began. The global situation suggests that in addition to masks and disinfectants, getting used to quarantine will no doubt be part of our 'new normal' - and will continue for many years to come.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Exploitation is fuelling new outbreaks

There has been a spike in the number of Covid-19 infections among seasonal farm workers in Segrià, Catalonia, so that parts of Lleida province have had to be put into lockdown. El Periódico de Catalunya sees a link with other Covid outbreaks in Europe:

“The lockdown in Lleida has shone a light on the social plight of seasonal workers, which existed long before coronavirus came along. The unhealthy conditions in which many of them are forced to live has repeatedly been denounced by NGOs and trade unions. Now their situation has suddenly come to the fore because of the link to new outbreaks of the virus. Not just in Segrià, but also in Aragón, Murcia and in other European countries, slaughterhouses, food processing plants and plantations have been associated with the resurgence of the virus.”

Aktuality.sk (SK) /

Better to lock down again

Slovakia must take measures to prevent the recent rise in infections in the Balkans from crossing the border into its territory, Aktuality.sk warns:

“We have exhausted our options for suppressing the first wave. If a second, even larger wave were to occur, our health system could collapse. An open border is only important for about two to five percent of the population. The state must compensate for the loss of income for commuters and those who work abroad. It should offer them a job in Slovakia. Only tourists from 'healthy' countries should be able to visit us. If we take reasonable measures against the influx of the disease from abroad, there will be practically no Covid-19 infections in Slovakia.”