Coronavirus: has Europe relaxed too soon?

With Covid-19 cases again rising in many countries, fresh criticisms of Europe's management of the pandemic are also being voiced. Politicians have eased the measures taken to counter the virus at all levels over the last two months, making international tourism, and in some states even large dance events, possible once more. Commentators fear this could now backfire.

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Lost in EUrope (DE) /

The EU hasn't learned its lesson

Eric Bonse notes in his blog Lost in EUrope how helplessly the EU Commission is reacting to the rising Covid-19 figures:

“It has already been silent on the rising figures in Germany, Luxembourg and Spain. Now that the crisis is back on its doorstep in Brussels, so to speak, the EU authorities have no plan. They haven't even launched an EU-wide test series. And what is the German EU Presidency doing? Acting as if none of this concerns it. A national travel warning has been issued for Luxembourg, but not yet for Belgium, and the German approach is not coordinated across the EU. Its Health Minister Spahn is focusing mainly on German tourists from 'risk areas'. He is obviously not thinking of Belgium and Luxembourg. And he has not yet convened a crisis meeting of the EU health ministers. All this does not bode well for the autumn.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Parties should be banned

Several people were infected with coronavirus at a weekend-long party event in a Maltese hotel. The Malta Independent is furious that such events were allowed to take place at all:

“While businesses that organised such events should feel ashamed for doing so, putting their own interests above the interests of others living in Malta, the health authorities and the government are also to blame for allowing such an event to take place in the first place. Party-goers do not follow social-distancing guidelines. People at such parties drink, dance in close proximity to others and be merry. They do not worry about keeping a 2m distance between themselves and the next person. Allowing such parties in the first place was a mistake.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Closing clubs would be even more dangerous

In Switzerland, the policy of letting clubs have up to 300 guests is under fire. Der Tages-Anzeiger still thinks this is the right course:

“If you look at the numbers of people actually getting infected in clubs, so far they appear less alarming than the headlines they generate. ... It's entirely possible that the pressure on the event industry will become so great that the experiment will soon be ended. If that were to happen it would not only be catastrophic news for the event industry - a reopening would probably remain inopportune in the long term. Nobody wants to imagine where and under which protective measures the youth would meet to have fun and exchange ideas after that. But that they will do so regardless is certain even in uncertain times.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Shooting at sparrows with cannons

Belgium is stepping up its countermeasures in view of the rapid rise in infection rates. A curfew has been imposed in Antwerp for the first time since World War II. De Tijd complains that the country is having to bring out the heavy artillery because of its own mistakes:

“The government is shooting at sparrows with cannons. Because it lacks the high-precision instruments to combat the corona fires in a targeted and efficient manner. Because the situation is already too far out of control. Because the system of tests and tracing contacts, the weapons against a second wave of infection, doesn't work. ... But after the second wave there may be a third and a fourth. ... So we'll get another chance. Let's make damn sure that next time we have the tools to deal with localised outbreaks quickly and effectively.”

Sözcü (TR) /

We'll be sorry if they come

Due to an EU travel warning few tourists are travelling to Turkey at the moment. Columnist Emin Çölaşan points out in Sözcü that the plan to allow Russian tourists to visit the country as of next week poses a major risk:

“All our hopes rest on foreign tourists. ... Nevertheless we must not forget that many countries, including Turkey, are keeping the number of cases secret. This means that no one, including those coming from Russia and Ukraine, believes the latest infection and mortality figures. ... Let me tell you what will happen, particularly in August, when the foreigners start coming here. The epidemic curve will rise significantly. No matter what measures are taken at the airport or at hotels, that won't change the reality. We will experience the consequences, and we will pay the price.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Localised hotspots are inevitable

More than 60 people have been infected with coronavirus in the hotels and restaurants of the Austrian holiday resort St. Wolfgang. Die Presse urges politicians to remain calm:

“Given the fragile balance between protecting people's health and safeguarding their economic interests, such clusters cannot be prevented. ... To throw out the baby with the bathwater and close down hotels, bars and restaurants in response to the infections in St. Wolfgang would not only put a severe damper on domestic summer tourism but also reduce the centrepiece of the crisis team's containment strategy to absurdity. ... This is why it must not and will not come to that. Above all because the contact tracing and isolation of those affected has worked very well from the first proven case of infection.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Compulsory testing is acceptable

Germany has announced plans to oblige travellers returning from high-risk areas to be tested for coronavirus. The Berliner Zeitung says this is not enough:

“The family from Cottbus that was infected by the coronavirus was coming from Mallorca, which is not a high-risk area. There's no way around it: to protect the entire population tests must be made mandatory for all air travellers. So far compulsory tests have been rejected on the ground that they encroach on people's privacy. But the spread of a virus is not a private matter when anyone can trigger an infection chain and become a superspreader. Tests are a small, acceptable constraint. After all, travellers also got used to security checks after the 9/11 attacks.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Stop the alarmism

Commenting in Corriere del Ticino, editor-in-chief Fabio Pontiggia is annoyed by panic-mongering experts:

“Generating fear in people is not the best way to deal with this phase of the pandemic. Not everyone reacts in the same way to alarming statements by experts. Part of the population is extremely sensitive. Nonsensical predictions that are not confirmed by real data also diminish the credibility of those who make them. ... Presumably their intention is to force the hands of the politicians who are responsible (and it is they alone who are) for making decisions that affect and define our daily lives and freedoms. Freedoms that were so severely restricted in March, April and May and which we have struggled to regain.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

False reservations

The Netherlands has so far refused to introduce a blanket obligation to wear masks; they must currently only be worn on public transport. In view of the rising number of cases De Telegraaf demands swift action:

“Both for the experts and for our neighbouring countries there is sufficient evidence that face masks can prevent the virus from spreading. Yet the government continues to wait for advice [from its panel of experts], all the while reminding citizens that they must take responsibility. This approach seems increasingly self-centred, which could have dramatic consequences if the virus spreads. One key argument our neighbours are making is that more controls now will limit the number of new infections in the autumn. If that's what we want, we must be particularly careful now.”