Coronavirus: how to deal with critique and protest?

The Berlin Corona demonstration in which tens of thousands of people took part at the end of August drew attention from across Europe. A week later, thousands of people also took to the streets in Rome and Zagreb in protest at the pandemic measures. Commentators discuss the sources of the protesters' frustration and lack of understanding and ask how they should be addressed.

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The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

We are being treated like children

The fight against the virus is a boon for all those who want to control every little detail of people's lives, writes The Daily Telegraph:

“The virus has become an absolute feeding frenzy for a culture of health and safety gone mad, and it’s making us more infantilised than ever. If we thought it was bad being constantly lectured by the government on how naughty it is to eat high-calorie foods, then being micro-managed in all aspects of our life in the age of Covid is worse. Indeed for bureaucrats and jobsworths, and those who love coming up with reasons why you can’t possibly do something, or if you want to do them you’ll have to fill in 47 forms, the Covid era is a veritable bubble bath of pleasure.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Endangering lives means crossing a red line

The right to freedom of expression and protest has limits, explains Jutarnji list:

“Most of those who gathered [on Friday] for the Zagreb Freedom Festival are conspiracy theorists, convinced that Covid-19 is not dangerous and just an invention to enable states and governments to suppress human rights. ... Granting freedom of assembly to people who promote bizarre ideas is part of democracy. Anyone who wants to believe in lizard people has the right to do so - although it's unpleasant if one of them happens to be your doctor. But a clear line must be drawn when human lives are in danger. Those who refuse to comply with minimum standards for protecting others during the pandemic are dangerous and should be sanctioned.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Don't just watch and wait!

Avvenire urges an adequate response to the movement of the coronavirus deniers and critics of the measures:

“While the global party of common sense is taking slow and contradictory steps to find a way out of the crisis, the vast and heterogeneous international coalition of sovereignists is unapologetically and resolutely taking the most dangerous social path, that of denial. ... To underestimate this movement would be a grave mistake, because the global 'no mask' network is powerful and well structured. In addition to the organised 'populist' base, there are patrols by openly neo-Nazi extremists who, as we have seen, exert a great attraction on young people. ... A timely response is crucial. A political and communicative response, and above all a European one.”

Kurier (AT) /

Stop looking for culprits

In Kurier's opinion more people should show understanding for the fact that even top decision-makers can make mistakes:

“They call for a strong leader, but seconds later they're outraged by authoritarian restrictions on their freedom. If a decision-maker dares to change his decision based on valid reasons, he's accused of taking a zigzag course. ... It's difficult to accept that governments around the world were taken by surprise by this pandemic and did not immediately have a definitive answer to all the problems it posed (not even the experts agree). Especially for those who have been hit particularly hard by the crisis. It makes it easier when you can project your helpless anger onto someone. The downside of this constant search for culprits is the fear of responsibility. Because it tempts people to delegate when they should decide.”

Le Temps (CH) /

A sense of doubt revives democracy

The coronavirus crisis is changing the relationship between the government and the people, Le Temps comments:

“Conflicts between experts over risk management or the evolution of contagion curves, shifts of opinion about the role played by children and the admission of knowledge gaps have sometimes left people with an impression of complete cacacophony. ... Even if the [Swiss] political bodies have held up quite well in view of a general loss of confidence in Western elites, the management of the Covid-19 crisis seems to be showing its first real signs of wear and tear. Still, doubts are salutary. ... Because doubts are not the sort of mistrust that ascribes malicious intent to all and sundry, but a rational approach expressing the people's ability to reflect. A Cartesian act. A sign of the vitality of democracy.”

Le Soir (BE) /

All very difficult

It is frustrating to see that things are little better after the summer holidays than they were before, Le Soir sighs:

“September is approaching and everything is, will remain, or will once more be difficult. The ubiquitous masks that must be worn wherever we go and as often as possible. One dreams of going back to the office, if it weren't for the trams and trains. And staying at home in front of the computer without stimulating colleagues or helpful contacts will be hard to bear. We're rested - after all we've had some time off - but deep down we're still tired all the time. We've lost the simple art of enjoying moments as they come, and we regret not having appreciated these moments more, no matter how banal.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Discouraging results

The Irish Independent is also disappointed at how little the sacrifices made so far have achieved:

“Most people are quite good in an emergency, even if we are scared. Phase two saw us figure out the broad parameters of the problem and sketch out what to do next: social distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and face coverings. ... Phase three is the most difficult, as we look at the fruits of the sacrifices of the past six months and still see the country in a state of semi-suspended animation, continued tension and fluctuating restrictions. We hold our breath each evening to hear the case numbers. Is this what success looks like?”

Delo (SI) /

We are gradually forgetting freedom

Fear of the pandemic and the arbitrary measures taken by the various governments have robbed citizens of their desire for freedom, laments Urša Zabukovec, Delo's Spain correspondent:

“The coronavirus has affected our bodies as much as it has maimed our minds. Because we have renounced our quality of life. Faced with the agony of the arbitrary restrictions, intimidation and oppression of the coronavirus era, people seem to be resigning themselves to the fact that freedom is not - as US President Thomas Jefferson once put it - a gift from God, but granted by a certain group of people, i.e. the respective government. This government can give and take as it pleases. This is also happening in our society [in Slovenia], whose intellect is in a profound slumber.”