Covid autumn: are we heading for another lockdown?

Infection numbers are rising rapidly across Europe and breaking previous records in many countries. Politicians warn that without more discipline new lockdowns are inevitable. The WHO's special envoy on Covid-19, David Nabarro, has now explicitly warned against this, saying that governments would do better to use other means to combat the pandemic. Europe's press discusses the dilemma.

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The Sun (GB) /

Covid patients' lives are no more valuable than others

The Sun welcomes the warnings by the WHO's special envoy:

“Lockdowns don't work. Even 'experts' admit they simply shove the contagion further down the road where it lurks until the lid is lifted and we start all over again. ... Most of those claimed by the virus have typically enjoyed a longer-than-average lifespan of 82 - a year more than the rest of us can hope for. Yet countless thousands of much younger men and women, many with families to raise, will die needlessly from untreated conditions including cancer, strokes, and heart and kidney diseases. What makes a Covid patient's life more valuable than theirs?”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Delay and indecision only make things worse

New restrictions should be introduced as quickly as possible wherever the virus is rapidly spreading, urges The Irish Times:

“The temptation for politicians faced with unpalatable choices is always to wait until things deteriorate so that it is obvious to the whole population that drastic action is needed. When you are dealing with a deadly infectious disease, delay and indecision only multiplies the size of the problem that will eventually have to be faced. It also means that measures you need to take will probably have to be more intensive and remain in place for a considerably longer time.”

Denik (CZ) /

Without a dam it's the deluge

Because of the massive spike in the number of cases in the Czech Republic, the highest in all the EU, the Prague government plans to tighten the measures against Covid again. Deník takes a very pessimistic view of the situation:

“The healthcare system only has so many beds, doctors and machines. Once the number of patients needing ventilators exceeds this limit, doctors will have to make decisions. That's tough. A similar situation in northern Italy last spring left doctors in despair. ... Meanwhile, despite restricted opening hours, people continue to enjoy themselves near bars like a procession of fools. Along the lines: 'After us the deluge'. And this deluge will come if we fail to give a bit of freedom and build a dam against it.”

444 (HU) /

Most citizens want stricter rules

444.hu doubts that Hungarian citizens are really against stricter conditions, as the government claims:

“Even the survey carried out by the Hungarian government itself shows that stricter measures have popular support. Seventy-nine percent of the population is in favour of events being restricted, and sixty-nine percent believes schools should be closed. ... Fifty-nine percent of respondents would even say people's time outside should be limited. … Overall, looking at the government survey and the Hope Project survey, one can see that the attitudes of Hungarians and other Europeans do not differ significantly.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Unacceptable chaos

La Vanguardia is stunned by what it sees as excessive demands being made by the Spanish authorities:

“At the state level, but especially in Madrid, the administration should be self-critical regarding its management of the pandemic: it should analyse its mistakes and correct them. The image of unpredictability and organisational chaos that the Community of Madrid is projecting is worrying. It is unacceptable that the health authorities in the capital have only now discovered that there aren't enough doctors - now they're rushing to recruit three hundred specialists - tracers, disinfection teams and law enforcement officers to monitor people who have are supposed to be quarantined. They've even asked the army for help.”

Sözcü (TR) /

Not even enough flu vaccine

Elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions are being advised to get a flu vaccination, but that is easier said than done in Turkey, Sözcü writes angrily:

“In our beautiful country there is no vaccine against flu or pneumonia! What is the minister of health doing about this, what does he have to say? Vaccines against pneumonia and influenza are not directly related to the coronavirus! ... To prevent a situation in which patients have to fight two or three enemies at the same time, vaccinations against flu and pneumonia are absolutely crucial. ... The coronavirus epidemic has been going on for more than six months. Why has the honourable minister of health been unable to get hold of vaccines against flu and pneumonia so far? Didn't he know how important they are? Are they that hard to get hold of? People are already lining up.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Distance learning still hardly possible

Slovakia is not prepared for a new lockdown, criticises Martin Vančo, a commentator for Trend Magazine, in Új Szó:

“The Ministry of Education's analysis institute has published shocking figures: during the school lockdown in spring, 52,000 primary and secondary school pupils didn't participate in distance learning at all and another 218,000 children couldn't use the Internet while they were forced to learn at home. ... The ministry could have started preparing for the second wave of distance education earlier. ... However, at the beginning of the second wave we are in the same situation as when the first wave came in March: only if the schools are not closed will the pupils have a chance to receive proper education.”

In.gr (GR) /

Don't make the citizens responsible for everything

Students in Greece are calling for smaller classes while doctors are protesting for more intensive care units. The government seems to view the people as opponents, the web portal In.gr criticises:

“This is exemplified by the persistent comments about how irresponsible people are being (at a time when nobody is taking responsibility for the insufficient number of bus routes and the congestion of the public transport system, or for the more than 25 students per school class and the unfulfilled promises about increasing the number of intensive care beds) and about resorting to deploying the police and other repressive practices. ... The fact is, however, that the people are already bearing the financial and mental costs of restrictive measures and are in no way responsible for all the setbacks, inconsistencies and loopholes in the pandemic policy. ... Things will only get better when there is a plan and more prospects, rather than just the threat of punishment.”

Polityka (PL) /

Economic factors weigh heavier this time

Although the pandemic is as serious now as it was in the spring, many governments believe that a lockdown would be unwise, Polityka comments:

“This is what German Minister of Health Jens Spahn and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are saying. Similarly Johnson, Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez don't intend to freeze their economies for a second time either. Their explanations often contradict statistics and even scientists who recommend a two-week lockdown in autumn as the only effective weapon against another wave of the virus. The fact is, however, that everyone on the continent realises that this would most likely be a nail in the coffin of our economies. A blow from which no one could protect us, not even the greatest crisis shield.”

Vedomosti (RU) /

Russia putting its faith in the Swedish way

Vedomosti suspects a controversial model behind the sluggish response of the Russian authorities to the prospect of a second wave of the pandemic:

“In the spring Sweden did not impose any restrictions such as those introduced in other European countries. Initially, that led to an increase in mortality among risk groups. Now, however, the number of new cases in Sweden is low. It seems that the strategy of relying on 'herd immunity' has proven successful. ... A reliable scientific confirmation for this is still pending - but the Swedish example is constantly discussed in this context.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Future of the restaurant trade at stake

The Slovenian government has decided that all restaurants and bars must close at 22:30 as one of its measures to contain the virus. Dnevnik has no understanding for this:

“This is another measure that will have a direct negative impact on all Slovenian restaurant and pub owners whom our country completely forgot during the first wave of coronavirus. ... Back then the restaurants were among the first to close their doors and among the few businesses that had to suspend their activities altogether. When the bars finally began to open again it was almost summer and their potential guests, tired of the quarantine, had already fled on holiday. It's hard to say why the Minister of Economy Zdravko Počivalšek didn't decide to offer generous state aid for restaurants. But the fact is that many bars and restaurants won't survive another shock without it.”

The Guardian (GB) /

The state should help instead of using threats

The government in the UK has tightened the Covid-19 regulations several times in recent days. For example stiff fines were introduced for breaches of the quarantine rules on the weekend. The Guardian complains:

“The state is increasing its power to sow mistrust and punish, while failing on the more nurturing and protective responsibilities that are a much better answer to the pandemic. The police have endless new powers, but it has taken more than six months for the government to offer half-decent financial help to poorer people who have to self-isolate. ... Give people practical help and clear guides for action and they are likely to do what’s required; hit them with rules that are often impossible to understand while threatening them with fines and encouraging them to snitch, and many will recoil.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

More tests, less Darwin

In the Netherlands too, coronavirus restrictions have recently been extended again. NRC Handelsblad says the government is to blame for the fact that citizens are showing little inclination to comply:

“The appeal for 'a strong sense of urgency that applies for everyone' will only reach all 17 million Dutch citizens if the government itself conveys a sense of this urgency - for example by ensuring that there are enough people and resources to test citizens for coronavirus quickly. ... No one wants to go back to an 'intelligent' lockdown. Nor can the economy withstand it. ... The government says we must all work together. But for now the 'new normality' is that the weaker must stay indoors while the stronger can continue to live as before.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

No one willing to risk a hunger revolt

Radio Kommersant FM does not expect Russia to enter a new lockdown despite a significant increase in the number of infections:

“A new round of self-isolation could trigger not just demonstrations but, quite banally, hunger riots. And whether the rebels are coughing or unable to smell is not irrelevant, but in this case of secondary importance. ... The experience gained in Russia and worldwide in recent months shows that a quarantine can certainly help to fight the epidemic. But to lock up a population that doesn't have large financial reserves in their homes is extremely dangerous - both for the prosperity of the people and for the stability of the system as a whole.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Austria needs pressure to give its best

Austria recovered quickly in the spring thanks to lockdown and people's willingness to obey the rules, Die Presse explains, but adds:

“And that was - or rather, is - precisely our problem. Austria apparently functions better in exceptional situations than in normal circumstances ... When the obligation to wear masks was lifted and we basked in self-congratulation as Europe's model pupils, many reverted to 'normal mode'. They went on holiday as usual and sneered at those who urged caution. ... And now thousands are on hold. The health hotline 1450 has been hopelessly overloaded ever since the kids went back to school. ... The coronavirus crisis has shown us in fast motion the strengths and also the weaknesses of our society. The boundaries between considerate and inconsiderate, between supportive and selfish, between arrogant and competent lie very close together in this country.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Time for a European answer

La Vanguardia calls for more powers for the EU in the area of health policy:

“This month's figures are very worrying across the EU: between 40,000 and 50,000 new infections daily. ... The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommends mass testing to stop the pandemic. But these are just recommendations. Because Brussels doesn't have the necessary authority, there is no pan-European response to the virus and no coordination. ... The EU wants to strengthen the existing disease control and drug agencies and create a new one to improve the response capacity to transnational threats. ... These are steps in the right direction - although far slower than the spread of the virus. ... The EU is convinced that there will be a second wave and is therefore trying to at least avoid the mistakes that were made in March.”