Second wave: dos and don'ts for the people and politicians

Due to the sharp rise in coronavirus infection rates, many European countries have reimposed tough restrictions: from closing bars and cultural attractions to making masks compulsory outdoors. European commentators heatedly discuss whether individual measures are justified.

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De Telegraaf (NL) /

Supermarket employees are not police officers

In the partial lockdown in the Netherlands, all sales of alcohol in stores after 8 p.m have been banned. De Telegraaf wonders how the ban can be enforced:

“The employees are often young, most of them work evenings at the supermarkets on a part-time basis, and they are certainly not cops. Besides, how many 17-year-old cashiers will have the guts to stand up to older customers who want to buy a bottle of wine after eight o'clock? The unions are right when they argue that supermarkets need to protect their employees from discussions about enforcing the alcohol ban. They already have enough on their plate with telling customers to use a shopping trolley, maintain social distance and wear a face mask. Asking them to play the role of police officer on top of all that goes too far.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Capitalism in its most brutal form

French President Macron has imposed a curfew on the Paris region and eight other major cities in a bid to contain Covid-19. Mediapart sees this as a disastrous decision, both in human and economic terms:

“For Macron, anything that doesn't contribute to competitiveness is superfluous. ... The curfew testifies to a return to a crude version of the capitalist order. Man is reduced to his productive function as a servant of the market system. ... Emmanuel Macron is condemning himself to economic failure. His blindness in the summer, when the economy was given priority, has brought back the epidemic. And with it another economic slump. Because even if we continue to work, we consume less, especially in terms of leisure and cultural goods and services. Under these conditions nobody will dare to invest.”

Primorske novice (SI) /

Schoolchildren will lose out once again

Starting Monday, distance learning will be mandatory in Slovenia for all pupils in year 6 and above. Primorske novice fears the measures are no better prepared than they were in the spring:

“The government's newest tightening of the coronavirus measures comes as no surprise. What is a surprise, however, is the plan to switch to blanket online learning, regardless of region or municipality. ... Also because the virus has not spread dramatically in schools. ... We can only hope that the schools are better prepared for the reintroduction of online learning, which with any luck will be abolished after the autumn holidays. Because it's not only the curriculum that is important, but above all the understanding that interpersonal relationships come first.” (DE) /

Courts have found their role

The accommodation ban previously agreed by the German states has been overturned by courts in Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony. praises the rulings:

“The courts say that despite the rising number of cases there are no known outbreaks in German hotels. At the moment large gatherings with little social distance between individuals, for example at parties, at schools or in nursing homes are more problematic. ... It's good when the courts keep a cool head despite the rising numbers and think outside the box. They were by no means this self-confident at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, but now they've found their role. ... And all those who say there is no resistance to senseless scaremongering have been proven wrong today.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Rules must be standardised and fair

In Sweden, where several strict regulations continue to apply in addition to the distancing rules, images of people partying in Stockholm's chic bars have triggered outrage. Dagens Nyheter can understand that the Swedes are losing their patience:

“Broad sections of the population probably think that it's enough now. The more the party pictures circulate, the more people wonder why they should sit at home. ... We Swedes are certainly among the global leaders when it comes to following even the most absurd rules. And at a time when a virus is spreading this is certainly an advantage. But logic, consistency and a sense of fairness are also called for. Watching games at a football stadium or clapping at the theatre: forbidden. Drinking from the same champagne bottle as a Don Corona: no problem? It will take a lot of press conferences by [state epidemiologist Anders] Tegnell to explain that.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Create trust with information

Rzeczpospolita criticises a lack of official, reliable sources of information in Poland:

“Since the government isn't making any effort to prepare a systematic infection analysis and does not have a Covid-19 information centre, but only uses the alarm system of the RCB [Disaster Response Centre], which sends alerts to mobile phones, the media, including social media, have taken on the task of explaining, commenting and alerting. And because they are created by people with all kinds of views about the world and the pandemic, you find all kinds of views on the Internet. But there is some good news: amid the flood of naive propaganda from conspiracy theorists and those who deny the pandemic, there is also information and analysis published by experts.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Acknowledge that this is a learning process

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calls for a little more understanding for policymakers:

“They, too, are only human and may make mistakes, have to correct themselves, are constantly learning. A political class that makes its constant learning process transparent in such a crisis, even at the risk of making itself vulnerable, is an advantage, not a weakness. But some citizens are no longer willing to allow that their politicians make mistakes. Instead, they take revised assessments and changes of course (not only) in the pandemic simply as evidence of chaotic crisis management and lack of leadership. Or, worse still, as confirmation of the general suspicion that 'these politicians' can no longer be trusted. That is the most dangerous poison of all, because it undermines the basic consensus on which every democracy is based.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Don't just focus on the likes

Új Szó accuses Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič of using scare tactics:

“We now have a good idea of what it means when Matovič oversees the fight against the pandemic. Every day a post is published on his Facebook page in which he describes half the country as stupid and tells everyone to go to hell. Most of the time these posts also include the latest number of cases, and they're always published before 10 a.m. - before the official daily data is put out - so as to attract a certain number of clicks and visitors. What's more, in these posts Matovič often portrays himself as a martyr, causes panic and tries to evade his responsibilities and pass them on to others. ... That's what happens when politicians only care about today and the number of likes they get.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Democratise health

Only a "health democracy" can defuse the social tensions caused by the coronavirus crisis, philosopher Frédéric Worms argues in Le Monde:

“Health isn't just the treatment of diseases, because it has not only a local, individual and healing dimension, but also a global, collective and preventive one. The decisions taken affect not just the individual, but also others. ... Today we must find new decision-making paths that will make it possible to reconcile health and freedoms, autonomy and the economy, and to discuss the challenges involved in all areas. In this regard, one condition is essential: the health democracy that so many rightly insist on - in particular the National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE). ... It calls for new national and local civic consultative bodies. Only a health democracy can make health a truly public issue.”

Die Presse (AT) /

The sensible are paying the price of irresponsibility

There is a simple reason for the current spike in coronavirus cases, writes Die Presse:

“Far too many people are not playing by the rules, holding huge weddings with singing and dancing, refusing to wear masks even in the few situations where it really makes sense, and generally displaying an ignorance of Trump-like dimensions in this respect. If it wasn't for these deniers of reality, it probably wouldn't be necessary to conduct a legal-philosophical debate about the limits for state-imposed restrictions of fundamental rights, nor would it be necessary to put up with significant restrictions on daily life of the kind now being imposed once more from Paris to Palermo. All because too many people don't understand the concept of personal responsibility. This, as so often, is a price that the sensible pay for the behaviour of the unreasonable.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The people would if they could

Christoph Prantner, Berlin correspondent for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, questions whether the state has learned anything from the experiences of recent months:

“In the meantime, the increasing rate of infection has led to a profusion of regulations ranging from necessary epidemiological containment to sheer substitution measures. ... Despite all this, politicians are making endless trite appeals to the citizens' sense of reason and responsibility. And most citizens would comply if they could. But nowadays following the Covid rules correctly is nothing less than a full-time job that requires a degree in administrative sciences. That the federal and state governments finally agree on uniform regulations in key questions of pandemic control the second time round is the least people can expect of a state.” (RU) /

Winter lockdown would be futile from the start

The government in Moscow has imposed an additional week of autumn vacation and ordered companies to have 30 percent of their staff working from home. Journalist Andrei Nikulin criticizes the new restrictions in a Facebook post republished by

“You have to allow people to earn money and live in dignity. If you want to limit or prohibit something, you have to offer citizens and businesses appropriate compensation. Otherwise it would mean that you are not working for the citizens, but only for your internal reporting. Neither the economy nor society can sustain another round of bans, quarantines, penalties and closures. Especially since this wouldn't last just a couple of months, as it did in the spring, but a full six months until April or May. Such measures are pointless from the start because they are sabotaged and rendered ineffective when no one adheres to them.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Prague can't talk its way out of this one

Unlike in the spring, Andrej Babiš's government has completely failed in the face of the second wave, Hospodářské noviny says:

“People who didn't have to die are dying. After the first wave of the crisis, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš boasted that he had saved the lives of 'thousands of people'. This time around, however, we can safely say that he has caused hundreds if not thousands of deaths. If he hadn't claimed in the summer that masks were unnecessary, the Czech Republic would not have become a coronavirus cemetery where decisions have to be made about who can receive treatment and who cannot. Babiš can try to convince himself that 'everyone wanted relaxation' till he goes blue in the face. The truth is that he was the one who took the decision.”