Covid policy: no solutions other than lockdown?

Companies on the brink of bankruptcy, citizens on the verge of exhaustion: the strict pandemic regulations that have been in place for months are taking a serious toll and prompting urgent calls for an easing of the measures, especially in areas where infection rates are falling. But politicians are hesitant - and often make decisions behind closed doors. However, this isn't the only reason why journalists are critical of the decision-makers' response to the crisis.

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Contrepoints (FR) /

Permanent state of emergency undermines institutions

If the coronavirus crisis continues the more it will damage democracy, warns Contrepoints:

“The government imposes bureaucratic and health policy standards that evade the scrutiny of normal democratic bodies. ... The latter are generally considered incompetent by those who have transformed the health crisis into a moral, political and economic crisis the likes of which we haven't seen since World War II. All of this is temporary, we're told, but what if the temporary lasts for years? Should the French resign themselves to living under an emergency regime, unnerved by state declarations that are sometimes reassuring and sometimes frightening, on the pretext that the virus won't disappear? The government's response must encompass institutional policy and not just health policy.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A gift for the foolish

The Czech parliament has opposed the government and voted against extending the state of emergency until mid-March. Lidové noviny is concerned:

“Citizens who are unhappy about the restrictions will interpret the lifting of the state of emergency as they see fit. Most of the government's measures were ineffective. Now everyone can potentially pick and choose which to accept according to their own criteria. Most opponents of the measures are not willing to examine the reservations of the opposition parties in detail or to take their calls for restrictions seriously.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Lacking Churchill's courage and honesty

Rzeczpospolita says today's politicians lack the willingness to take risks:

“Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister from 1940, demanded 'blood, toil, tears and sweat' from the citizens, but with the prospect of victory against the enemy. Back then the Germans were the enemy, now the virus is the enemy. If there were anyone of Churchill's stature, he would have something similar to say. ... But no politician is willing to risk their power or career in the name of the common good. And if anyone tried to say what Churchill once said, their own party would immediately replace them. Hence the aversion to risk. Hence the announcements of the next lockdown - 'because that's what everyone is doing'.”

Haravgi (CY) /

Neoliberal governments have no imagination

The politicians clearly don't want to try out alternatives to lockdowns and shutdowns, the left-wing daily Haravgi complains:

“There's been no effort to strengthen the healthcare system, no move to increase health spending. Yet both measures could reduce the likelihood of a new lockdown. ... What if the vaccines are not effective against new mutations? What if another problem arises with the pharmaceutical industry, which has shown that it will take full advantage of every opportunity to maximise its profits? The answer is simple, and the same as it was almost a year ago, last March: lockdown! This is how neoliberal governments want to fight the virus in 2021. Measures must be taken, certainly. But not the same ones that were taken a year ago when we were still talking about an 'invisible and unknown' pathogen.”

Der Nordschleswiger (DK) /

It's easy for the man on the street to complain

With the number of infections dropping in Denmark, calls to ease restrictions are growing louder. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen faces some difficult decisions, Der Nordschleswiger notes:

“There are thousands of reasons to get society back to normal. But one not to. This one reason - the coronavirus - is what makes the prime minister's decision a balancing act. ... The government is relying on the principle of caution, combined with the hope that the number of infections will continue to drop and the number of those vaccinated will continue to rise. In the meantime we'll have to be patient - and ask ourselves how we would have decided if we had the responsibility for doing so - and not just freedom of expression.”

Portal Plus (SI) /

Experts need to be more forceful

In his column for Portal Plus, former MEP Miha Brejc calls for better interaction between politics and science:

“Politicians must take the experts' suggestions seriously, even if they are unpleasant. And when political decisions don't make sense or are sometimes even stupid, the experts must firmly speak out against them. If they remain silent, we shouldn't be surprised when policies don't work. When people see politicians and experts behaving as they are now, they lose confidence in the government and the measures fail to have the desired effect.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Winter holidays alert

Many skiers in Sweden are looking forward to the winter holidays that start next week. Aftonbladet is worried that too many people will be on the move:

Ski tourism played a decisive role in the spread of the virus in Europe. ... Now this year's winter holidays could trigger a third wave. People who've been putting up with restrictions for a year need their holidays, and the tourism industry needs visitors. But if that means the virus can spread uncontrollably, the price is too high. ... The government announced on Tuesday that the number of passengers on buses and trains will be cut by half starting this weekend. The question is whether that will be enough to prevent these holidays from turning into a super spreader.”