Covid in Europe: one year on

At the end of January 2020, France reported the first case of coronavirus in Europe. On 23 February large parts of Italy went into lockdown. One year later commentators take stock - some disillusioned, others cautiously optimistic.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Inequalities will continue to grow

The economic recovery will not lead to more justice, political scientist Ian Bremmer laments in Corriere della Sera:

“Some countries - and some social groups within these countries - are better equipped for the future than others. And that's precisely the problem. ... Inconsistent economic recovery will lead to even greater inequalities within these countries. For example, the virus has disproportionately affected the incomes of low-wage earners and service sector workers in advanced economies. The worst effects of the economic downturn have mainly been felt by women and the non-white population.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

The new world is here already

Our way of life has already changed irreversibly as a result of the pandemic, columnist Xenia Tourki comments in Phileleftheros:

“One year after the pandemic broke out, it's clear that much has changed. The problem is to determine which of these things will remain once the pandemic is behind us. For example, will we continue to maintain social distancing and limit our social interactions? Will working from home and remote learning gain ground or will adults go back to work and pupils return to their classrooms? It would be naive to think that things will go back to how they were before overnight. And finally, the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already emerging, forcing governments, companies and each of us to act in a different context than we did in the past.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Clipped wings

The Italy-based writer Ilja Leonhard Pfeijffer wistfully recalls the joys of life before Covid in De Standaard:

“Life has been reduced to simply surviving. But life without frills is no life at all. ... Everything that means anything is unhygienic. Singing in a packed theatre, dancing in the oppressive vaults of a sweaty club, kissing strangers, taking a stroll arm in arm with a laughing woman, conspiring with friends in a bar, sobbing surreptitiously in a full cinema, being smitten by a play and not being able to stop enthusing about it in a buzzing foyer - these are the things that make survival meaningful. Our wings had to be clipped for us to discover what it was to fly.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Glaring defeat

The political decision-makers have never moved beyond mere reaction, notes Die Presse:

“Never before have politicians of the postwar generations had to make such far-reaching decisions. With the exception of Sweden, governments worldwide have adopted similar lockdown strategies ... In the end, no one dared to offer real alternatives to this path. ... The apparent lack of alternatives and glaring defeat for the social function of personal responsibility and reason are the painful lessons one year down the line. But there will be a second year, and possibly a third ... . This is perhaps the most important point of criticism: in the process of reactive decision-making based on rising or falling infection figures, the long-term perspective has been lost.”

Jornal de Notícias (PT) /

Zero response to the collapse

Portugal is facing the impact of the last twelve months without a plan, Jornal de Notícias states:

“In the middle of the third wave of the pandemic, the government's healthcare management policy remains unpredictable and there is still no sign of a serious economic plan to respond to the collapse of sectors that are fundamental to our survival - from tourism to exports of textiles, shoes and wine. ... Let's look at tourism, a sector that has boosted our economy in the last five years and continues to be fundamental to our GDP. Its salvation remains completely uncertain. ... In the Algarve, workers are receiving almost no support and some are forced to beg for food to survive.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Still not enough testing sites

Eesti Päevaleht complains that even now there are places in Estonia where test centres are thin on the ground:

“One particularly crass example is the town of Maardu near Tallinn, which has become Estonia's coronavirus capital. The only test centre is 10 kilometres away, which means that many people who don't have a car have to take the bus to get tested. So it's no wonder the virus is spreading. ... One year after the pandemic began, and in the middle of the second wave, it's not too much to ask that in small towns or districts with particularly high infection rates, temporary testing sites be set up where all those who suspect they have coronavirus can be tested without having to travel by public transport. This flexibility should be embedded in coronavirus policy as a matter of course.”

Politiken (DK) /

Close Asia's wild animal markets

Although the WHO investigation has not confirmed the suspicion that the coronavirus originated at a wet market in Wuhan, Politiken calls for this type of market to finally be banned:

“Covid-19 has cost millions of lives and plunged the world into its biggest crisis since World War II. We cannot afford a repeat of this. If there was any doubt before, it is now clear that the wet markets in Asia are a ticking bomb. These open markets where exotic animals are sold and slaughtered may be picturesque, but they are also life-threatening. Animals that have little contact with each other in the wild come together in these confined spaces and provide malignant diseases with the ideal conditions to jump from one species to another.”