Covid: how to stop the winter wave?

Whether it's mandatory vaccination, Covid passes or lockdowns - almost all European countries are introducing tighter measures in the fight against a new winter wave of the virus. And almost everywhere, a considerable chunk of the population views the measures as too harsh. Europe's press is also at loggerheads over the issue.

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Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Welfare state rightly also demands sacrifices

Mandatory vaccination is reasonable and acceptable, immunologist Eric Muraille argues in Le Vif / L'Express:

“We can, for very honourable reasons, favour individual freedom and the refusal of all restrictive and discriminatory measures. But then we must accept that we are moving towards a US-style liberal system in which individuals alone are responsible for their lives and choices. The inequality and insecurity of this system are well known. ... The alternative is to defend a welfare state that accepts costs and risks, but in return demands certain rationally and scientifically justified sacrifices. This path would allow us to return to the Enlightenment ideal according to which a government must act rationally and in the interest of the overwhelming majority.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Vienna should have avoided coersion

Der Standard uses an example from Austria's past to illustrate how half-hearted the vaccination campaign in the country has been:

“Older people remember how, from 1992 to 1994, the red-black government prepared the referendum on Austria's accession to the EU: top politicians like Foreign Minister Alois Mock and Chancellor Franz Vranitzky tirelessly appeared at all kinds of events; the social partners were involved; the top agencies designed catchy campaigns. [The current government] hasn't mounted a single concerted, intelligent campaign for vaccination and simply let everything take its course since last spring. The new government is rushing around like a headless chicken, forced to resort to coercive measures such as a lockdown and mandatory vaccination.”

Eesti Ekspress (EE) /

Not at the expense of schoolchildren

As a teacher, Tiia Penjam in Eesti Ekspress is annoyed that schools in Tallinn have switched back to distance learning since the autumn half-term holidays:

“Tallinn schoolchildren - even those who have been vaccinated - are 'rescuing' the nightclub and nursing home businesses in southeast Estonia. Looking at the situation of the children makes you want to cry. ... All civilized countries are trying to keep schools open in the third wave of the pandemic. But Tallinn thinks it knows better. That many children are quite happy not to have to got to school does not change the fact that their absence from school is not good for their educational or social progress.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Even liberals should back mandatory jab

The government in the Czech Republic is considering introducing compulsory vaccination for people over 60 and for relevant professional groups from February 1. Petr Honzejk, commentator for Hospodářské noviný, welcomes the move:

“When the state imposes a new obligation, it's always controversial. People start complaining about restrictions on freedom, state dirigism and even totalitarianism. It's good that liberals routinely sound the alarm. ... But in this specific case there's no question of such threats. The situation is entirely different. That's why even liberals who care about freedom should support compulsory vaccination.” (AT) /

Time to let the experts take over

Vienna should leave the vaccination campaign to others, advises Johannes Huber in his blog

“With vaccination becoming compulsory from 1 February the vaccination rate will increase significantly, but the damage for the government and politics will be major. Precisely because further waves are expected it should at least be confident that its announcements and measures will be followed and could be effective. But it isn't. ... It would be in the government's best interest to finally hand over the pandemic control efforts in general and the vaccination campaign in particular to others - while retaining the political responsibility - to the extent that it can visibly have these carried out by experts with far better trust ratings.”

Denník N (SK) /

President boosting acceptance

After visiting a Covid clinic in Bratislava, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová has called for a new lockdown as quickly as possible. Denník N approves:

“In her emotional statement, Čaputová vigorously called for a lockdown for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, even though this would hardly be fair to the former. ... Even more importantly she firmly rejected the 'silly nonsense' being spread in 'alternative' media about Covid and the risks of vaccination. In this way Čaputová, who is still the most popular politician in the country, could increase acceptance for the new restrictions. ... The president did the right thing, even if she will now face disapproval and dissent from some people and politicians.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Fight against Covid is a war on many fronts

There is no panacea against vaccination scepticism, Dagens Nyheter writes:

“Efforts to increase vaccination coverage must continue. The results speak for themselves: the higher the coverage, the fewer deaths and serious cases there will be, and the faster we will be able to return to a completely open society. France has put pressure on the unvaccinated. Austria has imposed a questionable policy of mandatory vaccination. Others have used rewards as incentives. In Romania and Bulgaria, the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the EU, the road is long and steep. A single solution will not be enough. The fight against Covid-19 must be fought on many fronts.”

Népszava (HU) /

The chronically ill are being left in the lurch

The overburdened Hungarian healthcare system is also neglecting its duties towards non-Covid patients, physician Zoltán Nagy points out in Népszava:

“In an EU comparison Hungarians have the second-longest wait for operations, with an estimated 50,000 people currently in this situation. In Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the UK, for example, waiting times are at most half as long. ... Of course I'm aware that hundreds of people are currently dying every day from Covid. However, I would like to draw attention to those who have remained chronically ill for lack of medical treatment. We cannot pretend that they do not exist. They are also among the victims of the fourth and who knows how many subsequent waves.”

El País (ES) /

The rich are to blame

Tax fraud, the climate crisis and the new wave of the pandemic are all interlinked, argues Eva Joly, a lawyer and member of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), in El País:

“While the virus is on the rise again with the arrival of winter in the northern hemisphere, the boomerang effect of the vaccine monopolies no longer needs to be shown or explained. ... If we are failing to meet our commitments, it is because of a handful of the richest people, the same people who do not pay their taxes. It is time for our elites to realise that fighting inequality on all fronts — health, climate and tax — is our only way out. Otherwise, there is no salvation for humanity — and it is no longer a hyperbole.”