Covid: between easing the rules and mandatory jabs

The countries of Europe are responding in different ways to the rising number of infections but milder symptoms caused by the Omicron variant: Austria has opted for mandatory vaccination and hopes to win over sceptics with lottery prizes, while in England, the Czech Republic and Turkey measures are being relaxed. The European press is also divided.

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Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Lottery instead of lockdowns

Using vouchers in a lottery as an incentive for people in Austria to get vaccinated could be a sensible measure, writes the Kleine Zeitung:

“The vaccination lottery could cost over a billion euros if almost everyone who is eligible participates. ... It is in fact astonishing that financial incentives or coercion are necessary to convince people to get free vaccinations against this dangerous disease. But the same thing goes for the lottery as for the compulsory vaccination law: if it helps us to break out of the endless succession of lockdowns, so be it.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Not the way to get the job done

The taz is highly sceptical:

“In April at the earliest, the health authorities will be able to link registration data with vaccination data, allowing them to identify those who persistently refuse to get vaccinated. The police are being charged with checking vaccination status, though not in a targeted way but in the context of other duties, for example during traffic controls or when restraining rioters. ... It is particularly contradictory, however, that compulsory vaccination does not apply in the workplace, the place where it would be easiest to check. ... You don't have to be a great prophet to predict that the law will not achieve the goal of vaccinating 90 percent of the population.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A careless reversal

The new Czech government has revoked compulsory vaccination for certain professional groups and people over 60 ordered by the previous government. Prime Minister Petr Fiala justified the move saying that his government did not want the rifts in society to deepen. Lidové noviny finds this imprudent:

“Government experts overturned the unpopular move because they are working on the assumption that Omicron will not place an excessive burden on hospitals. What comes next is unclear. Epidemiologists deemed the vaccination of certain professional groups to be a sensible measure. Other countries are relying on it. None of us can be sure that there will not be a new mutation. In view of this, the current construct is ideological and deceptive.”

The Times (GB) /

A gamble to retain power

Boris Johnson has announced that the mask requirement will be lifted in the UK. The Times is sceptical:

“There is no question that political considerations lay behind the government's decision to move so quickly to drop remaining restrictions. There is no good public health justification for ending the requirement to wear facemasks in public places while case numbers are still so high. ... Yet it is unlikely that Mr Johnson could have maintained plan B restrictions even if he tried. More than 100 Tory MPs opposed them when they were introduced. With the prime minister's own leadership hanging by a thread, none of his potential successors would have dared incur the wrath of backbenchers by proposing the continued mandating of facemasks.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Testing only those with symptoms is risky

In Turkey, only those with Covid symptoms have been entitled to a free PCR test since mid-January. Contact persons without symptoms are no longer tested free of charge. This will backfire, warns Hürriyet:

“The lifting of the testing obligation for contact persons without symptoms prevents the detection of positive cases. This means that asymptomatic infected people will transmit the virus to other people. ... Equally problematic is that since 15 January unvaccinated people are no longer required to take a PCR test when visiting concerts, cinemas or other public places, or when travelling by bus or train between cities. ... All this points to a loosening of the Covid-19 testing policy and is likely to undermine the fight against the epidemic.”