Europe begins to control the crisis and considers the end of the lockdown
Europe is a colourful continent in terms of policies and outcomes. It is essential to stay updated on how these policies may impact your work to build better regulatory frameworks, enhance your message and enhance communication with stakeholders.
Here you can find a summary of the major European political updates of this week.
Italy now has 187,327 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and a death toll of 25,085, which remains the highest death toll in Europe. On 21 April, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte informed the Senate about the government’s plan to move into phase 2 and start gradually lifting the lockdown measures. The Italian government is set to slowly ease the measures from 4 May. The plan should be homogenous across the regions and at a national level, including the use of protective masks and disinfectant in the workplace and in public spaces. The prime minister stated the plan should focus on maintaining current preventive measure, strengthening health networks, boost testing, and promoting tracking of the disease through eHealth. Additional measures to support the economy worth at least 50 billion euros were pledged, to be added to a 25 billion euros package approved last month. Italy’s economy is expected to contract by around 8% in 2020, the country’s worst recession since the Second World War. Ahead of the meeting of EU leaders on April 23, Conte underlines the need for a powerful European response, including the mutualisation of debt. Italy is also backing Spain’s proposals for a 1.5 trillion euros EU rescue fund.
Parliament returned from Easter recess on 21 April. Up to 120 MPs will participate in the Commons via video link, with screens placed around the Chamber. Up to 50 MPs will take part in person, limited by social distancing measures. First Secretary Dominic Raab extended lockdown measures for a further three weeks on 16 April amid concerns the daily number of deaths recorded in hospitals and the number of COVID-19 cases have remained steady over the last two weeks. The total number of deaths resulting from any cause that occurred in the week up to 10 April was 80% higher than average, and new analysis suggests the true COVID-19 death toll is 41,000, more than double the official figure of 18,100. The Government has pinned its hopes of comprehensively lifting lockdown measures on the development of a vaccine. A new Vaccine Taskforce will allocate £14 million to expedite and coordinate research efforts towards the discovery and production of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As of 22 April Germany, has reported 145.694 cases and 4.879 deaths due to Covid-19. On 20 April Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn presented his 10-point plan to strengthen the Public Health Service, which includes increasing staffing levels. Germany will also support its European partners and admit and treat foreign patients if necessary, covering the treatment cost. The federal government is further providing funding for technical updates of hardware and software systems. In addition, the health offices are to be connected to the Robert Koch Institute, the central institution of the Federal Government in the field of disease surveillance and prevention, via a digital registration system and to the new Corona app as soon as it is available. Currently, however, discussions have arisen due to data protection issues related to this Corona app. Regarding safety of the general population, states in Germany have started to introduce the obligation to wear a mask. This rule applies especially in grocery stores and public transport vehicles. Furthermore, the grand coalition is planning a second package of laws to combat the corona crisis including mass testing also for people who do not show Covid-19 symptoms, help for privately insured persons and stricter reporting requirements.
The coronavirus epidemic has reached 20,796 deaths, including 531 recorded in 24 hours, but the number of people in hospital and in intensive care continues to decline slowly. Since President Macron announced the lift of the lockdown would take place on 11 May, the issue of the end of lockdown plan has been high on the agenda. On 22 April the ministers were to give Edouard Philippe a draft strategy in their respective fields. While Parliament was operating in a reduced format due to lockdown, on 21 April the government finally agreed the future debates planned in the National Assembly on end of lockdown measures, and in particular digital tracing in the fight against coronavirus, would be followed by votes of the deputies. The government's plan to lift lockdown is still being prepared but already diverging political opinions will be debated on 5 May. The issue of wearing a mask also continues to be debated in France. On April 3, the Academy of Medicine declared that the wearing of masks should be generalized, even made compulsory during necessary outings in periods of confinement. On 7 April, the Mayor of Paris promised that two million reusable fabric masks would soon be "offered to Parisians". In an interview on 19 April, Anne Hidalgo confirmed that these masks "will be distributed firstly to the most vulnerable – the over-70s, but also people with chronic illnesses and pregnant women". She added that "by mid-May, all Parisians will be able to be equipped". A total of 2 million "approved, washable" fabric masks will therefore be distributed free of charge to Parisians. All these masks will be available in pharmacies in the capital.
The first results of an ongoing trial of colchicine treatment for coronavirus are considered to be “very encouraging” as only 10 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country were announced on Monday. The Greek authorities have already said that May will be the month when the first phase of easing the lockdown will take place. If everything goes according to the government’s plans, this might be as soon as May 4. Following the example by other European countries, the lockdown will not be completely lifted, and gradual steps are expected to be taken to ease the measures currently in place. The Greek authorities are also considering the idea of introducing a “Health Passport” for Summer 2020 visitors, which would serve as proof that an individual is not suffering from coronavirus. Greece’s Minister of Tourism Theocharis said that there is an ongoing discussion at the European Union level to determine the ways in which EU citizens will be allowed to go on vacations this year, as the aim is to provide a credible test for every individual who wishes to go on summer holidays anywhere in Europe. It is still unclear at this point whether non-EU nationals will be allowed to visit the country at all this summer or not.
You can find more information on European news in our EU national elections heatmap, where we provide an overarching perspective with key political insight for individual countries. Make sure to check it here.