Fears of a second wave and strengthening of preventive measures

by RPP
Weekly European political updates

Fears of a second wave and strengthening of preventive measures 

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.    

 

France

The French government is now complete as eleven secretaries of state were appointed, six of whom are new members to the government. The government thus grows to 43 members and becomes the largest since 1995. Regarding health, the “Segur de la Santé”, an eight-week consultation between healthcare workers unions and the government, has been closed by Health Minister Olivier Veran. The announcements specify the post-pandemic changes intended to strengthen the French hospital system. New resources amount to an investment of €19 billion in equipment, beds in health facilities and financing of priority hospital projects. There will also be an increase of local governance and decrease in administrative processes in hospitals. A new Ségur de la Santé will take place in September, which will discuss the situation in French overseas territories. Lastly, the French government will invest €100 billion in industrial, ecological, local, cultural and educational revival. This is in addition to €460 billion in public spending and state guarantees committed over the past four months. Out of the new budget invested, €30 billion will be directed towards the ecological transition. The Ministry of Economy aims to reduce industry CO2 emissions by 30% over the coming ten years. 

United Kingdom

Ahead of a probable winter wave of COVID-19, the Government is seeking to shore up international medical supply lines to restore medicine stocks used up through the pandemic. To ensure the long-term health of the social care sector, a new social care tax for people over the age of 40 is being considered, while social care may be absorbed under the umbrella of the National Health Service to professionalise the social care workforce and save costs for local authorities currently overseeing social care. UK policymakers and political commentators have this week focussed on the organisation and delivery of health and social care through the pandemic and beyond. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has launched a major new anti-obesity strategy in light of the elevated risk posed by COVID-19 to overweight people, as well as the broader obesity epidemic in British society. Measures include the banning of adverts for junk food before 9pm and a ban on discounted junk food, while doctors will be able to socially prescribe activities like swimming and cycling. In tandem with the strategy, £2 billion will be invested into new cycle lanes, and a new independent body will be established to ensure local authorities invest the funding into viable cycle lanes.  

Spain

Spain is witnessing localised spikes of COVID-19 cases, mainly situated in the regions of Catalonia and Aragon, where reactive health measures have been implemented. The Ministry of Health has stressed Spain is not under a second wave and that the government will not decree a state of emergency, though wearing a mask is compulsory in all regions. Establishing a second lockdown remains under the responsibility of the central government and will not be activated for the time being. Regarding the economy and tourism, in light of the new COVID-19 cases the United Kingdom has imposed a compulsory quarantine for tourists returning from Spain. The measure is likely to impinge on the number of tourists travelling from the UK, and tourism-dependent regions such as the Balearic and Canary Islands have therefore asked the government to establish special conditions and a potential quarantine-free zone. 

Germany

Once again, COVID-19 defines the political landscape in Germany. After the health ministers of the German states decided at a conference last week to provide free and voluntary COVID-19 testing services for returning travellers at German airports, Health Minister Jens Spahn announced that returnees from high-risk countries are legally obliged to take a free COVID-19 test upon arrival. Returning travellers from low-risk countries can take a free, voluntary test within 72 hours after entering the country. The end of the summer holiday season has sparked a controversial discussion around how to open schools within the framework of COVID-19 regulations. Teacher and parent associations expressed their concerns, while medical associations support a fast opening. In other news, US President Donald Trump nominated former US Army Officer Douglas Macgregor to become the new US Ambassador in Berlin, replacing Richard Grenell. Macgregor, who is now retired, commanded two troops in Iraq, published several books on the US military, and has acted as guest commentator for Fox News. 

Portugal

The major news in the country this week refers to one of the national banks, Novo Banco, and a real estate scandal. It has been brought to light that Novo Banco has sold 13,000 properties at discounted prices in the Cayman Islands and lent the money to the buyers, whose identities are unknown. Major criticisms lie on the fact that the Resolution Fund, funded by the State, covered the losses of this deal, amounting to €260 million. President Marcelo de Sousa states that this shows the importance of clarifying the national financial system. Regarding COVID-19, while Portugal has largely been in a state of contingency since early June, 19 counties in the Lisbon area were still in the state of emergency as they saw higher COVID-19 cases. The Minister of Internal Administration, Eduardo Cabrita, indicated on 28 July, after meeting with the mayors of Lisbon, Amadora, Sintra, Loures and Odivelas, that these 19 counties will now enter the contingency state. Eduardo Cabrita stressed that the current restrictions in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (AML) will nonetheless remain in force as a precaution. It is now up to the Council of Ministers to decide how long the contingency period should last. 

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

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