Flattening the Curve: European Governments Go All-Out to Tackle COVID-19
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.
The number of cases of covid-19 continues to increase in Italy. Stricter rules on individuals and the economy were presented on 22 March, with all “non-essential” economic activities halted. People are currently not allowed to leave their homes except for buying groceries, going to the pharmacy, walking their dogs, or working in key "essential" sectors such as healthcare. On 24 March, the Italian government adopted a new decree providing powers for stronger sanctions and higher fines for citizens who do not follow the stringent lockdown rules. The decree introduces new fines of up to EUR 3000 andprovides additional enforcement powers to regional governors to ensure the rules are followed. The decree of 24 March also allows the government, if necessary, to extend the measures until 31 July beyond the current date of 03 April.
As of 25 March, Germany has over 31,000 cases of COVID-19 and 149 mortalities. On 22 March, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the adoption of additional restrictive measures after an exchange with the heads of the federal states which will last for a minimum of two weeks. Regarding economic measures, the federal cabinet amended a supplementary state budget of €156 billion on 23 March. These funds shall be used to release quick financial aid especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). On 23 March the Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn outlined two draft laws which had been approved by the federal cabinet. The first – the “COVID-19 Hospital Relief Act” – aims to cushion the economic consequences for hospitals and contract physicians. Hospitals are being supported to provide care capacities for a growing number of patients with coronavirus infection. The second – the “Law for the protection of the population in the event of an epidemic situation of national importance” – aims to improve Germany’s ability to react to epidemics. The draft law on infection control authorizes the federal government to implement protection measures which is normally within the power of the German federal states. This strengthens the powers of the federal government during a national emergency.
On 25 March, the government tabled an extension of the state of emergency for 15 additional days. Equivalent or stricter measures are expected to be put in place. Despite Spaniards being confined since 15 March, COVID-19 cases and deaths are dramatically increasing. While freedom of movement is restricted across the country, industries and other economic activities keep running. As a result of the increasing cases of infected people, the government is purchasing additional health products such as rapid diagnostic tests and face masks and ensuring the domestic manufacturing of medical supplies and medicines. Rapid diagnostic tests are first being used in risk population groups, then health professionals and eventually they will be rolled out to the whole population. As part of the economic contingency plan and in addition to the EUR 18 billion package approved by the government, another EUR 200 billion has been pledged to support families, workers, self-employed workers and companies. This stimulus is conceived as a mitigation measure against the upcoming economic crisis.
On 25 March, the UK parliament passed emergency legislation – Coronavirus Act 2020 – which provides the Government with unprecedented powers to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. The Act aims to increase the health and social care workforce as well as providing more powers to police and immigration authorities to detain individuals suspected of having coronavirus. Following the passing of this legislation, the UK parliament has entered the Easter recess period almost a week earlier than planned for social distancing purposes; both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are now in lockdown until Tuesday 21 April. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major escalation of its measures – a “lockdown” – aimed at tackling the outbreak. People now cannot leave their homes unless for very specific purposes, and only for a short time. The government has meanwhile made a public plea for 250,000 new NHS volunteers to sign up to assist in the crisis which would include transporting medicines and caring for the most vulnerable, and it has since been reported that over 600,000 people have asked to take part. In a sign that further outbreaks are anticipated, a temporary hospital has been set up in a major conference centre in central London. The government are also under sustained pressure over their lack of testing, and as such have pledged to ramp up antibody testing, especially for NHS workers on the frontline, over the coming weeks.
As of 25 March, Portugal has almost 3,500 cases of Covid-19, with 44 recoveries and 60 deaths. Portugal has therefore declared a state of emergency until 5 April. Although the country has enforced preventative measures, leader of the Social-Democratic Party (PSD) has stated Portugal must strengthen measures particularly concerning incoming flights from Brazil after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asked for schools and commerce to reopen. Regarding national economic legislation, President of the Republic Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa approved the State Budget 2020 (OE2020), as well the Grand options of the Plab 2020 (GOP), and the Multiannual Financial Plan for 2020-2023. However, he said that the situation is fast moving and is subject to change, hence the response measures may be altered accordingly.
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.