Lifting lockdown measures while maintaining strict control
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.
On 26 April Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced details of the plan to gradually lift containment measures. From 4 May, the manufacturing, construction, and wholesale trade sectors will reopen. All companies will have to comply with workplace safety protocols. People will be able to move around within their regions to visit their relatives in small numbers, but private parties and family gatherings will still be forbidden. Travels outside regions will only be permitted for work, health, emergencies and to return home. Wearing masks on public transport becomes mandatory and the final selling price of face masks will be capped at €0,50/unit. Those who have a temperature above 37.5 degrees and respiratory symptoms must stay at home and inform their doctors. Another phase will start from 18 May where retail shops, museums, exhibitions and libraries will re-open and sports teams will be able to train. Only from 1 June will hairdressers, beauty salons, bars and restaurants be able to reopen. Schools will remain closed until September. The Regions will inform the government daily on the epidemiological curve, and the Minister of Health Roberto Speranza will indicate "sentinel thresholds" to be respected in order to intervene in certain situations and reintroduce more stringent measures.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) remains determined to hold the presidential elections by postal voting. The government is working extensively for the all-postal election to take place on 10 May, even though legislation to create a mail-in voting system has not yet been approved by Senate. While Sejm, Parliament’s lower house, accepted the bill, it has not been ratified yet. The bill, despite having been assessed by the Polish Supreme Court as unconstitutional, is most likely to pass. That means that Poles will choose their head of state through a system of postal voting for the first time in country’s democratic history. These developments are seen by many organisations as raising serious concerns about free and fair elections and democratic rule of law, including the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Human Rights Watch. Changing the voting law only a few weeks before the election has also been judged as incompatible with democratic values.
In light of the upcoming Influenza season, to prevent negative synergies with COVID-19 Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn announced that Germany aims to procure 4,5 million doses of influenza vaccine. According to analyses of the Institute for Economic Research, the German Gross Domestic Product is expected to shrink about 12,2%. Consequently, around 50,000 insolvencies are expected in the retail sector. The proportion of employees working from home has increased from approximately 12% to 25%. On 26 April, it was announced that a Home Office Law will be drafted to increase the flexibility of working from home. The initiative has been criticised by stakeholders including the German Employers’ Association but has been welcomed by the Free Democratic Party and the Greens. Negotiations between the German aviation company Lufthansa and the German Federal Government remain unsuccessful. The company refuses to comply with the conditions set by the Government under which it would receive state aid. Thus, General Manager of Lufthansa, Carsten Spohr, announced to consider a possible protective shielding procedure. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic Lufthansa loses €1 Million per hour.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to the government helm after more than three weeks in hospital and recovery after contracting COVID-19. Johnson’s key task this week is determining when and how to ease lockdown measures as the COVID-19 economic crisis mounts; the Welsh and Scottish first ministers have already initiated discussions and outlined plans on lockdown-easing in the devolved nations. Widespread testing remains a key priority for the Government, and the bedrock of its new ‘test, trace, isolate’ campaign to combat COVID-19, ease lockdown measures and allow some parts of the economy to resume function. New mobile testing sites will complement the central testing effort of diagnostic ‘mega-labs’ and ‘drive-through’ testing sites; the new diagnostic capacity has allowed the Government to extend testing to anyone aged 65 or over and all key workers who present symptoms, as well as their families. An army of 18,000 contact tracers will be trained over the coming weeks to trace people COVID-19 patients have come into contact with. The tracers will complement the NHS’s new contact tracing app, which has been successfully trialled and will launch in early May.
On 28 April, the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, presented the official exit strategy for 11 May in a speech in front of the National Assembly; the National Assembly then voted to adopt plan. Firstly, this outlines that the exit plan will be progressive and different depending on the French regions. French regions will be classified into two categories – red and green – depending on the number of new infected people, the availability of beds in the hospital and the availability of tests. Red areas will have to exit the confinement more slowly than green areas. On 11 May, schools will reopen. High schools will reopen one week later, on 18 May. Shops will reopen, but restaurants and bars will remain closed. Movement of more than one hundred kilometers will be forbidden, except in cases of family emergency. Citizens will have to buy reusable masks before the 11 May, which will be mandatory in schools, shops, and on public transport. Town halls will have to distribute masks to people-in-need. At the end of May, the government will announce if restaurants and bars can reopen.
Following the low rates of both infected people and deaths, on 28 April the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the gradual relaxation of the lockdown. Lockdown easing is structured in 4 phases and will begin on 4 May. Schools will open on the 11 May, and as of 1 June cafes, bars and restaurants will be allowed to have customers in their outdoor spaces. It is expected that the economy will return to normalcy by the end of June. The government still has to decide whether the summer festivals, sports events and concerts will be cancelled or will take place without spectators. This decision also depends on the Health Passport that the government would like to adapt in order to boost the tourism in the country this summer.
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.