Second Wave of COVID-19 and Changing Government Structures
Second Wave of COVID-19 and Changing Government Structures
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 former king, Juan Carlos, has fled Spain, and is presumed to have left to Dominican Republic amidst corruption allegations against him for bribes over a high-speed rail contract with Saudi Arabia. Although Spanish kings have legal immunity during their reign, Juan Carlos' abdication leaves him open to potential prosecution. The Spanish public opinion is torn as to whether the country should remain a monarchy or become a republic; such a structural change is unlikely for the time being as it would require amending the constitution. Regarding COVID-19, The Government has strengthened the structure of the Ministry of Health in light of the COVID-19 pandemic by establishing a new position of secretary of state to serve under the health minister. The new figure will eventually replace the Secretariat General, helping the health minister to coordinate and communicate all public health policies adopted, improving its accountability. The secretary of state is expected to increase communication with all actors involved, at regional, European and international levels. In light of the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Catalonia, the regional Health Ministry will undertake the first mass screening programme in Spain across three municipalities – Terrassa, Sabadell and Ripollet. The COVID-19 tracing app will start to run on 10 August in several regions to support public health efforts.
Brexit has again taken primacy on the political agenda in the UK. The Department of Health and Social Care this week advised all medicine suppliers to prioritise shoring up reserves to mitigate disruption at the end of the Brexit transition period. The Government has again reaffirmed its commitment to ending the transition period on 31 December, though several stumbling blocks in negotiations, including rules on state aid, remain. Several stockpiles of basic medical supplies have dwindled through the pandemic despite the creation of significant buffer stocks over the last couple years. Separately, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the appointment of 36 new peers to the House of Lords, again favouring high-profile supporters of Brexit following the exclusion of politicians considered to have hindered Brexit, including former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, in the last wave of appointments.
The French economy contracted by historic levels in the second trimester of 2020, with GDP dropping by 13.8%, constituting the most significant contraction since World War II. Experts estimate that the 2019 GDP level will not be regained before 2022. In terms of national law, the French National Assembly has passed the Bioethics Bill. Its major element is the access to Medically Assisted Reproduction (MAR) for lesbian couples and single women. The Bill now needs to be reviewed and voted on by the Senate, which will most likely happen in January 2021.
On 1 August 2020, 17,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest against the anti-COVID-19 measures in Germany. The protest was criticised by the government because protesters deliberately ignored safety measures. The protest was later suspended by the police, not before triggering a debate about further legal options to restrict COVID-19 demonstrations due to the dangers posed to public health. The Medical Association Marbuger Bund states that Germany is experiencing the beginning of a second wave. In contrast with the first outbreak, the association expects a gradual increase of infections and proposes a step-by-step response from local hospitals to react to regional developments. At the same time, the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI): the Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedical Drugs, is reporting promising results in the development of a vaccine. On 27 July 2020, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) discussed the selection of certain medications which should be produced in the EU to ensure sufficient supply at any time, such as supply-critical substances and medication with current supply shortages. On 31 July 2020, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture reported a further reduction of the usage of antibiotics in livestock farming. This development is part of the German Antibiotic Resistance Strategy (DART2020) which includes the reduction of antibiotics in the agricultural sector.
The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced on 4 August that new people will be included in the new cabinet reshuffle aiming at operational improvements in the areas of finance, growth, labour, health and the environment, and the effective management of the increased EU resources (€750 billion). Mitsotakis appointed new deputy ministers for health, social insurance and environmental protection, and upgraded two other officials to junior ministerial positions. Additionally, the European Commission revealed on 3 August the disbursement of a total of €130 million designated for the construction of three controlled-access refugee and migrant facilities on the Greek islands of Samos, Leros and Kos. Moreover, for the first time ever, a bill may be approved where tourists entering Greece will have to pay a surcharge of €20 for health services which they incur during their stay in the country. The fee will be imposed on all foreign travellers who present themselves at health centres, regional clinics and outpatient clinics of hospitals, while those who take advantage of emergency care will also be obliged to pay the fee for services used.
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.