The countries of the continent try to detect outbreaks in cities or regions as soon as possible and isolate them
The worst nightmare of any European ruler is having to impose a second national lockdown to curb the pandemic. Closing schools, shops or offices again is not an option if you want to recover from the coma assisted by already very battered economies. The response strategy, in most countries, is local. Detect new sprouts as soon as possible, in cities, municipalities or regions, and isolate them. Boris Johnson, so fond of slogans and metaphors that help make the message sink, spoke at the time of the Whac-a-Mole tactic. That game in which the head of a mole appears through one of the holes in the machine and has to be finished off with the help of a hammer.
The reality is, as always, more complex than any occurrence. And it hardly fits hammering. If the first wave of the virus created comparative grievances between countries but a sense of shared sacrifice among citizens, the second runs the risk of sparking regional grudges. “Generally speaking, countries are using very similar responses. We tend to highlight the differences, but the similarity of the measures adopted is much more striking ”, explained last Wednesday the chief medical adviser of the British Government, Chris Whitty. “The contrasts, which of course exist, are more linked to local customs or the way people have to socialize.”
The city of Leicester, in central England, was the alarm bell. 866 new positives over the course of two weeks. There the first regrowth emerged, just beginning the national de-escalation, and its inhabitants suffered on June 29 the first partial confinement of a long chain throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Shops and schools were closed, but the London Government issued contradictory signals that did not make it clear whether it was the municipal, regional or state officials who had the last word to impose new restrictions.
“Local lockdowns will be more contentious than national lockdown was. There is a greater risk of it being perceived as an injustice, if one part of the country enjoys freedoms that are limited in others, “warned Raphael Hogarth, researcher at the Institute for Governance think tank. The situation has not changed much, despite the time that has elapsed. Large parts of the northeast of England and two-thirds of Wales, for example, suffer from even stricter social restrictions than those recently approved for the entire country. Liverpool already registers a cumulative incidence (IA, confirmed positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last week) of 277; Newcastle, 220; Manchester, 287; Middlesborough, 101. “Government restrictions are unacceptable. They are based on ignorance. They don’t want to listen to us and they are going to destroy more jobs and the mental health of citizens, ”protested the mayor of that last town, with 120,000 inhabitants, Andy Preston on Thursday. Paradoxically, he himself had demanded two days earlier greater distance measures between people and homes.
The common lament among the English political class is repeated: why are we not like Germany? There, too, the number of positive cases has increased, but the upturn remains under control. In the first place, because the lines of health competence are clearly and legally defined (they belong to the countries or States) and the level of cooperation between the federal government and state authorities is effective and fair. They have agreed on a two-level system that establishes an automatic response and outside the discussion. If the AI exceeds 35 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, the rules of social distancing are more severe. No more than 25 people in a private room. If the AI exceeds 50 cases per week, the maximum is 10 people in a private home. The conditions for the virus to spread are not national, they have more to do with the economic activity, population, or mobility of each region, municipality and even neighborhood. Cases skyrocket in Bavaria or Rhineland-Westphalia, or in certain areas of the capital, Berlin.
France, the paradigm of a centralist government in Europe, must demonstrate that the efficiency and speed of response to a national health crisis is the same when it comes to applying local surgery. Like the United Kingdom, the objective has been to accelerate the number of tests carried out, and there are already more than a million weekly (the British system currently processes about 265,000 daily tests). Measure that must be accompanied by effective location, tracing and containment. To do this, each time a new department is added to the list of “red zones”, the prefecture can approve restrictive measures. Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse or Nice, have lowered the maximum number of people who can meet indoors or outdoors to 10, have extended the mandatory use of masks and shortened the hours of bars and restaurants.
Paris has a cumulative AI in the last 14 days of almost 295 cases. London, for the moment, remains for the same period at 63. But the mayor of the latter, Labor Party member Sadiq Khan, is aware that the general restriction measures imposed throughout the United Kingdom will not be enough to contain the broadcast as let winter come. For now, Downing Street has already added the capital to a “watch list of cities”, in which the rate of infections has begun to accelerate. Critical of the slowness of the Johnson government during the first weeks of the pandemic, Khan has decided this time to put the political fray aside and engage in a “constructive conversation” with the prime minister about possible new measures to be taken by the metropolis. Both had a personal meeting on September 22.
As the fight against the virus is conducted under a local microscope, however, new political rivalries emerge. And some counties or districts of London, like Harrow East or Orpington, governed by conservative politicians, demand more relaxed measures for their inhabitants than for the rest of the city.
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