Harsh Reality Check – After collective denial, Europe chases the second wave

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European leaders from London to Berlin face an alarming reality: lockdowns are creeping back on the agenda as the pandemic threatens the continent again.

It’s a scenario many ruled out after the summer, when coronavirus cases were receding across Europe and borders were re-opening. A resurgence was expected, but the conviction was that a targeted approach would do.

The EU’s national leaders pledged Thursday to follow “the best available science” in their coronavirus response. But after weeks of resisting that same expert advice, they’re now chasing the wave, POLITICO reports.

Fearful of the economic cost of new lockdowns and leery of political backlash from citizens desperate for normal life, EU leaders have reopened schools and eased other restrictions in recent months, in what has turned out to be false hope that the worst of the crisis had passed.

With infections skyrocketing, countries are reimposing containment measures every day. But the reluctant and haphazard responses across Europe show how political leaders spent the recent weeks in collective denial.

POLITICO focuses on Germany, to highlight the tension between public health guidance and the political and economic reality. It argues that the rift was on “stark display in Berlin Wednesday, as Germany announced new restrictions and Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder urged fast and decisive action. “It would be better to be in front of the wave,” said Söder. “You do not run after the wave.” But it’s clear the second wave of new infections is already crashing over European states, including Germany and Söder’s own Bavaria.”

“The hope was that the second wave would be easier to control because we know how to identify and contain clusters and keep the economy running,” said Christian Odendahl, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform. “But that has not worked in Europe.”

The latest figures from Germany, France, Italy and Ireland show records in infections, while Spain had the most new cases since April. Hospitalization and death rates have ticked up across the region.

“This is a great challenge for all heads of government in the European Union,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said late Thursday after agreeing with the bloc’s other leaders to exchange information more regularly. “The question of how we get out of this pandemic will determine the health of many people. It will decide how many people have to die, and also determine our economic performance.”

As of 16 October 2020, 4 549 993 cases have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK: Spain (921 374), France (809 684), United Kingdom (673 622), Italy (381 602), Germany (348 557), Netherlands (203 712), Belgium (191 866), Romania (168 490), Poland (149 903), Czechia (149 010), Sweden (102 407), Portugal (93 294), Austria (60 764), Ireland (46 429), Hungary (43 025), Denmark (34 023), Bulgaria (27 507), Slovakia (24 225), Greece (23 947), Croatia (22 534), Norway (15 953), Finland (12 994), Slovenia (10 684), Luxembourg (10 244), Lithuania (6 760), Malta (4 152), Estonia (3 980), Iceland (3 837), Latvia (3 056), Cyprus (2 181) and Liechtenstein (177).

As of 16 October 2020, 198 886 deaths have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK: United Kingdom (43 293), Italy (36 372), Spain (33 553), France (33 125), Belgium (10 327), Germany (9 734), Netherlands (6 683), Sweden (5 910), Romania (5 674), Poland (3 308), Portugal (2 128), Ireland (1 838), Czechia (1 230), Hungary (1 085), Bulgaria (944), Austria (894), Denmark (677), Greece (482), Finland (350), Croatia (344), Norway (278), Slovenia (153), Luxembourg (133), Lithuania (110), Slovakia (71), Estonia (68), Malta (45), Latvia (41), Cyprus (25), Iceland (10) and Liechtenstein (1).

ECDC / POLITICO / Hindustan

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