COVID-19, LOCKDOWN AND EUROPEAN EFFORTS

Theresa Zettl is an ALDE individual member from Germany and was recently elected as delegate for the upcoming ALDE Congress. She is a member of the COVID-19 working group of the individual members. She talks here about Coronavirus pandemic, and EU efforts during and after lockdown

“In my opinion, the EU [European Union] has faced the hardest trial since the moment it was established.” Angela Merkel, German chancellor, emphasised this in April pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all countries of the EU.With more than 27.6 million infected people and almost one million deaths worldwide,2 the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to become at least as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, scientists warned in a study published in the medical journal, JAMA Network Open, in August 2020.3 While European countries like Italy and Spain called for a complete lockdown to keep COVID-19 from spreading, other countries like Brazil still refuse to recognize the seriousness of the virus.4

Surely, lockdowns were a good decision with regard to containment of the virus, but the impact of the lockdown on people and economy has been and remains tremendous. For example, comparing lockdowns has already shown which countries have done their homework with regards to digitalisation. Switching from regular school to homeschooling and from workplace to home offices made clear which governments urgently need to act to make high-speed broadband available.

Work-life balances have been completely turned upside down, especially for single parents. It has been even more challenging for working single parents who are now supervising their school-age children and simultaneously working from home – or struggling to find someone to take care of their children where homeworking is not an option.

Unfortunately, lockdown has also increased the cases of domestic violence, as victims – mostly women – are trapped at home with their abusers. The United Nations published numbers that domestic abuse increased by 20% worldwide during lockdowns.5 Doctors are also reporting a rise of severe mental health issues as a direct result of the pandemic itself: isolation, substance abuse, domestic violence, economic uncertainty as well as the job loss fears are considered as factors that might contribute to the need for extra support to prevent people from burnout, depression or committing suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic.6

So how can we all prevent further lockdowns until the vaccine has been approved? We should trust our scientists more. It’s likely none have ever been exposed to a virus with such a high mortality rate. As time has passed, we have learnt more about the virus and have had to change how we respond to it. Unfortunately, it has become popular to spread conspiracy theories on social media – even when it is more than obvious these theories are fake and not based on scientific fact. There are too many people claiming they are living under dictatorship because they are facing short-term restrictions such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Those of us who live in democratic countries, and especially in Europe, should be grateful that we do not live in a genuine dictatorship. 

Theresa Zettl

Sources: 

1) https://tass.com/world/1140903
2) John Hopkins University & Medicine | Coronavirus Resource Center: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
    Global cases: 27.583.796, global deaths: 897.671; numbers as at 9th September 2020
3) https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/13/scientists-say-the-coronavirus-is-at-least-as-deadly-as-the-1918-flu-pandemic.html
4) https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/08/14/brazils-national-government-has-undermined-COVID-19-containment-measures/
5) https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-53014211 
6) https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53742121 

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