Chapter I Measures taken by the European institutions regarding the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic
Covid-19 represents an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered virus (SARS-CoV-2 virus), initially identified in China at the end of December, after an abnormal increase of the people who got a fever and needed medical care regarding the complications occurred, covering in particular the respiratory tract.
At the level of the European Union, no later than October 15, 2020, were recorded 4.8 million cases of Covid-19 illnesses, of which over 200.000 people died. The European Union, in particular, is experiencing massive increases of illness, even in states with a small population such as the Netherlands or Belgium.
Public Health is a shared competence of the European Union and the Member States, which means that, according to the regulatory framework, the EU can complement the national policies of the member states, but does not have the required prerogatives to take decisions in the name of all and cannot impose its point of view on a supranational level.
- Recommendations and actions of European Union bodies
World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that avoiding the transmission of the virus should represent a priority. Furthermore, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has also published more materials regarding social distancing theme and associated recommendations in which were included several considerations to be taken into account in the implementation of measures at the Member State level: social and political issues, human rights and proportionality of response, risk communication among the population, support for vulnerable people and groups, combating stigma (in particular for people who become ill, quarantined or self-isolated), promoting solidarity and community support, financial compensation for lost incomes or jobs, ensuring business continuity, processing and impact evaluation. Therefore, in addition to public health measures, government decisions have been taken in areas such as: transport, tourism, education and training, public safety and order, employment and social protection.
Health Security Committee (HSC) together with the Commission, coordinates actions in the field of risk and crisis communication, respectively member states’ responses to cross-border health threats.
The meeting of the Council for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers (Health) had as its main item on the agenda the COVID 19 pandemic. Among the conclusions adopted can be included the following: a) member states to act together in coordination with the Commission and adopt proportionate measures in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control; b) activation by the Commission of existing funding mechanisms to support cooperation between member states with regard to the preparation and the response to the threat caused by Covid-19.
At the videoconference of the members of the European Council, the continuation of the following five directions of action was established: limiting the spread of the virus, provision of medical equipment, with particular emphasis on masks and respiratory devices; promotion of research, including vaccine research; combating socio-economic consequences; helping citizens blocked in third countries.
One of the activities of the EU Council was the adoption of the amended EU budget for 2021. Through this measure, European Union has laid off almost all the remaining funds from the 2020 budget to be used in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Commission of the European Union, on the other hand, has concentrated on the following areas: public health (funding for research projects for the development of vaccines, treatments and diagnostic methods), borders and mobility (example: ensuring of some green corridors for intra-community transport of goods or the fact that there should not exist additional controls on food, given that the European Food Safety Authority has stated that there is not any evidence for the transmission of Covid-19 via food; repatriation of European citizens from third countries, support to airlines with regard to the flight slots, economic measures (the change of rules concerning the deficit targets and the schemes flexibility regarding state aid, given that the biggest part of the budgets allocated for the fight against Covid-19 consists in national sources), supporting research (including a vaccine), the fight against the disinformation and online frauds, crisis management and solidarity (mobilizing funding from the European Solidarity Fund for related action COVID 19). In the field of public health, the Commission proposed on April 2nd measures such as: member states health systems support with 3 billion of euro from the EU budget to fund the Emergency Support and Rescue Instrument (common stock of medical equipment), and the Council gave its approval on 14th April 2020 for the amount of 2,7 billion euros.
Another financial support measure adopted in support of the member states provides for the elimination of duties and VAT on imports of medical protective equipment. Furthermore, has come up with the SURE initiative, through which 100 billion euros will be available for preserving jobs and business support in the COVID-19 context.
Chapter II Private measures established by EU Member States
Austria is on the list of countries at high epidemiological risk. Due to the increase in coronavirus cases, the Austrian government has decided to implement a second partial lockdown from 3rd of November. The main measures, which are in force until November 30, include:
Recreational trips will not be allowed; hotels can only accommodate business travelers. Tourists who are already staying at a hotel, when the measures come into effect, are allowed to stay there until their scheduled return. Restaurants and bars operate only with delivery or pick-up, and dining in is not allowed. Most of the events will be canceled. Museums, theaters and most cultural institutions and recreational facilities will be closed during this period. Stores may remain open, but there must be at least 10 square meters of space per customer. Until at least 12th of November, leaving the house will be prohibited, between 20:00 and 06:00, except for the following 5 situations: professional goals, primary needs of daily life, home care for those in need or family obligations, physical and mental recovery (sports) and situations involving the defense of goods or life.
Belgium, the most affected European country, has returned to full quarantine. Belgium is the second European country to impose full quarantine again, after France. Shops and other non-essential activities, such as beauty salons, will be closed.
Supermarkets can only sell essential goods, and public gatherings cannot exceed 4 people. The ban on driving at night is already in force.
Bulgarian authorities have ordered the closure of universities and secondary education, among other anti-epidemic measures taken after several days with successive records of COVID-19 cases.
According to the order signed by the Minister of Health, Kostadin Angelov, the nightclubs will be closed- discos, bars, clubs and everything that means shows, including cinemas and theaters, except for concerts, but with a participation of only 30% of the capacity in which they take place.
Primary education will continue to be with physical presence, but secondary and university education will be exclusively online in next couple weeks. In restaurants there must be a distance of at least 1.5 meters between seats and a maximum of six people at the same table.
Furthermore, all sports events, both training and competitions, will take place without the public. The medical authorities in Sofia also imposed the obligation of the mask in both closed and open public spaces.
The Cypriot authorities have changed the conditions for entry into the country and that Romania has been included in the list of category C countries. ‘Category C countries citizens cannot travel for the purposes of tourism to the Republic of Cyprus’, according to MFA. According to the new measures announced by the Cypriot authorities, access is allowed to citizens coming from countries included in C category only if they have a negative coronavirus test and present certain documents found on the portal designated for these measures. In addition, all persons arriving in the Republic of Cyprus from countries included in C category must isolate themselves for a period of 14 days. Citizens coming from countries included in C category cannot travel for the purposes of tourism to the Republic of Cyprus. Moreover, the Cypriot authorities no longer allow tourists to cross in the northern part of the island.
Denmark introduces restrictions, following the large number of cases of coronavirus recently recorded. The limit of persons at public gatherings is reduced from 100 to 50. Bars and restaurants close earlier at 22.00, and wearing a mask will be mandatory in these units, unless the customer sits down.
The Tallinn government has said that schools and other educational institutions will be closed. Authorities also ban all public events. Health checks will be introduced at borders, airports and ports, and visitors will need to provide details about the places they traveled to.
Experts said that Finland’s approach of taking quick, but not full restrictive measures to control the pandemic, and then reopening it after a few months, was one of the most successful measure taken in Europe. A big difference between Finland and all other countries is the focusing on emergency preparedness and mode of action at national level. Finland is one of the countries that best manages the current coronavirus situation, focusing on homework and the fructification of the quarantine period.
Festive family gatherings in party halls will not be able to resume a long time. In addition, bars and restaurants, which are among the places of strong contamination, will not be able to reopen until 1st of December, unlike toy stores. Relaxation measures may be taken from 1st of December ‘strictly limited to shops’ and on the basis of a tightened protocol. Also, the telework activity will continue.
This month, Germany imposed a series of measures to get the second wave of the pandemic under control, as did most European countries. As a result of the first restrictions, the number of new infections is no longer increasing exponentially, but a decrease in the number of infections is not yet predictable.
According to the proposals, which could change after the discussion between the chancellor and regional leaders, children and young people are encouraged to meet only with one friend regularly in their free time. Similarly, families should limit private gatherings to their own household.
The proposal further provides for the limitation of public meetings to members of their own households and a maximum of two persons from another household. The project calls for private parties to be completely avoided till Christmas. As of 2nd of November, only members of two households are allowed to meet in public, with a maximum of 10 people attending the meeting.
In schools, all students wear masks, with some exceptions for today’s elementary schools. All classes will be halved to allow more space between individual students. All persons considered vulnerable will be eligible once a week for a high-quality mask, also known as FFP2.
Greek authorities resort to harsh restrictions and impose quarantine in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city. Entry and exit from the locality will be prohibited, as a measure to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The 1.1 million inhabitants of the Thessaloniki metropolitan area will have to wear a mask, including in open public spaces, and stay in their homes between 00:30 and 05:00. All meetings in public and private spaces are prohibited, and playgrounds, sports fields, archeological sites, museums and theaters will be closed. Restaurants will only be allowed to make deliveries.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis also announced the perimeter closure of the city of Thessaloniki, with entry and exit from the town being banned, a measure decided for all localities in the ‘red’ area. The city of Larisa, in central Greece, also entered the red zone and quarantine was imposed there as well.
These measures are implemented on the basis of an anti-epidemic plan elaborated with a month ago by the Athens government, which stipulates that areas with a significant number of infections go into lockdown, and in those with a more favorable epidemiological situation are applied easier restrictions.
Ireland imposes the toughest restrictions in Europe. All non-essential commercial activities will be closed and bars and restaurants will only serve packaged food. Only people with a job considered essential will be ‘allowed to go to work’. Furthermore, the Irish people will not be able to leave their houses for physical activity only within a distance of five kilometers around the house, otherwise risking fines. Schools and nurseries will remain open. Visits between different homes and indoor events will be prohibited, although professional sports will be allowed indoors.
Italy announces new anti-COVID measures: schools and kindergartens will remain open in Italy, with 75% of high school and university courses taking place online instead. Cinemas, theaters, gyms and swimming pools are closed. At the same time, bars and restaurants will no longer be allowed to receive clients after 18.00. Moreover, the population is urged to avoid public transport as much as possible.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has ordered additional containment measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in the Netherlands and declared that the government is also considering banning traffic and closing schools. The Dutch prime minister declared on Tuesday that museums, theaters, cinemas, zoos and theme parks will also have to close.
The Polish prime minister urged citizens to keep their travels to a minimum and work from home, announcing a series of measures that international news agencies describe as a “partial quarantine” at national level, aimed at limiting the record growth of new cases of coronavirus. In the “red” areas, the restrictions dealing with shops, the prohibition of events such as weddings, while the school will be done exclusively online. Groups of more than 10 people will not be allowed, and in public transport the seats will be reduced by half.
In the yellow areas, the school will be hybrid, the restaurants will operate only in take away system, between 6:00 and 21:00, the swimming pools, fitness rooms will be closed, and a maximum of 25 people are allowed at public gatherings. The sports events will take place without the public.
Portugal introduces new anti-COVID rules. Gatherings larger than ten people are prohibited and social limits are required. It is also forbidden to consume alcoholic beverages later than 20.00. Special rules will be implemented in the largest cities, Lisbon and Porto. People will take shifts to work, public transportation will be limited, and restaurants and cafes near schools will only serve groups not exceeding four people per table.
2.16 Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is taking extreme measures in the pandemic: closes almost all stores and drastically restricts freedom of movement. The Czech government has decided to close all shops – except stores of food and pharmacies – and to limit the movement of citizens to essential movements (to work or to the doctor) to stop the fast growing in the number of infections with the new coronavirus. It is forbidden to meet in groups of more than two people, and sanitary masks are mandatory indoors and outdoors. Schools, restaurants and bars are already closed in the Czech Republic.
Madrid authorities, one of the most affected areas, have decided to impose a quarantine on residents of the capital and nine other neighboring cities. Therefore, the people of Madrid are still allowed to leave the town, despite the restrictions initially imposed by the authorities. The decision to impose a lockdown in the region was taken by the Spanish Ministry of Health, but was challenged in court by the regional government, which called for an interference by the central government in its powers and demanded the suspension of the new measures. Even so, the decision of the Spanish government to introduce lock-down so that the inhabitants of Madrid and nine neighboring towns could not leave the cities except in a few specific situations, such as going to work, to the doctor or to school, was invalidated. by the Court of Madrid.
Sweden has limited the number of people sitting at tables in cafes and restaurants to a maximum of eight, amid a sharp increase in coronavirus infections. Until now, Sweden has never imposed a national lockdown, being one of the few countries in the world that has treated the coronavirus pandemic in another way. The Swedish Prime Minister also recommended working from home, if possible, and avoiding public transport, especially for three regions: Halland, Örebro and Jönköping, where things more serious. The new measures are at the level of recommendation, without being imposed.
Croatia has announced that will reintroduce some restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Coffee shops and bars will be able to receive customers only in open spaces, at weddings and funerals will be able to attend a maximum of 50 people, and at other private events at most 20 people.
Croatian public radio and television station HRT previously reported that tourists from countries that declared Croatia ‘insecure’ pack their bags to avoid quarantine when returning to their origin countries and that numerous hotel reservations had been canceled.
Tourism is the most significant sector of Croatia’s economy, contributing more than 20% to the country’s national income.