As protests of the COVID protocol multiply in Europe, the deadly coronavirus itself is doing the same.
Several governments in the once – and now present – epicenter of the pandemic have taken harsh but necessary steps to stem what German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls a “highly dramatic” situation (an adjective quite for the decidedly low-drama politician ).
His Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, spoke even more bluntly: By the end of winter, he said, “pretty much everyone in Germany will either be vaccinated, cured or dead”.
Thus, several European governments, having the right and the responsibility to protect their population from any invasion, including viral, are taking measures. For example, Austria – which, along with neighboring countries Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, recorded the world’s highest rate of new cases reported last week – entered its fourth lockdown.
The government has closed shops, cafes and restaurants, sports venues and cultural institutions for at least 10 days and up to 20 days. More importantly, Vienna declared vaccinations mandatory on February 1, becoming the first Western country to take such a step.
These cautious protections sparked protests, with at least 40,000 people taking to the streets of Vienna last weekend. Elsewhere, in several countries on the continent, including Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia and the Netherlands, people have gathered in public places to push back the new rules.
In many places, violence broke out. Or an “orgy of violence”, as the mayor of Rotterdam put it, adding that football hooligans are allegedly involved in incidents where the police shot and injured two protesters during protests in which police cars were blown up. were set on fire and the lives of officers were said to have been endangered.
In Brussels, nearly 35,000 people demonstrated near the headquarters of the European Union, with stone throwing and arson in incidents that resulted in more than 40 arrests and three police officers injured. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo defended the right to protest but rightly called the violence “absolutely unacceptable”.
These eruptions, some supported if not driven by far-right parties, “are part of a worrying trend, not only in Europe, but also here in the use of violence to make political points, and in particular in using the COVID pandemic and the restrictions to put violence into the political system “, Marie curtin, a diplomat in residence at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, told a columnist.
Curtin, a former foreign service officer, added that there are political implications in Europe. “This is the last thing the right has realized it can grab hold of to promote the overall vision of the government of its candidates.”
The best overview of government in Western countries can be strengthened by ending the pandemic that is wearing out everyone, everywhere. And we must also stop another epidemic: the erosion of democracy.
From an invigorating news report published Monday by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, “The number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction in 2020 outnumbered those moving in a democratic direction. The pandemic has prolonged this negative trend existing over a five-year period, the longest such period since the start of the third wave of democratization in the 1970s. “
Among the “most disturbing examples of setbacks” are Slovenia, Poland and Hungary, as well as the United States itself. They and all democracies around the world must resist the crowd mentality that only prolongs the pandemic.
“One of the really sadly ironic aspects of this is that the more politicized the response to COVID, the more the right – even if some are themselves vaccinated – are willing to use the anti-vax movement as a tool, obviously it is. extends [the pandemic]”said Curtin.
It is also a factor of democratic decline. It is therefore essential to end the pandemic through immunity. And that, said Spahn, German Minister of Health, “will be achieved. The question is whether it is via vaccination or infection, and we explicitly recommend the route via vaccination.”