Europe coronavirus: Leaders take on regional authorities as second wave engulfs the continent


Cities in the UK, France and Spain are resisting centralized efforts to enforce tougher rules, with days of tense negotiations as contagion increases.

In the northern English city of Manchester, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gotten into an argument with local mayor Andy Burnham over whether the city should be moved from the UK’s second tier of restrictions to the toughest third.

“If no agreement can be reached, I will have to intervene to protect Manchester hospitals and save the lives of Manchester residents,” Johnson said Friday, urging Burnham to “reconsider his position” and “engage constructively” with the government.

But Burnham opposed the government’s attempts to make his town’s measures more burdensome and pushed for more financial measures to protect workers in the region that are under stricter rules.

The tension is a long way from the UK’s first coronavirus spike, when the four countries essentially all locked up at once and support from regional authorities and the public was a given.

Instead, there is confusion in some parts of the country about the rules they must follow, with much depending on the willingness of their local authorities to follow the government’s instructions.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan called for stricter rules for a few days before Johnson announced them, while in Liverpool, Lancashire and other regions, agreements were made with the government just before the weekend, with some councilors questioning the order.

But even where local leaders are prone to stricter rules, the public seems less so.

“I’ve had enough,” Rebecca Duncan, a 39-year-old from South London, told CNN on Friday after the city moved to “tier 2”. “It’s like one thing starts to open up and life starts to seem a little bit normal and then something else comes along and pushes us all back.”

And a similar scenario is unfolding across Europe as leaders grapple with the difficulties of pursuing a “whack-a-mole” approach to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Earlier this month, a court in Madrid rejected lockdown laws imposed on the capital by the Spanish government, leaving millions of residents wondering if they could travel for a national holiday.

The court said the restrictions, which banned residents from leaving the capital and nine suburbs on Friday, violated “the basic rights of citizens without a legal mandate.”

Spain’s left-wing national government and Madrid’s center-right regional government have long been confused about the pandemic response, and the lockdown measures are the latest political battleground.

And in Germany, a slew of court orders is causing trouble for Angela Merkel’s government as she tries to combat an increasing load of cases.

Tourists walk past Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday as the city's corporations go out on curfews in the courts.

Most notably, a Berlin court sided with the government and with a group of business owners on Friday, suspending curfews for bars and restaurants in the city.

“It was not clear” that closing food and beverage outlets between 11pm and 6am would help combat the contamination, the court ruled in the case. The measure, which took effect on October 10, was therefore a “disproportionate violation of the freedom” of the hospitality industry, according to the court.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said he was “very disappointed” with the ruling, saying that “there is no doubt that in big cities… especially in the late hours, what happens in private and public places is a cause of this. current infections, ”according to AFP.

Emmanuel Macron will be closely following the arguments taking place across Europe after instituting curfews in Paris and several other French cities on Friday. So far the French government has not had any major opposition to the plan.

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In addition to opposition from local legislators and disadvantaged entrepreneurs, the issue of police is causing confusion in some areas.

The Greater Manchester Police Commissioner responded decisively on Saturday to a report in the Telegraph newspaper claiming there were “fears” about whether agents would follow Burnham’s lead and refuse to take action imposed by Johnson’s government. .

“We conduct operational policing without fear or favor and in accordance with the police code of ethics, together with colleagues across the country,” Ian Hopkins said in a statement.

But the barrage of challenges from municipalities and the hospitality industry is causing headaches for several European governments.

Meanwhile, cases continue to increase across the continent. The UK, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, among other countries, all recorded their highest ever confirmed Covid 19 infections in October, as leaders warn of potentially serious winter outbreaks.


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