Europe 28/5/2020

The Abruzzo region has rewritten the rules of amateur football to equip it for the Covid age: no man-marking, no tackling and no spitting on the ground.

The detailed instructions were signed by the regional president, Marco Marsilio, to prepare for the gradual reopening of amateur clubs.- 12/6/2020

Belgium 14/6/2020


Live classical music has returned to Berlin for the first time since lockdown as the city’s largest opera house staged Wagner’s Das Rheingold in its car park.

In a taste of what cultural life may look like for some time Deutsche Oper Berlin’s orchestra was reduced from 80 musicians to 22 and the audience was limited to 175 people. - 15/6/2020


A view of the world's over reaction to Covid 19 from the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy - 26/7/2020


Sweden took a different course of action to all the other European cointries and did not impose a Lockdown. The number of cases soared there, and deaths were higher than in any of its neighbouring countries, but by mid August it claimed that its reinfection rate was considerably lower, due to the fact of herd immunity. And its economy was not nearly so badly affected - August 2020


Sweden’s chief epidemiologist has blamed the country’s high coronavirus death toll on its success in dealing with last winter’s flu outbreak, as the country appears to be avoiding a second wave of infections.Its infection rate is now well below other parts of Europe, with scientists increasingly coming to the view that its policy of avoiding a lockdown earlier in the year may have led to a degree of herd immunity.The death rate is high, however, especially when compared with other Scandinavian nations. Sweden has had 5,685 corona-related deaths, the fifth-highest per capita death rate in Europe, five times higher than neighbouring Denmark and about ten times more than Norway and Finland.

In an interview with the Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist and architect of the hands-off response, blamed the high coronavirus death rate on last year’s relatively mild flu season.Nearly half of Sweden’s coronavirus deaths have occured in care homes where the virus spread virtually uncontrolled. Stefan Lofven, the Swedish prime minister, admitted in June that the country did not go far enough to protect its most vulnerable.Mr Tegnell has admitted that serious mistakes were made in care homes but denies that a lockdown would have led to a lower death rate. Instead, he has argued that people in care homes who were spared by last year’s seasonal flu outbreak succumbed to this year’s Covid-19.“When many people die of the flu in the winter, fewer die in heatwaves the following summer. In this case, it was Covid-19 that caused many to die,” Mr Tegnell told the newspaper.‘What has now been seen is that the countries that have had a fairly low mortality for influenza in the last two, three years, such as Sweden, have a very high excess mortality in Covid-19. Those which had a high flu mortality rate, such as Norway, during the last two winters, have fairly low Covid mortality. The same trend has been seen in several countries. This may not be the whole explanation but part of it.That relation also explained the high death rates recorded in the UK and Belgium.”

Mika Salminen, director of the Finnish Institute for Health and Social Affairs, said a correlation between influenza and Covid-19 deaths was possible and could partly explain the development in Sweden.“But I don’t think the difference between Finland and Sweden was down to that,” he said, adding that the Finnish lockdown had succeeded in almost halting the pandemic.There were virtually no new cases in Finland over the summer but infections are now rising and the authorities are responding with local lockdowns. The infection rate remains low, however, with a 14-day rate of 13 cases per 100,000.Of the 31 European countries surveyed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 23 currently have higher infection rates than Sweden.

The country’s 14-day cumulative number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants is 26.1, far below the UK at 72.8 and Spain, with the most at 310.9. It is even lower than the 26.3 recorded for Germany, whose handling of the crisis has been praised.On Monday, the country’s finance minister, Magdalena Andersson, announced a new £9.3 billion package of public spending and tax cuts to help “restart the Swedish economy”.Unlike most other countries in Europe Sweden allowed shops, restaurants and schools to remain open throughout the pandemic and has consequently not suffered the deep reductions in growth seen elsewhere. It relied on the population to stick to social distancing and maintain good hygiene. Home working was encouraged and gatherings of over 50 people were banned.The measures have been lauded by the World Health Organisation officials as a sustainable model.The government said the policy would protect lives and the economy but critics around the world said it was making a fatal mistake.Mr Tegnell regards facemasks as redundant and has denied accusations that he accepted higher death rates in an attempt to establish herd immunity as quickly as possible. The aim, he insists, was always to slow the spread of infection to avoid overwhelming hospitals.He told the Financial Times this month that national lockdowns were like using a hammer to kill a fly and that his approach avoided the constant chopping and changing of drastic measures used in other European countries.

A recent study by the University of Stockholm has suggested that an infection rate of 43 per cent could be sufficient for herd immunity from coronavirus rather than the usual figure of 60 per cent.After Covid cases in Sweden far exceeded levels in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, the figures began converging in mid-August. In recent weeks, the Danes, among the first countries in Europe to go into lockdown in March, have seen a sharp rise in infections. - 23/9/20 - 24/8/20

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