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COVID-19

Europeans harden views towards US and EU after pandemic

"Trust in Trump's America is gone." The coronavirus crisis has caused a dramatic deterioration in the European public perception of the US and left many believing the EU had become "irrelevant", new polling finds.

Europeans harden views towards US and EU after pandemic
Europeans have hardened their views of the US. Photo: AFP

The new survey by the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) says the pandemic has traumatised Europeans and left them “feeling alone and vulnerable”.

The survey studied the views of Europeans towards the EU and notably its response to the coronavirus crisis and the results did not make for positive reading.

“There is a powerful sense among citizens of almost all surveyed member states that their country was largely left to fend for itself in dealing with the pandemic,” read the study.

“Few respondents to the survey had a positive view of the EU's coronavirus response. In no surveyed country do a majority of them see a positive change in the performance of EU institutions during the crisis,” the survey found.

Some 63 percent of Italians, 61 percent of French people, and 52 percent of Spaniards said that the EU has not lived up to its responsibilities. 

“Finally, and perhaps most damningly of all, a large plurality (and, in some cases, a majority) in every surveyed member state described the EU as having slipped into irrelevance in the coronavirus crisis,” it said.

But that did not mean there is an increased desire to see the European project fail.

In fact a majority in all countries surveyed believed there was a need for greater European cooperation after the pandemic.

“The share of respondents who held this belief was as high as 91 percent in Portugal and 80 percent in Spain. But perhaps even more noteworthy was the response in less Europhile member states. In France, Sweden, and Denmark, more than half of respondents approved of greater cooperation at the European level. In Italy, 77 percent did,” read the survey.

The survey revealed that one of the impacts of the crisis was the desire by many Europeans to see greater border controls.

“A substantial share of the population in surveyed countries – ranging from 48 percent in Denmark to 73 percent in Portugal – supports stricter border controls. This is a powerful signal of Europeans' current sense of vulnerability,” it read.

Europe's views of US deteriorate

 

Strikingly the survey also revealed a steep deterioration in the European perception of Donald Trump's America.

More than 60 percent of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in the United States as a global leader.

Forty-six percent of French respondents, and 42 percent of Germans, said their view of the US had worsened “a lot” as a result of the coronavirus crisis (the highest results among all surveyed countries).

“Now, Europeans' trust in Trump's America is gone. Many of them have been appalled by the country's chaotic response to Covid-19; the lack of solidarity it showed with Europeans in the March 12th closure of its border to members of the Schengen area; and its lack of leadership in tackling the coronavirus crisis at the global level – or even engagement with the issue (beyond a war of words with the World Health Organisation),” the study wrote.

“Europeans have accepted the fact that Trump's America is not necessarily a friend of Europe in a time of need.”

 

 

Europeans' view of China has also worsened since the pandemic.

“More than 60 percent of respondents in France and Denmark reported that their view of China had worsened. In eight of nine surveyed countries, the share of respondents who have adopted a more negative view of China in the past year has increased by between a factor of two and a factor of ten,” the study read.

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COVID-19

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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