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COVID-19

Living in Europe: An update from the team at The Local

There's no doubt living, working and moving around Europe has become far more challenging in recent months. For all of us.

Living in Europe: An update from the team at The Local
Life in Europe is not like it was. Cyclists drive past chairs and tables of a still closed restaurant at the Alter Markt place, where works are under way for the reopening in Dortmund. AFP

Normal daily life has changed, travel has become more complicated and jobs and small businesses are under threat.

During these turbulent times, we at The Local pledge to provide you with all the essential news and information you need to stay informed with what's happening in the country where you live or love to visit.
 
Over the coming months we promise to:
 
  • Bring you everything you need to know about how the coronavirus crisis continues to impact European countries over the coming weeks and months.
  • Explain all the rules, regulations or health guidelines you have to follow 
  • Cover essential issues from travel and taxes, to jobs and work permits, borders and Brexit.
  • Answer your crucial questions and ask them, on your behalf, to authorities and we'll help you learn the local language in each country.
 
The weeks ahead will be extremely challenging for us at The Local given advertising revenue has plunged by around 70 percent compared to last year.
 
We have survived the crisis up until now because of the thousands of readers who became members in recent months and the thousands more who renewed their memberships. We are very grateful, as are our regular readers.
 
 
Without our members' support we wouldn't have been able to produce the articles, many of which we made free to all, that millions are reading each month.
 
We currently have around 25,000 members of The Local community. We've come a long way from when the The Local began in 2004 in the form of a newsletter sent to 12 people in a language class.
 
But our urgent goal is to grow our community to over 40,000 so we can cover our costs, become sustainable and not have to rely on advertising for survival.
 
Every member counts, so we could do with your help to spread the word. Tell your friends and colleagues about us or share our stories with them.
 
In return we'll continue to work hard and publish dozens of articles each week to explain life around Europe.
 
You should also know we are reinvesting members' contributions by bringing on board new writers, increasing weekend coverage and upgrading our apps.
 
 
 
This has been possible thanks to a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network.
 
We hope you stay with us over the coming months as we report and explain all the relevant news and changes that affect you.
 
And remember the best way to keep up to date is by downloading our iOS or Android phone apps, and by joining the conversations on Facebook or Twitter.
 
A big thanks to all our readers from everyone at The Local.
 
 

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COVID-19 RULES

Sweden’s pandemic strategy ‘fundamentally correct’: Coronavirus Commission

Sweden's Covid-19 response was "fundamentally correct", but the government should have taken the lead, and brought in earlier and tougher measures, the country's Coronavirus Commission has concluded.

Sweden's pandemic strategy 'fundamentally correct': Coronavirus Commission

“It was fundamentally right to rely on issuing advice and recommendations,” Mats Melin, the commission’s chair said at a press conference after issuing the report. “The state should not limit the freedom of the individual more than is necessary to limit a dangerous sickness.” 

In addition, he noted, countries which had imposed greater restrictions had not necessarily had better outcomes. 

“We are not convinced that long-lasting and repeated lockdowns are necessary element in the response to a new, serious epidemic outbreak,” he said. 

Sweden made headlines early on in the pandemic by not introducing a lockdown, instead issuing recommendations on home-working, social distancing and good hand hygiene.

But tougher measures should have been introduced in February-March 2020, Melin said, with the measures that were imposed “too few” and coming “too late”. 

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While the commission hailed Sweden’s decision to keep most schools open during the first wave, it said that by March 2020 there “should have been temporary closures” of indoor places where people gather, such as shopping centres, restaurants, sport events and so on.”

In particular, it criticised the fact that it took until the end of March 2020 for the limit on public gatherings to be lowered to 50 people. 

It also said that those returning from ski trips in Italy at the end of February and the start of March should have been asked to quarantine, while incoming travel should have temporarily been stopped for all but the most necessary journeys, as happened in Denmark and Norway.   

In an interview with The Local, Sweden’s health minister Lena Hallengren welcomed the commission’s conclusion that the fundamental strategy had been correct. 

“That the commission concludes that the overall strategy based on non-invasive recommendations and a non-lockdown policy, that they think that was the right choice. I think that’s good,” she said. 

At later stages of the pandemic, Sweden eventually introduced stricter measures, including bans on elderly home visits, earlier closings at bars and restaurants, and vaccine passes for indoor events.

The commission also said the government should have assumed leadership of all aspects of Covid crisis management, despite the Public Health Agency’s large degree of autonomy and a healthcare system managed by self-governing regional councils.

“The government had too one-sided a dependence on assessments made by the Public Health Agency”, it said.

It was not until the end of October that the government began to try to take a leading role, with documentation obtained by the commission showing the then Prime Minister Stefan Löfven trying to take more precedence over the Public Health Agency. 

The government, it concluded, should also have sought to get alternative views from other infectious disease and public health experts, rather than relying solely on the Public Health Agency’s expertise.   

Hallengren told The Local that she rejected this aspect of the report. 

“The government has been the one leading and deciding, and we are responsible,” she said. 

She also rejected the claim that the government had been over-reliant on the agency’s experts. 

“They can have their opinion about that, but the fact is, that the Public Health Agency is not an expert, it’s hundreds of experts, who are working with infection control and working with public health issues all the time,” she said. “It would be very strange if I, as minister for health, or the government, relied on specific or unique experts instead of this very big expert authority when it comes to epidemiological knowledge.”

An earlier partial report by the commission had also criticised the country’s slowness is setting up adequate testing measures.

With more than 17,000 fatalities so far, Sweden’s death toll is slightly better than the European average but is far higher per capita than those of neighbouring Norway, Finland and Denmark.

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