Coronavirus: Eastern Europe seals itself off

Coronavirus: Eastern Europe seals itself off



Lukasz Szumowski has everything that is currently needed to be successful in politics: he is a doctor, he worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta after completing his studies, and at the age of 44 he became a professor. He has been Poland’s Minister of Health for two years.

Szumowski is not exactly a tribune, he uses a sonorous voice to inform his compatriots every day about the latest cases in the corona crisis. It was 335 on Friday. “It is getting worse,” says the minister. He does not gloss over anything, and that is precisely what people credit him with, even the opposition praises him – a rarity in politically deeply disputed Poland.

Szumowski is considered the driving force behind the clear line Warsaw drives in the fight against the virus. Poland was one of the first countries in Europe to close its borders.

Almost all countries between the Baltic and the Balkans have followed this example, almost completely freezing public life, the old towns of Prague and Krakow have been swept empty, the ski lifts in Slovakia have come to a standstill, and the beaches of Croatia have died out.

The countries of Eastern Europe are even more forced to isolate themselves from the virus than their neighbors in the west, as their health systems are sometimes even less resilient. Doctors and nurses have migrated in thousands from countries such as Bulgaria or Romania.

With a mouthguard to the President

“The health systems in Central Europe have been under pressure for a long time. It is a combination of personnel shortages that is caused by historically low wages and migration. In addition, in many places there has been little investment in health infrastructure for a long time,” says Martin McKee, professor at the London School on Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

So far, relatively few cases of infection have been registered in Eastern Europe: Bulgaria and Albania only reported first corona deaths on Wednesday. The Czech Republic is worst affected with 694 patients. On the night of Wednesday a military plane landed at Prague Airport. Prime Minister Andrej Babis had sent her to China, and she returned with 150,000 Corona rapid tests on board.

The opposition candidates, on the other hand, had to stop their election campaign. Crowds of people are forbidden, if they continued, they would have to accept the accusation of carelessly violating the preventive measures.

But PiS does not even think about postponing the ballot box. According to surveys, Duda would currently win in the first ballot. On Thursday, the president and government presented an “anti-crisis umbrella”, a € 50 billion rescue package for the economy. The term “anti-crisis screen” sounds martial in Polish, like “anti-missile screen”, the anti-missile defense system that the United States is building on Polish territory against attacks from the east. The national conservatives and their top candidate are in their element and can present themselves as protectors of the people in the crisis. The journalist Jacek Nizinkiewicz writes in horror in the rather conservative newspaper “Rzeczpospolita”: “Andrzej Duda builds on the corona virus in his election campaign.”

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