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CONFRONTING CORONAVIRUS

Confronting coronavirus: The Local examines how Europe is tackling the crisis

In a new series of articles, The Local's journalists across Europe will take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the crisis, what's worked, what hasn't, and why.

Confronting coronavirus: The Local examines how Europe is tackling the crisis
If a programme has had positive results, we'll look at how it could be replicated; if it's failed, we'll investigate why. Photo: AFP

The coronavirus epidemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of each community it has affected, and given us an opportunity to learn from each other's successes and failures. Amid states of emergency and global travel restrictions, the world may feel smaller, but it's a time when collaboration and looking outwards has never been more important.

No country has stopped the pandemic or solved the accompanying crisis, but there are initiatives being implemented to deal with its devastating impact.

From the development of new treatments to government aid for businesses and from ways of dealing with loneliness to financial support for freelancers, there is now a worldwide focus on trying to mitigate the harmful impact of this virus.

Over the coming weeks The Local's journalists, based at the heart of affected communities, will take a detailed look at some of the solutions put forward to deal with the huge knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This will include large-scale responses by governments, for example how France and Germany have tried to support small businesses and how Switzerland has tried to help parents affected by the crisis. It will also include smaller-scale responses, such as efforts by a region, community group, or individual hospitals or business to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.

You can view the articles published so far in our new section on all homepages titled Confronting Coronavirus.

Looking at how countries are facing the pandemic, and evaluating how well different strategies are working, is essential not only to highlight the signs of progress, but also for holding decision-makers to account.

These articles will inform the rest of our coverage moving forward. If a programme has had positive results in one location, we'll look at what it would take to export that response elsewhere. If it's failed, we can look at what would be needed to improve it. Responses can't be copied entirely with an expectation of the same results in a different contexts, but we'll look for key takeaways that can inform policies elsewhere.

It doesn't mean we'll be switching our focus; we will continue to report on the problems that are still awaiting a response. And don't worry, we will also keep writing the essential practical guides and up-to-date news reports you need in order to navigate life here.

We also know that the crisis has a unique impact on the lives of those living outside their home country, who may lack a support network in their new home, and are often more likely to have insecure housing and employment. As always, our readers will be at the core of our coverage, and we will continue speaking to you about your experiences of the crisis.

This kind of in-depth, responsible reporting is essential, but it costs money. This project has been supported by a $5,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

Thanks to this grant, all articles in the section will be free for other media outlets to republish.

As well as the Solutions Journalism Network, we are grateful for the support of our community of paying members. The 25,000 of you who have joined us have not only helped us to survive the crisis up until now, but allowed us to focus this important reporting on issues that affect our readers' lives and not just stories to garner 'clicks'.

If you would like to support The Local in our goal to provide essential and responsible English-language reporting from across Europe during this crisis and beyond, you can find out more here.

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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