Experts from Bratislava and Prague spoke about the peculiarities of the fight against the pandemic in their countries&# 160;
Every day, the world’s leading news agencies publish updated statistics on the coronavirus pandemic: how many people in a given country have this disease, how many people have recovered, how many lives have been claimed by the coronavirus.
At present, the USA, China, Iran and the countries of the so-called “old Europe”, primarily Spain, Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, bear the greatest losses. Here, the number of victims of Covid-19 goes to the thousands. In many other countries classified as geopolitical “West”, the number of deaths is measured in hundreds.
In the countries that joined the EU and NATO in the 1990s and 2000s, there are dozens, but this group has islands of relative prosperity, especially in comparison with their closest neighbors. So, if you take the so-called “Visegrad group”, then according to the data on the morning of April 8, 58 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in Hungary, 136 in Poland, 91 in the Czech Republic, and two people died in Slovakia..
At the same time, the population of Slovakia is approaching five and a half million people, while in the Czech Republic it is slightly more than ten and a half million, that is, the difference is about two times. However, both in terms of the number of infected (5033 in the Czech Republic and 581 in Slovakia) and deaths, the situation in the Czech Republic is much more serious..
The correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” contacted experts in both parts of the once united country, and tried to find out the reasons for such a significant gap.
“We can say that life in the country has slowed down”
Senior Research Fellow, Slovak Foreign Policy Association Alexander Duleba noted that there are three arguments to explain this situation in his country – two positive and one negative. “I’ll start with the negative. Compared to the Czech Republic, we have four times fewer tests done. There are a little over two thousand tests per one million of the population, and in the Czech Republic – eight thousand, ”says Alexander Duleba. And he explains that the reason for this is that local doctors, with the consent of the Slovak Ministry of Health, refused to do the so-called “rapid tests” based on blood tests. Currently, only more complex, but also more reliable genetic tests are carried out in the country, which detect the disease even in the absence of external signs..
“Recently there was information that new tests based on genetics had been invented at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, and now it will be possible to carry out a much larger number of tests,” adds the Slovak expert.
And the positive arguments, from the point of view of Alexander Duleba, are, firstly, that since March 6, that is, since the day the first case of Covid-19 infection was confirmed in the country, citizens began to show consciousness. In particular, the largest Slovak university – the University of Comenius (Univerzita Komenského) announced the transition to a distance learning system. “Immediately, the regional authorities made a decision to close schools for two weeks. This example was followed by other universities in the country. And the government has introduced very tough measures since March 12. Slovakia was the first country in the European Union to close its borders, entry was allowed only for citizens of Slovakia, and an exception was made for foreigners for truck drivers who transported food or necessary things for production. And all Slovaks returning from abroad are immediately put into a two-week quarantine, where they are given tests, ”says a senior researcher at the Slovak Foreign Policy Association..
Since the introduction of the tough measures mentioned by Alexander Duleba, all travel agencies, all hotels, ski resorts, swimming pools and all cultural facilities have been closed in the country. Sports events have been discontinued, including the national ice hockey championship, which is traditionally very popular in Slovakia. “We can say that life in the country has slowed down. But thanks to tough measures, we gained time and reduced the dynamics of the spread of this virus. And if in Italy such measures began to be applied, when there were already thousands of confirmed cases of infection in the country, we began to introduce them after the first infection. And the second positive factor is the discipline of citizens. First of all, everyone began to wear masks, because, according to doctors, 95% of coronavirus infection occurs through airborne droplets. And, of course, we must pay tribute to the TV presenters of all TV channels – both state and private..
Now you will not see a single television employee who does not have a mask on his face. And although in the studio, there may not be such a need for this, but with this media persons signal the population to follow their example. And all our politicians also wear masks for the same purpose, ”emphasizes Alexander Duleba.
“Our government is now more libertarian”
Some features of the situation in Slovakia were noted by the president of the Institute of Public Problems, a political scientist in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America. Grigory Mesezhnikov.
“We have limited car traffic for the coming days in connection with the approaching Easter. Since the majority of the urban population are former villagers, they traditionally go to their relatives. And there are fears that the positive trend in Slovakia may be broken. Therefore, the government announced the restriction of traffic between regions, “he explained..
In his commentary, Mesezhnikov also mentioned the parliamentary elections that took place at the very end of February. “There were fears that due to the transfer of power, things might take a sad turn. But everything happened exactly the opposite. The fact is that the former ruling party suffered a crushing defeat. But before the transfer of power, they had three weeks, and they decided to recoup a little and create a kind of reserve for the future. They say we are going into opposition, but now you will see how we are able to cope with a difficult situation. And already the former Prime Minister Peter Pelligrini actively got down to business. And it helped. And the new government inherited this style and continued active measures to combat coronavirus..
Although, it should be noted that we had people who, back in mid-February, said that tough measures should be introduced. But in the midst of the election campaign, no one listened to them, ”says the political scientist.
Talking about the behavior of Slovaks in everyday life, Grigory Mesezhnikov emphasizes: “I was very surprised how people behave. To be honest, I expected a certain “do not care”, but people showed conscientiousness. Perhaps this is a kind of legacy of the socialist past, when obedience was required. Or perhaps this is fear, and not for oneself, but for their loved ones, that family members, parents, who, perhaps, are no longer very healthy, will get sick. That is, taking care of those who belong to risk groups, ”the Voice of America interlocutor shared his impressions..
“Everyone wears masks, and in most cases these are masks of their own making. You can enter shops either with gloves, and if they are not there, they will spray your hands with disinfectants. And, by the way, they are admitted to shops with special cards. This is done so that no more people pass inside than allowed by the sanitary rules. Business, of course, is doing very badly. Everything is closed here, except for grocery stores, pharmacies and mobile phone shops. Part of the business has switched to on-line mode. Now the government is negotiating with the European Union to receive 4 billion euros, in addition, there is a redistribution of funds that were originally intended for other purposes. Our government is now more libertarian, and it seems to me that there is support for private business, and especially for small companies..
But the overall situation is, of course, sad. We had good economic indicators. There are four car factories in Slovakia, and they all stand because the demand for their products has fallen. Our industry is tied to Germany, so if the German economy falls, then, of course, it will be very bad for us, ”concludes Grigory Mesezhnikov.
“Measures in Moscow are stricter than ours”
Although the situation in Slovakia differs for the better from the situation in the Czech Republic, according to the Novinky.cz observer Alexandra Mitrofanova, “Slovak affairs somehow remain on the sidelines, the Czech population is primarily interested in their news about the fight against coronavirus”.
Traffic piles up at Czech-Slovak border amid closure
Back in late January, that is, before the onset of the acute phase of the pandemic in Europe, the parliamentary opposition in the Czech Republic raised the issue of the country’s government’s readiness to take decisive measures. “But the government, represented by the Minister of Health, Adam Vojtech, said that nothing threatens us, and if anything threatens us, we are perfectly prepared for this and will fully meet the onslaught of this infection, and, of course, we will defeat it. By the way, by the government’s efforts, the discussion in the Czech parliament was prevented. And then the epidemic began, ”said Alexander Mitrofanov.
The Czech government was rather chaotic in the early days of the epidemic, according to the Prague interlocutor of VOA, and when the first coronavirus victims in the country appeared in the local press, the Czechs were in a rather bleak mood. “Then Prime Minister Andrei Babish, who at first made quite loud statements that the situation was under control, receded into the shadows, and those who could deal with issues professionally took over. That is, epidemiologists. Thanks to the First Deputy Minister of Health, emergency measures were introduced, which, of course, were not called “non-working days” in our country. These measures consist in the fact that the country has been in a state of emergency, as announced by the government, for many days..
Compared to the Russian capital, Moscow has stricter measures than ours. For example, in Moscow, parks are closed, and in the Czech Republic, by a government decree, it is allowed to go out into nature, walk in parks, and walk dogs not at a distance of a hundred meters from your home, but anywhere. But you are not allowed to leave for another city, ”stresses the columnist for Novinky.cz.
Fines are envisaged as punishment for violation of the regime. The largest – in the amount of three million Czech crowns (that is, nine million rubles or 120 thousand dollars) have not yet been applied to anyone. According to Mitrofanov, the Czech government is discussing the possibility of easing the introduced rules, but is not in a hurry to implement this possibility..
“As for ordinary people, they showed their best side from the very first days. The whole Czech Republic wears masks, and people sew them themselves. The system of local self-government works very well in small towns and villages. In the meantime, the emergency situation has been extended until April 30, “the expert noted..
When asked how Czech business is feeling amid the coronavirus pandemic, he, following his Slovak colleagues, replied: “bad”. And he developed the thought: “Now, after all, almost everyone is on the Internet. And people have the opportunity to compare the situation in our country and, say, in Germany or in the United States. They see how governments in these countries react to the situation, what assistance is provided to small and medium-sized businesses. And our support is only a small fraction of what is being done in the countries that I have mentioned, “says Alexander Mitrofanov.