As you can imagine, our friends in Salon, Wertheim, Gubbio and Szentendre are going through many of the same difficult experiences that we are dealing with here in the UK. All governments are wrestling with decisions about when to relax lockdown rules so they can re-open schools and leisure facilities, how to encourage citizens to take the vaccine, how to protect their vulnerable people.
To help us keep in touch with our twin town friends and to find out more about their particular experiences, we have been organising a series of Zoom attendances for them at our member meetings. It has been a real pleasure to ‘meet’, albeit only virtually. Here is a brief summary of what they have been telling us recently:
In Wertheim, as in the rest of Germany, coronavirus cases are falling and there is a cautious plan for the reopening of schools and businesses – very similar, in fact, to Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap to freedom’ in the UK. There have been 71,000 deaths in Germany, and nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases. There are national elections coming up in Germany in September as well as some local elections later in March. Doubtless The Pandemic will feature prominently in party manifestoes and hustings!
The news from Salon is less positive. They have had almost 4 million cases in France, and 90,000 deaths. The government has imposed a 6pm curfew as well as restrictions about who can meet and where, but not a full lockdown – even though many politicians believe that this would be a wiser course of action. Shops are open, but major outdoor gatherings are not allowed. The good news is that the AstraZeneca vaccine has now been approved for use as well as Pfizer, so hopefully the situation will improve rapidly.
Our friends in Gubbio are also having a tough time. There have been 3 million cases in Italy, with 99,000 deaths. Umbria (the region where Gubbio is located) has been designated a ‘high-risk’ area; schools and day nurseries are closed, as are all but essential shops, and restaurants are only able to offer a take-away service – and only until 6pm. More or less everyone is working from home and there is a lot of anxiety about the local economy – Umbria is not a highly industrialized region and is heavily dependent on tourism.
The news from Szentendre paints a picture which is very similar to how things are here in the UK. They are firmly in the third wave of the pandemic; their population is a lot smaller, of course, but the figures are broadly comparable with the UK. Primary schools are open, but classes – or whole schools- are closed at a moment’s notice if there is any infection. Secondary schools are closed and pupils are home-schooling. Shops are open – everyone must wear a mask – but restaurants are closed except for takeaway service and there is a nationwide curfew from 8pm to 5am.