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September 25, 2020

Regional revolt against new lockdown measures

EU countries countered the first wave of Covid-19 with a general lockdown for everyone. Now that a second wave is coming, lockdown measures are confined to local communities or areas. This means that now, even in the national context, measures will hit some but not others. Sensible decision-making and good communication will be key to keep everyone engaged in this process. Some will disobey, others will insist on strict observance. New fault lines will emerge in the public discourse about what is reasonable and what not. Are governments prepared for this?

The metropolitan region between Aix-en Provence and Marseille is an example of what can possibly go wrong. The French health minister called the local executives just an hour before announcing maximum alert for the metropolitan region. The order implies closing down schools, shops, pubs and restaurants. It has significant economic and social consequences. Local executives revolted. They challenged the central government over lack of coordination, and used different indicators to suggest that the region is improving rather than deteriorating. The mayor of Aix-en-Provence even insulted the health minister. He told him to shut up and stop ruining the local economy, saying there are only 5 people in reanimation and 10 hospitalised in the city. 

Citizens now face the dilemma of deciding for themselves what responsible behaviour is. Should they obey the central government's order and close down pubs and restaurants, or disobey for the sake of their local community? The mayor's no to the order from Paris and social media communication could well foster disobedience. The region may be unusual, as they have a history of disagreement with the government since the lockdown kicked in in March. But it also shows that more needs to be done to ensure that the regional alert system is more than just a farce. 

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