In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 (though the first confirmed case was later traced all the way back to November). The virus is novel, meaning it hasn’t previously been identified in humans. We have no vaccine or population immunity to the virus, so everyone is potentially susceptible. Infection causes the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which can lead to respiratory problems and even death.
Containing the virus was an almost impossible challenge in our globally-networked world. Unlike previous coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS and MERS, carriers could be both asymptomatic and infectious. Nevertheless, at first, the crisis unfolding in Asia seemed a distant one from the perspective of Europe.
When the first suspected COVID-19 cases in the EU were confirmed in January, politicians and experts reassured the public that they were contained; “draconian” measures similar to those taken in China were deemed unlikely. In free democracies, it was thought that one cannot simply cordon off cities or lock people up at home.
The coronavirus has taught us otherwise. After the dramatic rise in the death toll in Italy, the whole of Europe took drastic measures: lockdowns, travel restrictions, trillions of euros of financial support for the economy – what’s next? Where is Europe’s common response? How can we exit lockdown? And what sort of world waits for us when we do?
These questions, plus many more, will be addressed in the series of debates below.
Debating Europe is inviting policymakers and experts to respond to YOUR questions on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Join the debate!