Cities in the UK, France and Spain are resisting centralized efforts to impose tighter regulations, with days of tense negotiations continuing as infections rise.
In the city of Manchester in northern England, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson found himself in a row with local mayor Andy Burnham over whether to move the city from the UK’s second tier of restrictions at its third most severe level.
“If an agreement cannot be reached, I will have to step in to protect Manchester hospitals and save the lives of people in Manchester,” Johnson said on Friday, urging Burnham to “reconsider his position” and “engage constructively With the government.
But Burnham has resisted government efforts to increase the severity of his city’s measures, calling for more financial measures to protect workers in the area under tighter rules.
In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan called for stricter rules for several days before Johnson announced them, while in Liverpool, Lancashire and other areas deals were made with the government just before on weekends, some advisers expressing doubts about the order.
But even where local leaders lend themselves to stricter rules, the public seems less so.
“I’m fed up,” Rebecca Duncan, 39, from south London, told CNN on Friday after the city moved to Level 2. “It’s like something is starting to open up and that life would start to feel a little normal and then something else happens and pushes us all away. ”
And a similar scenario is unfolding across Europe, as leaders grapple with the difficulties of pursuing a ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Earlier this month, a court in Madrid rejected foreclosure laws imposed on the capital by the Spanish government, leaving millions of residents wondering if they were allowed to travel on a national holiday.
The court said the restrictions, which banned residents from leaving the capital and nine suburbs last Friday, violated “basic rights of citizens without a legal warrant.”
Spain’s left-wing national government and center-right Madrid regional administration have long disagreed over the response to the pandemic, and lockdown measures are the latest political battleground.
And in Germany, a host of court orders are causing problems for Angela Merkel’s government as she tries to tackle a growing number of cases.
More importantly, a Berlin court sided with the government and a group of business owners on Friday, suspending nightly curfews at the city’s bars and restaurants.
“It was not obvious” that the closure of catering establishments between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. would help fight the contagion, the court concluded in the case. The measure, which entered into force on October 10, was therefore a “disproportionate encroachment on the freedom” of the hospitality industry, the court said.
The Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, said he was “very disappointed” with the decision, saying that “there is no doubt that in the big cities … especially at the late hours, what happens in private places and public is a driver of current infections, “according to AFP.
Emmanuel Macron will follow closely the disputes that are taking place across Europe, following the imposition of curfews in Paris and several other French cities that took effect on Friday. For now, the French government has not faced major opposition to the plan.
In addition to opposition from local lawmakers and aggrieved business owners, the police issue is confusing in some areas.
The Greater Manchester Police Chief responded strongly on Saturday to a report from the Telegraph newspaper, which claimed there were “concerns” over whether the officers would follow Burnham’s lead and refuse to put in place the measures mandated by the Johnson government.
“We conduct police operations without fear or favor and in accordance with the code of ethics for police services alongside our colleagues across the country,” Hopkins said in a statement.
But the barrage of challenges from the boards and the hospitality industry is causing headaches for several European governments.
Meanwhile, cases continue to rise across the continent. The UK, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic, along with other countries, all had their highest Covid 19 infections ever confirmed in October, as leaders warn against potentially serious winter epidemics.