Can we support this lockdown, even though it comes from a government that is visibly overburdened with the management of the coronavirus crisis?
It is a government that has overslept after the first lockdown and failed to prepare the country for the expected second wave in autumn.
Now, only after travel warnings for Austria, the government is reacting rather late – with higher virus incidences than Germany. This has already destroyed the concept of the corona 'traffic lights' (the tier system used to show when authorities should implement specific measures) before it could take effect.
A government that does not publish detailed data in a transparent way, which would allow interested citizens to see the situation for themselves. A government which only seeks the involvement of individual states, the parliament and social partners when everything has been decided.
A government which, at press conference, announces one thing in a harsh voice (“ban on visits”) and prescribes another; it is to be feared that some of these measures will eventually turn out to be unconstitutional again.
A government that is now taking difficult-to-understand measures, such as allowing shopping centres to remain open but requiring museums to close.
A government that wants to impose such drastic lockdown measures on the country, but fails to define a clearly comprehensible goal of when exactly this lockdown will have been successful.
With all these mistakes and omissions on the part of the government, is it at all possible to support this lockdown?
Despite everything: yes. Because we have no other choice. Because a lockdown is the last resort before the situation gets completely out of hand, intensive care beds are missing and the virus does bad things to particularly vulnerable groups.
Because according to forecasts, the already high infection rates could continue to rise for days before the first effects of the lockdown are felt.
But it is not only the country, this government also needs to take a break now. For weeks, it has unsettled the population at most. Instead of leading the crisis with clear communication, the heads of government have contradicted each other, mumbled about measures “in the drawer”, then decreed something, only to change it again shortly afterwards.
Instead of evidence, decisions were apparently made partly on the basis of ideology and the wishes of lobby groups, meaningful suggestions from parliament were ignored, and election campaigns were conducted despite the existence of the coronavirus.
As a result, the government has lost popular trust. But this lockdown will only be successful if all people participate anyway, i.e. reduce their social contacts – regardless of whether every contingency of everyday life is now regulated in a decree.
Certainly, there are plenty of ways around it; the law cannot (and should not) regulate every detail of our lives. The hope is that not too many people will make use of these loopholes; that many will rely on their common sense and act in the community's interests.
And the lockdown will be successful if this government uses the next few weeks to pause, reflect on its actions and rethink – so that we are spared a third lockdown or worse.
This editorial was originally published in Austria's Der Standard on Monday, November 2nd. It was translated from German and republished by The Local Austria with permission.