Why can't Europe control the Covid-19 epidemic?
March 26, 2020
The COVID-19 epidemic is the biggest crisis in the life of our generation. Therefore it is worth
analyzing how Eastern countries, especially China, can successfully control and reduce the
epidemic, and why Europe can not do so at all. In 2020-03-17 Mr. Peng Zhengming (Trigo)
analyzed in detail the reasons of the China's success in the "El Popola Cxinio", and now I am trying
to explain how Europe is failing in this area.
If we look at the epidemic situation in different countries of the world on the website
then it is clear that in East Asia (Japan, Korea and
China) the epidemic is being successfully controlled. In China, there were only 46 new patients
yesterday, and in the Chinese city of Wuhan (where the epidemic began) in the last few days there
were almost no new patients. But in many European countries (especially in Italy and Spain)
hundred times more people get sick in one day. Italy is a relatively small country compared to the
huge China, yet in Italy more people have died from the epidemic for the recent weeks than in
China during the whole epidemic. It would be important and interesting to understand why this is so.
In my opinion, the most important reason originates from the centuries-old cultural difference
between Europe and East Asia. I mean that people are traditionally obedient and loyal to
governments in East Asia, but in Europe individualism is important. This means that in Europe
many political parties, social movements and so-called "civil organizations" are encouraging the
population to protest against the decisions of the central and local governments. As a result, masses
of the population are reluctant to obey government mandates to control and reduce the epidemic. To
explain this phenomenon, I am going to mention some concrete facts.
• At the beginning of the epidemic the virus appeared in Lombardy (province of Northern
Italy), and there the population became ill. It was therefore logical to understand that in
order to reduce the epidemic the province should be blocked, however, many people
believed that they had an individual right to decide whether to remain in quarantine or to
leave the province. The result of this was, that many people left Lombardy, including Mr.
Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy. I was informed in the international
media that the Italian government had ordered all people in Lombardy to stay in their
province, yet a few hours after that government decision the whole world could see that
hundreds, or even thousands of people went to the railway station to travel to other parts of
Italy. The result of this action was that within a few days the virus could spread widely
throughout the country. The situation is now intolerable and uncontrollable. So many sick
people appear every day, that there is no room for all the patients in the hospitals. For this
reason, doctors must decide which patients to take to hospitals, and which others would not
be given a chance for life. Over the last few days, so many people died, that it was not
possible to carry them to normal cemeteries, but the military did so at night.
In this situation, it is clear that the epidemic in Europe can not be stopped as effectively as it
happened in China. Many European leaders now tend to accept this situation, saying that the
epidemic can not be stopped in Europe. They claim the epidemic will not be stopped in Europe in
the near future. Based on a forecast by the Robert Koch Public Health Institute in Berlin, Angela
Merkel, the state leader of Germany has announced that 60-70 percent of Europe's population is
expected to become ill due to the COVID-19 epidemic in the next two years. This means that about
three hundred million people will become ill in the EU (with the United Kingdom) and many
millions will die. My conclusion is that according to the traditional individualistic European
approach we tend to protect many human rights (rights to privacy, human rights for free travel, etc.).
But at the same time we forget that the most important human right is the right to life. Accepting the
facts, that many people have died, die and will die because of the epidemic, those European leaders
do not mention, that those people did not have, do not have, and will not have their most important
right, the right to life.
• The mass immigration has been a serious social problem in Europe for the last five years. I
mean that millions of Africans and South Asians are trying to immigrate to the European
Union, and they have no passports or other documents. As a result, no one can control who
they are and which countries they came from. They usually cross the border secretly at
night. In 2015 more than one million immigrants arrived in this way. Hungary's official state
policy is that Hungary, as well as the European Union, must protect its borders and that is
why Hungary has built a wire fence at its border. But many Western European and
Scandinavian countries have strongly criticized Hungary for their state policy of not
accepting refugees and immigrants massively. Also many so-called "civil organizations"
which are financially supported by foreign governments and social foundations, have
protested against Hungary's closure. They would rather build an open European Union
without barriers. The majority of the European Union's parliamentarians also agree with this
approach, and for that reason they made a European parliamentary decision against
Hungary. Nowadays, when dealing with the epidemic every day, it should be a serious task
for all countries to monitor international migration, because the hidden migration of
unknown people without any control has a serious health risk, that those unknown and
uncontrolled people can carry a virus from a country to another one.
• In Hungary the first patients were not Hungarians, but they were students from Iran. When it
was revealed that some of them had the virus in their body, the authorities ordered them to
remain in quarantine at a hospital for two weeks. But they protested in the hospital, without
permission they left the room where they had to stay, did not obey the doctors' orders, even
began to throw chairs out of their room through the windows. For this reason, police officers
had to be called for help the staff of the hospital. But that was not enough, the police officers
also had to ask for help from the Iranian Embassy, and interpreters were also invited.
Because the problem was not resolved, a few days later, the relevant authorities ordered the
students to be sent home to Iran. But the students opposed, and asked that civil organizations
turn to court, because they had an individual right to stay in a country where they want.
• The problem in Europe is very serious not only because of the disobedience of ordinary
people, but even leaders tend to disobey government decisions or proposals. In Hungary,
there is a famous university whose former president was a Nobel laureate biochemist, who
discovered vitamin "C". This is the University of Szeged, whose current president (in
Hungarian: rector) had spent his time in Austria recently, where the epidemic had already
spread. That is why the government proposed that people who had spent time in dangerous
countries, (including Austria), should remain in private quarantine for two weeks. But that
university president did not obey, he did not stay home, but he went to his university, held
meetings with other professors and faculty members, even operated his patients at his
university hospital. Two days later it became clear, that he had also received the virus in
Austria. That is why all of his contacts must now remain in quarantine to observe whether
they also received the disease or not.
• A few days ago the Hungarian government decided to block the country and prohibited
foreigners to enter Hungary, aiming at protecting the health of the Hungarian people. But
many foreigners were reluctant to accept that decision and they accumulated at the
Hungarian-Austrian border. They protested against this government order and asked the
Hungarian border guards to allow them to enter the country. Because they believed that they
had their individual right to move freely from one place to another one. The mass of these
people and their cars was 24 kilometers long (15 miles), so between Vienna, the Austrian capital city
and the Austro-Hungarian border they filled the motorway. Because of this, one day later the
government had to amend the order, and for humanitarian reasons these aliens were allowed
to enter the country at night. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der
Leyen, also suggested that the Hungarian government solve this problem in a humane
manner, so let those foreigners enter Hungary.
• Peng Zhengming wrote in his essay that Chinese telecom companies also contributed to the
cessation of the epidemic. With a database of China's 1.6 billion smart phones, these
companies were able to detect human trafficking in provinces and cities. These data helped
local governments to predict the direction of epidemic spread and to take appropriate
measures. This business-government cooperation has been useful in China to fight against
the epidemic. But according to the traditional European way of thinking, such cooperation
can not happen. In Hungary, for example, the government wanted to improve the public
administration system many years ago, and therefore they gave a personal identification
number to all citizens. It was thought that in this way all state offices could easily and
simply identify citizens. But later the Constitutional Court (the highest court in Hungary)
overruled that government decision, saying that in that case people could not have right to
privacy. And the right to privacy is an important individual right of man according to this
court decision. As a result, since then the various state offices (eg. tax offices, land registry
offices, public safety offices, etc.) have had to create their own identifier numbers for all citizens.
• Today it is common to have video cameras in many public places almost everywhere in the
world. But several years ago a high ranking parliamentary official (called: ombudsman)
banned the use of these video cameras in public buses in Hungary. Because he thought that
in those buses people could not keep privacy, so they could not hide if they wanted to do so.
But I saw in China that these video cameras were also very useful in the fight against the
epidemic. Because when a new patient appeared somewhere in a bus, then it was easier to
find his contacts, with whom he was traveling together in the same bus. In this way, the
epidemic could be effectively reduced and many people's lives could be saved in China.
Dr. MARKUS Gábor
President of the Eurasian Cultural Center and
Honorary President of the Hungarian Esperanto Association
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April 16 2020
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