Policy by common sense or decree?

14. Apr. 2020

Lessons (to be) learnt from living with Covid-19 (#7)

by Klaus Schuch

The Austrian shutdown regulations are a massive intervention in our freedom rights. We are just allowed to leave our homes for work, buying basic articles, physical outdoor exercise, care and assistance for people in need of support, and (since 14 April 2020) to buy supplies in small shops.

We are not allowed to visit our parents, friends, partners, relatives, etc. (unless they live in the same household) or buy supplies in large shops (more than 400m2).

It is commons sense for me not to visit my aged parents (although I really would like to), because they belong to the target group at risk. Would I need a decree for this? For sure not.

I believe that working in home office probably contributed most to the containment of the spread of Covid-19. However, sending people into home office was based on a recommendation of the government and not on a decree!

Wouldn’t it be thus possible to handle also other limitations different than just through decrees? The Austrian population is strongly complying with the decrees not at least due to the massive public media support. This is a success in containing the virus, but could we have not done else, based on common sense, or a different mixture?

I fully understand the public concern not to risk our critical infrastructures (such as hospitals and intensive-care precautions). It is clear that in a situation like this we learn on a daily basis and nobody needs to be (and cannot be) perfectly right. But we have to be aware that alternatives exist (maybe better ones, maybe not). Commensurability needs to be considered, always.

Hungary is probably the worst example in the EU how to sacrifice commensurability and subsequently freedom rights. The unpassionate reaction of the EC and the non-reaction of some of the EU member states (unfortunately including Austria and all EU13) to allow the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without a set time limit has caused incomprehension, uncertainty, even fear among many EU citizens.


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Tags: Corona Virus