As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify across Europe, European borders are closing, societies freezing, economies standing still and governments issuing guidance and measures to alleviate the situation. The open society of liberal democracy has come to a standstill, and the fast rewind to times of the past is hard to grasp.
Each of these drastic measures sounds more dramatic than the previous one; yet, there is hardly time to breathe and comprehend what is happening around us as breaking news from across Europe and the world continue to pour in. We are living in historic times, but only time will tell what the outcome will be.
It might feel difficult to understand which measures are appropriate, which actions are justified and which steps are needed to contain the virus, to flatten the curve, to maintain healthcare capacity or to find the balance between avoiding panic and creating hysteria. It might feel contradictory: solidarity without social contacts; closed societies that used to be open. But we simply don’t know yet what is right or wrong.
Whether this crisis will permanently change the European societies remains to be seen. But a pattern can already be observed: after overcoming the initial fear, stress and anxiety, we all have the human reflex to develop and foster solidarity. While the primal reflex is to look after oneself first – from excessively buying toilet paper to shutting country borders unequivocally – citizens are coming together to help and support each other. From helping to get groceries to those of us placed under quarantine to working remotely to give safer access to those who can’t do so, people are showing that in these difficult times, solidarity hasn’t gone anywhere.
But to foster and support this positive trend, all of us have a responsibility to be a role model and to do our share. The European Liberal family believes and trusts that everyone takes this responsibility seriously, so that we can also start rebuilding our societies and economies as soon as possible.
Now is not the time for blame games, not the time to question the guidance provided by governments, not the time to create hysteria or false news in social media. It’s the time to communicate with each other, to act together and to remain vigilant so that the liberal order can be maintained.
Without limits, there is no freedom; without freedom, there is no well-being.