Czech Republic was one of the first European countries to close its borders and issue a nationwide lockdown. Andrej Babiš’ government made mask wearing – even outside – mandatory and was praised by the international community as the policy was credited for keeping the number of cases down. Soon after, Slovakia and Poland followed suit, though Viktor Orbán’s government in Budapest relied on national recommendations rather than restrictions for a few weeks longer.
As the pandemic proliferated, many in Central Europe listened carefully to the limitations and advice being handed down by officials.
There is a feeling that the region’s shared history played a role in their combined success; a new incarnation of solidarity swept across Central Europe, and while it became clear in early spring that the centralised and coordinated responses were yielding results – the “V4” countries were some of the least affected in Europe – cracks in societal support were already beginning to show.
A series of polls taken throughout March in Poland showed a decline in optimism for how the pandemic would end. Initially, 14% thought everything would be fine, by the end of the month, this number had halved. Moreover, the country was almost evenly split between those believing they could cope with the virus’ eventual impact on society and the economy while the other half believed it would be extremely problematic or disastrous.
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Since then, frustration and distrust of the governments’ responses to COVID-19 has only grown in the “V4”, albeit to varying degrees.
By June, the people of Central Europe were desperate for restrictions to be lifted so that the economic recovery could begin and the epidemic’s hidden mental health crisis could at least be ameliorated with time spent outdoors, exercising and with others. However, like elsew…