The difficult September | The Basque newspaper

Hundreds of attendees at the Lollapalooza music festival waited this Friday for a health check to enter their hotel in Chicago. / AFP

While Biden urges vaccination in companies, the EU has not yet set its plan for going back to work, but could go for a flexible model

The United States opened the debate on returning to work in September. Forced by a slower-than-anticipated immunization campaign and the relentless advance of the Delta variant, President Joe Biden announced Thursday that four million federal employees will need to be vaccinated or comply with measures such as undergoing one or two PCRs weekly and wearing wearing the mask permanently at your workplace.

Both Biden and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged companies to follow their rule. “If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workers,” warned the tenant of the White House, who made it clear that his recommendation is not a joke. “We are not totally out of danger, because what is happening in the United States right now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you represent a problem: for yourself, for your family and for those with whom you work, “he stressed. The Pentagon is also studying the incorporation of the antiviral into the usual Army vaccination program.

The US president’s strategy, which envisaged a much gentler return to work with the population practically at herd immunity levels, may perhaps set a pattern in the middle of a dark swamp. Because neither in Europe is very sure what to do. As happens on the other side of the Atlantic, the EU did not expect an uncontrolled summer like this one and it did expect the health crisis to come to October much calmer, without the high rates of contagion in some territories or the WHO warning of a new pandemic wave that now it will hit Asia especially in a kind of continuous spiral. In Israel, the president, Isaac Herzog, wanted to set an example and this Friday the third dose of antiviral was already inoculated.

THE OPINIONS:

  • Joe Biden – President of the United States.
    “We are not totally out of the woods, because what is happening in the United States right now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

  • Luca Zaia – Governor of Veneto (Italy).
    “We have gone from doing sanitary prophylaxis at school to a point where it is difficult to use a swab because we are accused of putting microchips in children’s noses. Doing what we have a duty to do is becoming a problem. ”

  • Maya Fried – Israel Civil Rights Association.
    “If it is going to be a policy that violates the right to employment and the right of a person to choose what they do with their body to be employed, it has to be submitted to the legislative process.”

  • Emmanuel Macron – President of France.
    «If tomorrow you contaminate your father, your mother or me, I am a victim of your freedom when you have the possibility of having something that can protect you and me. That is not called freedom, it is irresponsibility.

  • Rochelle Walensky – Director of the US CDC.
    “We are not shouting: ‘The wolf is coming!’ This is serious. We are facing one of the most transmissible viruses that we know of. The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox, the war has changed.

And, of course, the Union does not want a repeat of the deluge of sick leave – almost two million – caused by contacts with positives during the recent de-escalation in England, which has suffocated the British business fabric this month. An example of what happens when all the ends of a strategy are not tied.

Brussels has not yet set clear guidelines on face-to-face return to work. There is a European Telework Framework Agreement that is almost two decades old and that experts consider that it already needs updating (when it was created, the level of technological development was different). But the formulas depend on national governments. Some contemplate it in their labor legislation and others leave it in the hands of collective agreements. So it is foreseeable that this inertia is maintained and a homogeneous position is not expected.

The epidemiological situation and company-employee negotiations will be decisive. The community Executive itself (like the European Parliament), which sent home about 25,000 officials with the outbreak of the pandemic, is working on a mixed formula that at the time proposed returning to office only two days a week, although without imposition; flexibly. An idea that, according to the EU statistical services, would also be well received by a high percentage of European workers.

More than 65% support that flexibility and continue working from home for half of the work week. Although there are already some companies that will go further. AXA Bank Belgium has launched an official communication in which it stands as a pioneer of a formula capable of being replicated in other parts of Europe: “Employees will be able to choose between working from home or in the office depending on their preferences, team appointments and customer service ”. It is not a la carte, because it requires internal agreements, but almost.

French lessons

Within the community context, the eyes are focused on France, promoter of drastic measures such as the mandatory vaccination of health personnel or the use of the Covid pass to gain access to the hotel business or cultural shows. Well, the French government is committed to pedagogy to allay workers’ fears about the antiviral. Its objective is to ensure that as many French as possible are vaccinated, without imposing, for the moment, mandatory immunization for the entire population.

A priority is to facilitate this process for workers, allowing them to be injected during working hours. As of August 30, employees of establishments that receive the public – for example, bars, restaurants and museums – will be required to present a health certificate in order to work. As in Italy and other countries, these measures face insistent mobilizations in France by those who consider it a factor of discrimination.

Some European governments have surveyed employers and unions, although the most general conclusion is that we will have to wait until September. Two factors that determine the return to work are the level of vaccination that will then be in the EU – now it is 70%, but drops by 30 points in those who have received the double guideline – and the effect of the August holidays, with millions of tourist trips, in the trend of infections.

More than 3,000 police officers to control protests in Paris

France will experience a new day of protests this Friday against the extension of the health certificate, which from August 9 will be required to enter bars and restaurants and long-distance transport. Paris is preparing in a special way for the demonstrations and will assign more than 3,000 policemen and gendarmes to try to contain the protests and avoid altercations and destruction of urban furniture. So far the mobilizations have been, in general, peaceful, although there have been some clashes in the capital.

For the third consecutive Saturday, the Government expects a strong mobilization throughout the country against the health certificate and the mandatory vaccination for medical personnel and other professionals. On July 17, a total of 114,000 people protested against “the health dictatorship”; On July 24, 161,000 people came out shouting “freedom.” On Facebook, regional anti-vaccine and health-certified groups have urged their supporters to go to Paris, where some 10,000 protesters are expected.

The protest movement is very diverse. They gather from anti-vaccines to ‘yellow vests’, passing by sympathizers of the extreme right or extreme left and professionals affected by the mandatory nature of the vaccine, such as nurses. Teachers and parents of students critical of the health protocol announced this week by the Government for the next academic year could join the protests today.

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