Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: The latest on what countries across Europe are doing to stop the coronavirus pandemic (updated)


As COVID-19 tests the rest of Europe, Estonia didn’t record its first coronavirus death until 25 March, an 83-year-old woman with underlying health issues. Now as the pandemic subsides, the world’s most digital country is turning to mass testing to get the most accurate data on infection rates. And it’s issuing 3 million protective masks for its 1.4 million people.

But Estonia had a hidden hotspot – Saaremaa Island where an Italian volleyball match and a champagne festival in March apparently infected thousands.

Estonia has declared a state of emergency through 1 May. All public gatherings are banned including sports, and schools will close in favor of homeschooling. Estonia will institute border checkpoints with health checks, and anyone entering the country must declare where they’ve been.

But officals just authorized migrant workers to enter the country and help with the crops this year.

The New York Times singled out the tech-savvy Baltic country as having an economy protected from an economic downturn because most businesses are online.

Number of reported cases: 1,535 as of 19 April, with just a couple of new cases reported since 15 March. But that could change with the addition of the Saarema cases.

Number of deaths: 40, with deaths per one million in population at 30, below Germany’s benchmark of 55.

Number of patients recovered: 145


France is still struggling as other countries emerge from the pandemic. The New York Times has an in-depth post about the struggle to balance public health with personal freedom, with no signs one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns will end anytime soon.

Every time COVID-19 deaths and new cases seem to be declining, with French officials reporting decreasing pressure on emergency services, there are new peaks, with the highest number of deaths – 1,438 – in 24 hours reported on 15 April. On 11 April, Reuters reported the number of patients in intensive care fell for the third day in a row, “raising hopes that a nationwide lockdown is curbing the spread of the disease.”

Still, there are more than 30,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals as of 11 April. On 7 April, daily new cases spiked to 11,059, up from 5,171, an increase of more than 100 percent, then dropped to 4,785 on 11 April. Bloomberg and other news sources report France has been increasingly erratic in daily data reporting. Its largest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases had been an anomaly on 3 April – 23,060 – in a 24-hour period as data from retirement and nursing homes was added, about four times the previous daily record of 7,578 on 31 March.

After an initial stumble, France followed the lead of Italy and closed all non-essential businesses including clubs, cinemas, cafés and restaurants as of 14 March. But it was far too late as a February gathering of evangelicals in Mulhouse created hotspots across France as participants returned home, according to the Times.

Residents who leave home now must carry a document detailing the reasons why, with fines of 135 euros ($150) for those out and about with no legitimate excuse. About 360,000 fines have been handed out, according to news reports.

It gets worse: Now, people are banned from recreational biking and from jogging more than a kilometer from their homes and Paris has instituted a ban on outside exercise between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

You can see Stephen Heiner’s recent post from Paris here, which has details about French regulations and the start of programs to support small businesses.

It was only on 16 March that President Macron announced new, stricter regulations that were – unlike previous measures – actually enforced by police. Citizens are only allowed to leave their homes to shop for food, travel to work, exercise or seek medical treatment.

Earlier, the government had banned gatherings of 1,000 or more people, though that was ignored.

On 31 March, the president vowed to up production of face masks and other protective gear. On 1 April, France announced a trillion-euro program to keep companies from shutting down during the pandemic. Early on, Macron promised no company will be allowed to fail as a consequence of suspending operations to check the disease and there’s a multi-billion euro package in the works to support startups.

Schools and universities closed Monday, 16 March. While public transportation will remain in place, Macron has asked the French people to use it as little as possible.

The French government has an excellent data-visualization tool that shows details of cases, deaths and recoveries as well as the geolocations of the coronavirus hotspots.

Number of reported cases: 152,894, up an aggregate of 167,915 percent from 91 on 14 March (All data includes French overseas territories) The country reported its highest daily total of new cases on 2 April, 23,060, up from 231 on 25 March. However, that number is skewed by the random addition of data from nursing homes, according to Bloomberg. Then there was another 17,164 added on 16 April, another aggregation of previously unreported deaths.

Number of deaths: 19,718, up an aggregate 21,568 percent from 91 on 14 March. France reported its highest number of deaths in 24 hours on 15 April at 1,438. But again, with erratic reporting, it’s not clear all those happened in 24 hours. The number of deaths in 24 hours dropped to 395 on 19 April, the lowest rate since 29 March.


Number of recovered patients: 36,678, one of the best rates of recovery in Europe along with Germany, Belgium and Denmark.



On 5 April, Germany became the latest country to report more than 100,000 coronavirus infections. However, trend lines were favorable overall, and Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on 15 April the first (cautious) steps back toward normalcy with schools opening gradually beginning 4 May.

The Berlin Spectator has a list of the new rules along with the old rules that will stay in place. Smaller stores will start reopening, as well.

And fans-free football returns in May.

Germany still has issues including the neighboring Netherlands, which it has designated as an “international risk area.” Anyone coming in from the Netherlands or any other country must self-isolate for two weeks, though German officials backed off their threats to close the borders with the Netherlands and Belgium.

Germany has gotten a lot of positive coverage for its low death rate despite having the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world after passing China.

Germany has recorded about 4,600 deaths out of about 146,000 confirmed cases so far compared to Spain, which has reported more than 200,000 cases and more than five times the number of deaths at about 21,000.

That low mortality rate compared to Italy and Spain is a subject of much speculation. Theories include earlier and faster testing and a younger demographic contracting coronavirus. And with 25,000 intensive care beds compared to 7,000 in France, Germany is just better prepared, hospitalizing victims earlier before their conditions deteriorated. But a new post credits an auto parts manufacturer in Bavaria for noticing the virus, then isolating employees as an example of how Germany has controlled COVID-19.

As of April, Germany’s fatality rate is 1.4 percent, compared with 12 percent in Italy, around 10 percent in Spain, France and Britain, 4 percent in China and 2.5 percent in the United States, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times has a detailed look at how aggressive tactics have worked in Germany.

Number of reported cases: 145,173, up an aggregate 3,057 percent from 4,599 on 14 March

Number of deaths: 4,642, up an aggregate 51,478 percent from 9 on 14 March. This works out to about 55 deaths per million in population. That’s low compared to Belgium, with about 503 deaths per million.

Number of recovered patients: 91,500, from 266 on 21 March

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