Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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COVID-19 - 24.03.2020

How are our associations facing the COVID-19 outbreak?
From enforcing city curfews to providing emergency health services, local and regional governments are on the frontlines of the fight against the novel coronavirus. This is true across the world and particularly in Europe, the current epicentre of this global pandemic.

National associations representing towns and regions have been particularly active in responding to this escalating situation. Their role has typically been twofold: providing information to their members and working with the national government to ensure the coordinated action of all levels of government.

National associations: essential information hubs for local governments

Perhaps the most common action taken by our national associations has been to provide information to their members – towns, counties or regions – on the latest developments, best practices and guidelines. This also includes explaining local governments’ rights and responsibilities, especially in light of the latest political decisions. Examples of topics covered include organising virtual classes and teleworking, helping the homeless self-isolate and preventing the eviction of renters.

Local governments are all faced with the challenge of how to continue to provide public services while limiting the risk of contagion. For example, soup kitchens have often been closed to the public, but may still provide take-away or delivery. Social services centres are limiting physical contact with citizens: virtual interviews, chat and email messages are preferred, although sometimes one-on-one interviews are still allowed, provided there are no queues.

Our associations have been making sure that towns and regions learn from their peers and keep up with the latest best practices. This is particularly important for smaller territories with more limited resources.

Ensuring coordinated multi-level action

National associations are also working to ensure an appropriate and coordinated response of all levels of government through dialogue with the national government. Our members have brought local challenges to their national government’s attention, have communicated rapidly-changing government ordinances to towns and regions, and have collaborated with national governments to make sure these ordinances respect local needs.

In Italy for example, the national government acted upon mayors’ call to order nation-wide confinement so as to limit contagion. In Spain, the Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) worked together with the national government to provide recommendations on how to handle household waste to minimising contagion.

At CEMR, we often emphasise the profound interdependence that underlie most issues. This is particularly stark concerning epidemics: the actions of every country, region, town and indeed individual help determine whether the disease spreads, saving or shortening lives.

National associations’ latest information on COVID-19

Many of our members have established a regularly-updated page, document or newsletter specifically on the coronavirus crisis:
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