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Members Speak: Messages from CoR Members and Partners on the coronavirus crisis  

Members can also share their experiences directly via the European Committee of the Regions and its COVID-19 Exchange Platform. Please write to covid19@cor.europa.eu. A thanks to all those who have provided input, including First Vice-President Vasco Cordeiro, Governor of the Azores and a range of national associations. The following is a sample of the responses so far. 

Matteo Bianchi (IT/ECR), a member of Morazzone Municipal Council, was the first contributor. He wrote in to provide information about his region, Lombardy. He highlighted a measure by the Lombardy Region to ensure provision of kindergarten support, with finance from the European Social Fund (ESF). "Without ESF funds and regional funds, the cost of this service will fall on municipal budgets or on families that are obliged to pay for an unused and previously free service," he said. 

Andros Karayiannis (CY/NI), mayor of Deryneia, says that his administration is focusing its communications on reducing unnecessary movement by citizens, and has been busy disinfecting public spaces and buildings. It is also working with cooperatives and volunteers to supply the elderly and vulnerable with food, clothing and medication. Its long-term agenda will include efforts to improve citizens' underlying health, through food, sport, and mobility. 

José Maria Cunha Costa (PT/PES), mayor of Viana do Castelo, has provided an example of an infographics-based public-information clip that his administration has developed. It can be downloaded here

The mayor of Braga, Ricardo Rio (PT/EPP), has sent a video setting out his city's actions. To prevent infections, all public events and buildings have been closed, as have most public spaces (a message reinforced by disconnecting WiFi in those public areas that remain partially open). Markets continue, but with restricted access and for shorter periods. The city has also mobilised support for social and health services, with donations helping to ensure hospital staff have masks, gloves and disinfectants. Braga has benefited from medical protection kits from its twin city in China, Shenyang, and medical teams from both cities are in close contact. Braga hopes a laboratory in the city will help ramp up testing, with the aim of testing every older person. Braga has set up a hotline to answer any questions related to COVID-19, as well as a website, and the city's staff are going door to door to provide social care. Deliveries have been arranged for the elderly, a new homeless shelter has been set up, and the city is sheltering the pets of hospitalised patients. Financial relief includes some tax exemptions for businesses, lower water rates, and free public transport. 

Carlos Silva (PT/EPP), the mayor of Sernacelhe, has shared a video used by his administration to persuade inhabitants to stay at home. 

The city of Zaragoza is mobilising civil solidarity and corporate solidarity during Spain's state of emergency. It has created a citizens solidarity platform, Zgzayuda, to organise the public's support for the elderly and vulnerable. Another platform channels the support of businesses in five areas: health, education, entertainment, technology, and food. The city, together with a local foundation and local bank, has set up a fundraising platform to collect donations, with the money being managed by civil-society organisations. Support for the elderly and the vulnerable is a priority, with home delivery of 500 meals a day. Donations have also helped the city add 100 beds for the homeless, some in a converted sports centre and some in an existing homeless shelter. In the shelters, the homeless also receive medical and social services, as well as three meals a day. To ease essential travel while protecting public health, the city council has reduced numbers allowed in public transport, halved the price of taxis, and introduced a flat rate for older people using taxis. Delivery services now operate under more flexible terms. 

The regional administration of Lower Silesia organised a video conference on 24 March that brought Polish and Chinese doctors and health experts together. Participants from Hefei Provincial Hospital gave tips on management, care and treatment, particularly for patients with underlying conditions. This was also an opportunity to appraise the adequacy of measures taken in Poland. The regions have been cooperating since 1997. 

The Malopołska region in Poland, which has several CoR members, on 27 March put in place a 12-point plan, ranging from emergency support for hospitals and businesses to the creation of a special hotline for the elderly. The regional development agency, a local foundation, and the FabLab Małopolska project team have launched mask sewing lines and the production helmets for doctors and nurses; the region has re-assigned money towards hospitals to buy 13 respirators (inter alia), and supplemented this funding by seeking online donations to buy medical equipment and clothing. An online platform is providing psychological support to medical staff. The financial package for local businesses includes low-interest loans, and the region is supplementing national measures by temporarily lowering rentals, leasing its real estate, prioritising payments to contractors in financial difficulties, and paying in advance for work funded by the EU. The EU-funded Małopolska Educational Platform is helping the mass move to online schooling, while the Małopolska Teacher Training Centre is providing remote-teaching tools. Leisure time can be spent viewing the collections of Małopolska museums, which are now online. Public-transport services have been reduced, re-routed, and disinfectant placed at stations and stops. 

The Association of German States – the Deutscher Landkreistag – has been playing a significant role in assisting the decision-making process in a period that seen an adjustment in the traditional balance of powers in Germany's federal system. Its dedicated webpage monitors what measures are being taken under the Infection Protection Act. 

In Luxembourg, SYVICOL, a body representing cities and municipalities of Luxembourg, is serving as a conduit for local governments, submitting their questions and concerns to the national government. Challenges highlighted by local administrations can be found here

The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) wrote in with details of the measures taken in the Netherlands. Municipalities have been asked to implement a nationally funded package of financial support for freelancers and small businesses that will ensure freelancers receive a minimum income for the next three months and have the possibility of a business loan. All care providers working in municipalities to help the young, the elderly and others in need of support will see payments continue unaffected. Municipalities are providing emergency day care for children, allowing supermarkets to stay open for longer, and are easing obligations on local business (postponing taxes, reducing tax rates and waiving some business fees). 

The Association of Polish Cities is keeping local authorities updated on legislation, guidance, and news about actions at the regional and local level across the country. Its guidance includes support for teachers and students, webinars and checklists on secure remote work, and information on how medium-sized and small cities can benefit from a Local Development Programme. The website also has information for the general public – including how to access psychological help online during Poland's lockdown. 

The Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces has developed a website to support Spanish local governments, and is also keeping them informed through a newsletter. Issues covered include electronic and data security, as well as matters of funding, staffing, and care provision. 

Lastly, the Azores government – led by Vasco Cordeiro (PT/PES), First Vice-President of the CoR – has a website providing up-to-the-minute news and statistics on cases of COVID-19 and local responses, with a newsfeed, mobile alerts, video, and maps of cases elsewhere in Portugal and around the world. Sixty cases have been confirmed on the islands.