HALLE – In times when a pandemic unleashes death and poverty, the concept of what is essential to keep society functioning in a lockdown is gripping Europe.
Beyond the obvious — food stores and pharmacies — some answers in the patchwork of nations and cultures that make up Europe can approach the surreal. What is allowed on one side of a border can be banned just a brief stroll down the road, on the other.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while it might seem fairest to just shut everything down, “it's perhaps not the most practical” solution.
“If people are only satisfied when everything possible is shut down, then that’s a view which naturally doesn’t make economic sense,” Merkel said.
That's why Germany is keeping car dealerships open this time, after their closure in the first, spring lockdown hurt the country's huge automobile industry.
In Belgium, of course, chocolate shops are staying open.
“Chocolate is very much an essential food around here," said chocolatier Marleen Van Volsem at the Praleen chocolaterie south of Brussels. “It has to be. Because chocolate makes you happy."
Happiness would seem no subject to split hairs about. Yet consider how differently Italy and Britain treat a service that gladdens many a heart.