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November 19, 2020


EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

BY Antonio Barroso, Andrius Tursa, Carsten Nickel, Wolfango Piccoli

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This updated weekly piece provides snapshots of how selected European governments are dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you want to discuss any of the countries mentioned in more detail.


  • The seven-day rolling average of cases has dropped to 28,000 (from 54,000 ten days ago). However, there are currently 32,842 patients hospitalized due to Covid-19 (32,300 at the peak of the first wave in April), 4,775 of which are under intensive care (7,148 in April).

  • President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce the contours of the government’s exit strategy from the second lockdown next week, which will be based on the incremental removal of restrictions.

  • The specific timing on lifting the ongoing restrictions is unclear; Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is pushing for the reopening of non-essential business activities from 27 November.


  • With the seven-day-rolling average of cases at 15,000, ICU occupancy is 32% of total nationwide capacity. Covid-19 hospitalizations currently represent 15.5% of total hospital capacity in the country.

  • Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez remains reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown, leaving the responsibility of managing the second wave in the hands of regional authorities instead. The region of Catalonia has authorized bars and restaurants to open from 23 November between 6am and 930pm.

  • The government is intensifying the parliamentary negotiations to get the draft 2021 budget passed before the end of the year. The goal is for the accounts – which will have to undergo a second vote in the lower chamber after passing through the senate – to receive final approval around 29 December.


  • Covid-19-related daily deaths rose by 731 on 17 November – the highest daily toll since early April – and by 753 the day after as weaknesses in the healthcare system across the country become more exposed.

  • Italy added more regions to its coronavirus high-risk “red zones” as cases across the country surge. Campania and Tuscany joined other regions placed under the strictest lockdown measures from 15 November. Eight regions currently sit in the intermediary orange zone, and just five remain in the yellow zone.

  • The government will seek parliamentary approval for EUR 15-20bn of extra deficit. This new deviation from the original deficit target comes a few days after submitting the 2021 budget, which features measures worth EUR 38bn, to parliament.


  • The seven-day rolling average of new infections seems to have reached a plateau for now, remaining just above 18,000 cases over the last week or so; against this backdrop, a coordination meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional state leaders did not yield any tangible results.

  • Merkel and the leaders of regional states with significant automotive production sites, several ministers, and heads of the industry gathered for a so-called ‘auto summit” this week. The government will support the sector with an additional EUR 3bn, mainly by extending subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles and the replacement of old diesel trucks with newer, less polluting models.

  • The Bundestag has passed a new infection protection law, clarifying legislative procedures around enacting restrictive measures and increasing parliamentary scrutiny. Nevertheless, the far-right AfD accused the government of pursuing a “health dictatorship”; guests invited by AfD MPs harassed government politicians inside the Bundestag building while outside, a demonstration of some 5,000 protestors was dissolved by the police.

United Kingdom

  • After relative stability just above 22,000 cases for several weeks, the seven-day rolling average of new infections has recently begun to rise again gradually, crossing the mark of 25,000 cases.

  • The chaotic departure of senior government advisors from Downing Street has, once again, raised the question of the Conservatives’ way forward, pitting traditional market-liberalism against new, socially conservative calls for greater spending and investment.

  • Eager to “reset” his premiership, PM Boris Johnson has promised to increase spending on green initiatives, but next week’s spending review is set to highlight the dire state of public finances; at least as much as ambitious spending programs, the government will likely have to engage in divisive conversations about tax hikes soon.


  • As of 18 November, a record-breaking 480 Covid-19 patients were in intensive care. The mounting number of ICU patients has put a strain on the country’s healthcare system, particularly in northern Greece, where the lack of staff and available ICU beds has caused increasing concern among health officials.

  • The government currently envisages easing the lockdown in three different phases, starting with schools’ reopening on 7 December. Retailers and restaurants would follow, but strict rules will still apply.

  • The finance ministry will submit the 2021 budget to parliament on 20 November. The budget is expected to include a support package of EUR 4.5-5bn for 2021, compared to the EUR 2bn previously envisioned.


  • The epidemiological situation appears to be somewhat stabilizing as the average number of new daily infections rose by just 8% to around 4870. However, the number of hospitalized patients continues to rise, including those requiring intensive care.

  • Existing restrictions are set to remain in place until 11 December, while the state of emergency has been extended to 8 February 2021.

  • Given the closure of restaurants and bars last week, the government has extended a preferential VAT rate of 5% to takeout food.


– The daily count of new infections has decreased by around 14% to 22,000 during the past week, likely due to less testing. The share of positive tests is extremely high – estimated around 44% – and the death count from Covid-19 has reached the highest level since the start of the pandemic.

– Unless the situation deteriorates further, no changes to the existing restrictions are expected at least until 29 November.

  • The government was forced to suspend its support program for the culture sector after reports of high-earning star performers benefiting disproportionally from it. Meanwhile, medics fighting the pandemic are threatening to organize a general strike if the government does not enact a 100% increase in their monthly salaries.

More by Antonio Barroso, Andrius Tursa, Carsten Nickel, Wolfango Piccoli