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November 25, 2020

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

BY Andrius Tursa, Antonio Barroso, Carsten Nickel, Luis Cornago

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( 6 mins)

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.

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching 1

France

– The seven-day rolling average of cases has dropped to 20,000. There are currently 30,622 patients hospitalized due to Covid-19 (compared to 32,842 last week), 4,289 under intensive care (compared to 4,775 last week).

– President Emmanuel Macron announced yesterday a three-stage exit from the current lockdown. Small businesses will be able to re-open from 28 December, although most of the lockdown restrictions will remain in place until 15 December. Freedom of movement will be reestablished on 15 December, although a night curfew (9pm-7am) will be put in place. Restaurants will not be allowed to fully re-open until 20 January.

– The High Authority for Health will publish the criteria that will underpin the government’s vaccination strategy in the coming days. Macron said vulnerable individuals would be the first ones to be vaccinated from end-December/early January. Vaccination will not be compulsory.

Spain

– The seven-day rolling average of cases has gone down to around 12,000. Several regions will maintain their borders closed and keep ongoing restrictions in place until 9 December.

– The central government has prepared a draft plan with potential restrictions on social gatherings and the movement of people to be put in place during the holiday season. However, any potential measures will be ultimately decided by the regional authorities.

– The government’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy has classified individuals into 18 groups according to their vulnerability to the disease. Frontline health workers and care home residents will be the first to be vaccinated during the first quarter of 2021. The government plans to start vaccinating the wider population on a voluntary basis from July.

– The Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has reached an agreement with the PSOE-Unidas Podemos government on the draft 2021 budget. The deal means the budget is likely to be approved by parliament by late December/early January.

Italy

– The authorities on 24 November reported 853 fatalities – the biggest single-day rise since the end of March. Meanwhile, the seven-day rolling average of cases has gone down to around 31,000.

– The government is expected to extend the regional lockdown system beyond the earlier 3 December deadline. However, some of the existing curbs could be lifted (e.g., the closure of shopping centers during the weekend) or softened (e.g., the night-time curfew). Travel restrictions will likely remain in place.

– The health ministry indicated that Italy would launch a massive vaccination campaign at the end of January, but there are substantial concerns about the country’s ability to carry out a mass vaccination drive. The government has decided to coordinate its vaccination plan nationally instead of leaving it up to regional authorities, which are usually responsible for local healthcare.

Germany

– The seven-day rolling average of new infections is still on its plateau above 20,000 new cases, although the daily number has been below that average over the last four days.

– Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional state leaders will agree on tougher restrictions at their coordination meeting today, 25 November; these new guidelines will last until 20 December, to enable a slight easing for the holiday season thereafter.

– The likely continuation of restrictive measures into next year has led to speculation about new economic support measures: borrowing is expected to increase by another EUR 64bn next year, as the government might free some EUR 20bn in additional lockdown support for December alone.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day rolling average of new infections remains on its downward trajectory, heading back towards the level of 30,000 cases from almost 40,000 infections in mid-November.

– When the English blanket lockdown ends on 2 December, the government will return to a version of its previous, three-tier system of regional lockdowns, while a coordinated approach for all the UK’s nations has been agreed for the holiday season.

– Despite the extra spending in the chancellor’s review, the debate about the longer-term fiscal cost is gaining pace; the politically challenging tax hike debate will likely pick up further early next year.

Greece

– Greece is set to extend its lockdown measures beyond its 30 November expiry date. Despite the precarious situation, the government has put together a plan to gradually re-open schools and stores next month. At present, primary schools could open from 7 December, while secondary schools and retail stores could open a week later. Restaurants and cafes could open closer to Christmas Day.

– Athens has submitted its Recovery and Resilience plan to the EC, which rests on four pillars: green development, digital transformation, employment and skills, and social cohesion. The submission reportedly contains 15 broad proposals for funding. Greece qualifies for just under EUR 32bn of funding, EUR 12.7bn of which is in loans.

– Greece plans to offer free vaccines to all citizens on a voluntary basis. The vaccines will come from the stocks acquired by the EU through agreements with the manufacturers. According to the plan presented, 2.11 million citizens will be vaccinated each month at 1,018 centers around the country. Priority will be given to health workers, then vulnerable groups. The general public will follow.

Hungary

– Although new daily cases have decreased by around 16% in the past week, the death count from Covid-19 is still on the rise, averaging slightly above 100 per day. The number of hospitalized patients, including those requiring intensive care, is also increasing.

– The government has reintroduced dedicated shopping hours for senior citizens. No significant easing of restrictions is expected in the coming few weeks.

– The government plans to start vaccination of medics and other uniformed services in January, but mass vaccination is not expected before April. Vaccines will be voluntary and fully subsidized by the state. Some private healthcare providers have already started making early reservations for non-subsidized vaccinations

Poland

– The rise in new infections has stabilized, although authorities admitted that 22,000 cases were underreported due to technical issues and that testing has been less extensive. However, the daily death count from Covid-19 is still on the rise, averaging nearly 500 in the past seven days.

– After a three-week break, shopping centers will be allowed to re-open on 28 November under a strict sanitary regime. Meanwhile, restaurants, hotels, and gyms will remain closed at least until 27 December. Afterward, restrictions could be managed again on a regional basis.

– The government expects to start vaccinations in January, prioritizing medical workers and uniformed services. Mass voluntary vaccination for other groups of citizens is expected to peak in February and March.

More by Andrius Tursa, Antonio Barroso, Carsten Nickel, Luis Cornago