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December 3, 2020

Europe

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.

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching 1

France

-The seven-day rolling average of cases has fallen to below 11,000. The current lockdown is still expected to be lifted on 15 December, although certain restrictions will remain in place. The government expects to start vaccinating the general public in the spring.

– A contentious draft security bill is dominating the agenda. The government has been forced to rewrite an article that would make it an offense to film and identify police officers online.

– Despite recent controversies, the popularity of President Emmanuel Macron has recovered in recent weeks, with several opinion polls putting his ratings above 40%. The figure is higher than those of former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy at the same point of their terms.

Spain

– The seven-day rolling average of cases has dropped to below 9,000. The central government has reached a deal with the regions to maintain certain restrictions during the holiday season, such as on interregional traveling. Meanwhile, the government has said its goal is to have vaccinated the whole population by the end of 2021.

– The draft 2021 budget will likely receive first approval reading in the Congress of Deputies today, 3 December. After passing through the Senate, the accounts are expected to be ratified by 29 December.

– The Catalan government is holding tomorrow a meeting with all parties to discuss the potential health issues surrounding the 14 February regional election, including a potential postponement of the vote.

Italy

– The government will announce today (3 December) a new set of anti-coronavirus measures, due to come into force on 5 December. A nationwide curfew at 10pm will likely be maintained during the festive season. A decree prohibiting non-essential travel between regions from 21 December to 6 January has already been issued.

– Italy has recorded a slowdown in the contagion curve in the past four weeks, with infections stabilizing below 20,000 a day, but the number of daily deaths remains high at over 500. Italy registered 684 coronavirus-related deaths on 2 December, down from 785 a day earlier.

– The health minister announced that Italy would distribute 202 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines during 2021. The vaccine, which will be free but not mandatory, will be purchased and managed in a centralized way. There are considerable concerns about the government’s ability to carry out a mass vaccination drive.

Germany

– The seven-day moving average of new infections per 100,000 people remains stubbornly stable around 22 cases, but the number of Covid-related deaths keeps rising.

– Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional state leaders have agreed to prolong the current lockdown provisions into the new year until 10 January; the exact scope of temporal easing around Christmas is yet to be decided.

– Beyond continued immediate economic support, the federal and regional state levels of government continue to tussle over how to share the fiscal burden going forward. This debate also demonstrates that the political impetus for fiscal consolidation will likely be strong once the worst of the pandemic is over.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day rolling average of new cases appears to have somewhat stabilized at around 22 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over recent days, after having fallen substantially over recent weeks.

– The Tory revolt over the new regional tiers system now in place highlights the political effects of the severe economic outlook.

– The UK will likely be the first country starting vaccinations as of early next week, following a rapid approval process; this will only increase backbench pressures to quickly and decisively lift restrictions at the next review on 16 December.

Greece

– Greece has seen an uptick in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths after a brief lull. On 2 December, the number of registered new cases rose to 2,199, while another 111 deaths took the total to 2,517.

– Given the growing pressure from the opposition and how the national health system is being stretched, the lockdown expiring on 7 December has already been extended to 14 December. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to outline tomorrow more details about the government’s plans.

– On 30 November, an Athens prosecutor opened an investigation into newspaper claims that incomplete reporting and inconsistent collection of case data could have led to the authorities’ delayed response to the second wave of the pandemic. The claims focused on the alleged keeping of a parallel scheme for recording coronavirus cases by various parts of the healthcare system.

Poland

– The number of new infections decreased sharply by around 35-40% in the past week, and active Covid-19 cases have started falling for the first time since mid-September. However, the share of positive tests remains high, at above 30%.

– Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has revealed details of the country’s vaccination strategy. The vaccine will be free and voluntary, administered by doctors or nurses in stationary and mobile medical units. Frontline medical staff will be the top priority group, followed by residents and employees of care homes, uniformed services, and the elderly. The government aims to vaccinate 70-80% of the country’s population, although recent polls show that 45-50% of respondents would not be willing to get immunized against Covid-19.

– The parliament is considering a new PLN 35-40bn (EUR 7.8-8.9bn) economic stimulus package for the affected sectors. The draft entails a wide range of support measures depending on the size of the company.

Romania

– New Covid-19 cases and deaths per 1mn residents have stabilized during the past week, but the share of positive tests remains close to 30%.

– President Klaus Iohannis announced plans to reopen indoor food markets – closed since 9 November – at the end of this week. The move likely seeks to mitigate the declining popularity of the ruling National Liberal Party (PNL) ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for Sunday, 6 December.

– The draft version of the EUR 33bn national resilience and recovery plan – unveiled by the government last week – prioritizes large transport and environmental projects. While some revisions to the plan are likely after the parliamentary election, the main priorities are not expected to change.

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