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December 17, 2020

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

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

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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

– Daily cases have increased in the last few days to around 12,000. The second stage of lockdown exit kicked in on 15 December, but a nighttime curfew (8pm-6am) remains in place. Restaurants and cafes will remain closed until 20 January.

– The government now expects the Covid-19 vaccine to be administered in care homes before the end of the month. The percentage of people refusing to get immunized against the disease remains around 50%, according to an ELABE opinion poll published on 16 December.

– President Emmanuel Macron has promised a referendum to include in the French constitution references to preserve the environment and fight climate change. It is unclear whether dealing with the pandemic will leave enough space for the government to organize such a vote before the 2022 presidential election.

Spain

– The seven-day rolling average of cases has increased to around 9,000 in the last 48 hours. The central government has encouraged regions to adopt more restrictive measures during the holiday season if necessary.

– Health Minister Salvador Illa has suggested that around 70% of the Spanish population could be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of the summer.

– Despite the recent increase in cases, the Catalan government has confirmed that the regional elections will still take place on 14 February. A decree confirming the date is expected to be signed this Friday, 18 December.

Italy

– Italy reported 680 coronavirus-related deaths on 16 December against 846 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections was 17,572. The new figures confirm that the contagion curve is flattening, but at a very slow pace.

– The government is set to announce further restrictions over the festive period amid concerns over large crowds gathering in cities and high infection rates. Some form of lockdown over the holidays, with restrictions on travel and business openings, is next.

– The vaccination plan prepared by the Covid-19 Emergency Commissioner was endorsed by the relevant authorities on 16 December. Vaccinations are set to start before the new year if the EU approves Pfizer’s vaccine on 23 December. Shortages of syringes, vaccines, and personnel will likely disrupt the vaccination campaign.

Germany

– The seven-day rolling average of daily new infections keeps climbing again is now at more than 26 cases per 100,000 citizens.

– The government is now expecting European approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on 23 December, thus preparing for a start of the vaccination program in Germany on 27 December, likely in care homes.

– Berlin wants to send a signal to its EU partners in the way it uses its own national share out of the bloc’s recovery fund: going beyond the Commission’s thresholds, Germany will spend 40% (instead of 30%) on green investments, including hydrogen, and another 40% (instead of 20%) on digitalization.

United Kingdom

– The weekly rolling average of daily new cases per 100,000 people is now climbing back towards the mark of 30 infections.

– The government will likely place additional local communities onto the highest level of its three-tier restrictions system today; it has also altered the messaging around the Christmas exceptions, urging people to stay at home.

– The chancellor is reportedly looking into an extension of his program of state-backed loans to businesses beyond January; beyond the pandemic, the program’s design should be scanned for contours of the envisaged role of the state in the economy going forward.

Greece

– Greece recorded a total of 1,190 new cases of Covid-19 on 16 December, and 85 people with the virus passed away in the 24-hour-period. For the past three days, the number of intubated patients has remained around 550, indicating some stabilization in the figures.

– Recent opinion polls indicate a level of skepticism and reluctance about the vaccines among Greeks, with between a third and about half of respondents indicating that they will either not get the jab or will wait a few months before deciding.

– In its interim monetary policy report for 2020, the Bank of Greece proposed to set up a bad bank that will transfer all remaining NPEs from securitizations and any new ones which might be formed from the pandemic. After all banks complete their securitizations, it is estimated that NPEs will drop from around EUR 59bn to EUR 35bn, with potentially another EUR 10bn added from the pandemic.

Poland

– In the past seven days, new daily Covid-19 cases decreased by 4% to around 10,200, while the daily death count from the disease shrank by 17% to around 350 as compared to the previous week. Active cases are falling rapidly as well. Provinces in northern Poland are the main hotspots right now.

– Despite the improving epidemiological situation, authorities are reluctant to relax the existing restrictions ahead of the winter holidays.

– The sixth edition of the so-called anti-crisis shield will come into effect at the end of 2020 and will be valid for three months. The bill includes exemptions from social security payments, subsidies for micro and small companies, co-financing of salaries, and other benefits to a selected list of sectors.

Lithuania

– The seven-day rolling average of new infections per 1mn citizens stands at around 1,000 – the highest in Europe – and is continuing to rise. The recently appointed Ingrida Simonyte’s government is urgently expanding health care capacity for Covid-19 patients and revamping the management of the pandemic.

– As of yesterday, 16 December, authorities introduced a six-week-long lockdown. The decision entails the closure of all non-essential services and retail activities and movement restrictions within the country.

– The cabinet is finalizing the 2021 budget, which is expected to be adopted by parliament within a week. It includes a new EUR 230mn economic support package for the affected businesses.

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