January 28, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

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

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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

  • Daily cases remain stable at around 20,000, but the number of hospitalizations and individuals in intensive care because of Covid-19 has increased in the last week. The government has signaled it might announce more severe restrictions in the coming days, given the curfew in place is not being effective in containing the spread of the virus.

  • President Emmanuel Macron is allegedly considering three different scenarios: a) maintaining the existing levels of restrictions; b) imposing a “light “lockdown like the one implemented in November (an option favored by the prime minister and the scientists advising the government); or c) implementing a “hard” lockdown like the one imposed last spring.

  • The country is still lagging behind in vaccinations, having administered around 60% of the available doses. This week, the government decided to maintain a delay of 21-28 days between administering the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Spain

  • The number of cases has climbed back up to over 40,000 in the last days, but the central government is not planning to change the current legal framework to allow regions to impose more strict curfews. Several regional governments have introduced additional limitations on the free movement of people within their territories.
  • The country has administered almost the totality of available Covid-19 vaccine doses. Regions such as Madrid and Catalonia have complained about the lack of supply and have temporarily suspended their vaccination campaigns.

  • Health Minister Salvador Illa, who has become the lead candidate for the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) in the 14 February regional elections, has been replaced by Minister for Territorial Policy Carolina Darias. The small reshuffle is unlikely to have a significant impact on the management of the pandemic.

Italy

  • The seven-day rolling average of new cases is around 12,000, roughly one-third of the peak in November. Italy has now registered almost 87,000 deaths linked to Covid-19 since last February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK and the sixth-highest globally.
  • Italy’s drug agency AIFA indicated that a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Italian company ReiThera is expected to be available from September. Italy’s state agency Invitalia will invest EUR 81mn in ReiThera to support the development of the vaccine. So far, 1.6mn doses of the vaccine have been injected, corresponding to around 75% of deliveries.

  • President Sergio Mattarella will hold talks with party delegations on 28-29 January on forming a new government following the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Both the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party will propose Mattarella to hand the mandate to form a new government to Conte. Absent a deal with Italia Viva, it is near-impossible for Conte to secure a robust majority in the Senate.

Germany

  • The seven-day average of daily new infections is now just above 10,000 cases; this is roughly the level last seen at the end of October, the month of exponential growth last year.
  • Travel bans are likely in the coming days; the only question is at what scale: either following the UK’s example of targeted hotel quarantines or the farther-reaching strategies of Belgium and Norway, closing their borders almost entirely.

  • There has been some debate again about the future of the so-called debt brake, but the required constitutional change remains unlikely; instead, the speed of fiscal adjustment after the pandemic will create constant political debate.

United Kingdom

  • The pandemic seems to be back at pre-Christmas levels, with the seven-day average of new infections now just below 30,000 cases and falling.
  • The government announced that it would reconsider current restriction levels in late February, this is, once the 14mn most vulnerable citizens are likely to have received the first vaccine shot. Schools will not reopen before 8 March.

  • Travelers coming to the UK from high-risk areas will have to quarantine in hotels upon arrival; the list of countries might be further extended in the future, especially if new cases continue to fall and the vaccination effort continues as successfully.

Greece

  • The authorities recorded 858 new coronavirus infections on 27 January. This was the second day in a row that the number of new cases has been above the 800-mark. Experts think new restrictions may have to be imposed in the greater Athens area due to the recent rise of infections in the region.
  • As of 28 January, the health authorities had administered around 214,000 doses of the vaccine, while 196,000 people (1.8% of the total population) received at least the first dose. After a slow start, the daily inoculation rate has more than doubled and is approaching 20,000/day.

  • In its latest financial stability report, the Bank of Greece (BoG) stepped up its warnings regarding the pandemic’s impact on the Greek banking system. The BoG estimates that new NPEs will range between EUR 8-10bn because of the crisis. At the end of September 2020, NPEs stood at EUR 58.7bn or roughly 36% of the loan portfolios.

Poland

  • The number of new infections and deaths declined by 17% and 10%, respectively, during the past week. However, the presence of the “UK strain” of the virus – including through domestic transmission – is a source of concern for the authorities.
  • On 28 January, the government will reveal whether and what restrictions will be lifted as of 1 February. Multiple small businesses have pledged to reopen next week regardless of the government’s decision. Surveys show that a majority of Poles would support such action.

  • According to the health ministry, the vaccinated residents will be exempt from various Covid-19-related restrictions such as mandatory self-isolation after contact with an infected person or limits on attending events.

Hungary

  • The seven-day rolling average of new cases per million people has dropped to around 110 – one of the lowest in Europe. The share of positive tests averages around 8%, while death and hospitalization rates are on a firm downward path.

  • However, the government decided to extend all restrictions for another month until 1 March. The timing of reopening will depend on the number of active infections in the country and the availability of vaccines.

  • As of 27 January, 170,000 residents have been vaccinated (1.7% of the population), of which around 18,000 have received two jabs. Vaccine stocks are sufficient for the immunization of another 40,000 people. Medical staff and care home residents and employees are the main target groups at this stage.

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