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 stabilization of daily cases at around 25,000 makes it even less likely that the central government will adopt any new nationwide restrictions. Regional governments continue to be in charge of handling the pandemic.
– The health authorities have used up almost the totality of its available vaccine doses (1,769,055), and more than 400,000 individuals have received the two required jabs. The government’s goal is to get the over-80s and healthcare personnel immunized by March and 70% of the total population before the end of the summer.
– A court confirmed that the regional election in Catalonia will still take place on 14 February. Opinion polls suggest the vote will be a three-way race between the separatist Republican Left of Catalonia, the hardline secessionist Together for Catalonia, and the Socialist Party (PSC).
-With daily cases having plateaued at around 20,000, President Emmanuel Macron decided last week not to introduce a third lockdown as widely expected. Macron is betting that the 6am-6pm lockdown currently in place will suffice to control the spread of the virus.
– The president has also promised that every individual who wants to get vaccinated will be able to do so by the summer. France is expected to receive 78.2mn doses by the end of June. Four production sites in the country are expected to start making the vaccine from the beginning of March.
– A reported “unpublished” opinion poll on the 2022 presidential election put far-right politician Marine Le Pen head to head with Emmanuel Macron in a potential runoff. However, around 60% of the electorate still has a negative image of her.
– Most Italian regions become yellow zones on 1 February, with less stringent rules under the tiered system of restrictions. The easing went ahead despite warnings from public health experts that rules should be tightened, and concern about the accuracy of some data. The rolling seven-day average of daily new cases is around 12,000.
– As of 4 February, Italy has used 93% of the vaccines doses it has received. Around 2.3 million Italians have been vaccinated with the first dose, while 867,000 have had both doses. The health ministry has asked the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to accelerate the evaluation of Russian vaccine “Sputnik 5.”
– Mario Draghi, who has accepted a request by President Sergio Mattarella to attempt to form a national unity government, will start his consultations with party delegations on 4 February. It is unclear whether Draghi will win the broad support needed to control an outright parliamentary majority.
– The seven-day average of new infections has fallen to around 10,000 cases; Germany is therefore back at the level at the beginning of the last week of October 2020, the month of exponential pandemic growth.
– The EU’s vaccine procurement disaster has triggered public criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial decision to let the Commission organize purchases, rather than going ahead with the initially envisaged vaccine coalition with France, Italy and the Netherlands.
– Merkel and her health secretary have indicated that Germany might consider using both the Russian and Chinese-made vaccines, provided that these are deemed safe by the European regulator.
– The seven-day average of new cases is now just above 20,000 infections, roughly back at the level it was last at in mid-December.
– The vaccination effort continues to advance, with more than 10mn people having received a first dose; recent research also seems to suggest that delaying the second dose does either not substantially lower efficacy or potentially even increases it, perhaps based on the vaccine type used.
– The looming March budget continues to create political debate; preparing the ground for his attempt to return to fiscal moderation, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned that scientists kept “moving the goalposts” on extending lockdown restrictions.
– The decline in Covid-19 numbers over the last couple of weeks has paved the way for secondary schools to re-open this week. The government is now on the lookout for any threat posed by mutations of the virus. The first case of the South African variant of the coronavirus was detected in Thessaloniki on 31 January, prompting renewed concern among experts after several instances of the UK variant were discovered in Greece over the past few days.
– A distinct increase in the rate of vaccinations was recorded over the past few days. As of 4 February, more than 340,000 Greeks had received at least the first jab. Over the previous week, health authorities carried out an average of almost 16,000 vaccines a day – getting close to the 20,000 a day that the government had targeted and roughly double the rate of mid-January.
– The finance ministry is searching for ways to fund more relief measures for businesses as the coronavirus has knocked the 2021 budget off track after just the first month of the year. Another EUR 2.6bn could be added to the relief package for this year, which currently stands at EUR 7.5bn.
– The daily count of new infections and deaths from Covid-19 declined by around 2-3% during the past week. The seven-day rolling average of new cases per 1mn population is fluctuating around 140-150, which is the lowest point since mid-October.
– Shops in supermarkets, art galleries, and museums were allowed to reopen under strict sanitary conditions on 1 February. A further easing could be expected in mid-February unless the public health situation deteriorates.
– The government expects that vaccine deliveries will be sufficient to immunize 3mn residents (7.8% of the population) by the end of Q1. This is 33% lower than initially planned. As of 3 February, 1.34mn residents (3.5% of the population) have been vaccinated, of which 289,000 received both jabs.
– The epidemiological situation is improving as the number of active cases and deaths declined by 16% and 7%, respectively, during the past week. An 11% increase in new daily infections during the past seven days may be linked to more testing.
– Vaccination of the medical staff and care home residents has been largely completed, and the priority is now shifting onto the elderly. As of 3 February, 247,000 residents (2.5% of the total population) have been inoculated, 75,000 have received the second jab.
– Hungary is set to receive five million doses of Sinopharm vaccine and two million doses of Sputnik V vaccine, of which the first 20,000 shots have already reached the country. While surveys show that public views towards vaccination against Covid-19 are improving, trust in Chinese and Russian vaccines remains relatively low.