February 18, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

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

Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on reddit

Listen to our reports with a personalized podcasts through your Amazon Alexa or Apple devices audio translated into several languages

( 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.

Graph of the week

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching 1

Spain

  • Daily cases have plummeted to around 10,000 in the last few days. Several regions, such as Madrid, Extremadura, and La Rioja, have started to relax some of the restrictions, but nighttime curfews remain in place across the country.

  • More than 1mn people have been vaccinated; the authorities have announced that individuals above 80 would be the next group to be immunized in the coming days.

  • Tensions between the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos are on the rise due to disagreements over various issues. Still, a break-up of the coalition remains unlikely, given Podemos would be decimated in an early election.

France

  • With daily cases still at around 18,000, the government is not expected to relax restrictions anytime soon. The health authorities are closely tracking the spread of the B.1.1.7 virus variant first found in Britain, which now represents 35% of all new positive cases (25% last week).

  • Around 800,000 people have received two doses of the vaccine. The government has launched a public consultation on the potential introduction of “vaccine passports,” which would be required to access certain venues such as cinemas, restaurants, or museums.

  • The ruling Republic on the Move party has introduced a last-minute amendment to introduce early voting in a bill regulating the organization of the 2022 presidential election. While the proposed change is likely to be approved, it could still face legal challenges.

Italy

  • Restrictions were tightened in four regions from 14 February, amid concern about new coronavirus variants and the rising national Rt rate. Five or six other regions could face a similar fate later this week. The seven-day rolling average of new infections is now standing just above 12,000 cases, essentially unchanged since late January.

  • Exasperated by the EU’s sluggish purchasing of vaccines, several northern regions announced they intend to buy more doses regardless of the state supplies. Veneto’s governor said he had two contracts ready to sign for 27 million vaccines, which are types approved by the EU, and is waiting on approval from Rome.

  • Prime Minister Mario Draghi has pledged to speed up the country’s vaccination program as he presented his government’s priorities before a 17 February confidence vote in the Senate. Draghi hinted that plans to build ad-hoc gazeboes for the vaccination drive will be scrapped and that a greater involvement of the private sector will be sought.

Germany

The seven-day rolling average of new infections is now standing just above 7,000 cases and keeps falling; however, the federal health secretary has warned that 20% of new cases were down to mutated versions of the virus, according to estimates.

  • The new leader of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) has distanced himself from the chancellor’s strict approach and the constant redefinition of infection thresholds for easing restrictions; this should be seen in the context of decreasing numbers in opinion polls.

  • As small business opposition to the lockdown is growing, the government is envisaging a new EUR 1.5bn hardship fund to support companies falling through the net of the various and often very bureaucratic support arrangements.

United Kingdom

  • The seven-day average of new infections has now fallen to just above 12,000 cases; the successful vaccine rollout means that the government has reached its target of vaccinating the 15mn most vulnerable citizens with a first jab.

  • PM Boris Johnson will on 22 February present a first roadmap for the eventual easing of restrictions; however, this will likely be done cautiously, with no commitment to fixed dates, and with the hospitality among the last ones allowed to reopen.

  • Tory infighting continues over the chancellor’s March budget; after many commentators had presented corporate tax hikes as inevitable several weeks ago, inner-party opposition is growing amid concerns for the post-pandemic recovery.

Greece

  • The authorities are likely to decide this week whether Thessaloniki will join Athens in a strict lockdown. The Rt factor nationwide is estimated at 0.99, and hospitals are running close to capacity.

  • As of 17 February, 413,000 people had received at least one jab, while almost 191,000 had received both jabs. Two “mega” vaccination centers opened in Athens and Thessaloniki earlier this week. According to the government’s plan, virtually everyone above 60 and all those in high-risk groups will have received the vaccine ahead of Greek Orthodox Easter on 2 May.

  • The government is working on new support measures that could be needed once the pandemic subsides, including a reduced tax advance for the 2022 fiscal year, EU-funded initiatives worth EUR 300 million for upskilling workers, incentives for new job creation, a subsidy of firms’ fixed expenses and a haircut of up to 50% for the first three rounds of tax advance refunds.

Poland

  • The seven-day rolling average of new infections rose by 14% to around 6,000. According to the health minister, restrictions will be tightened if the weekly average of new cases reaches 10,000. The spread of the British variant – comprising around 5% of new cases – and low public compliance with restrictions are generating concern.

  • Delays in vaccine deliveries are leading to the postponement of the second jab for some. The pace of vaccination increased by around 5% to around 450,000 per week. As of 17 February, 4% of the population have received the first dose, and 1.8% got both shots.

  • On 26 February, the government plans to present the national recovery and resilience plan for public consultation. Tensions in the government persist as the junior coalition party United Poland opposes the ratification of the EU’s own resources decision in parliament.

Hungary

  • While the number of deaths and active Covid-19 cases declined by 5% during the past week, new infections have been gradually rising in the past month. Considering the risks associated with new mutations of the virus, the government is unlikely to ease any restrictions in February.

  • As of 17 February, 2.3% of the population has received the first jab, and 1.4% got both shots. The Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines’ first shipments have already arrived, but their rollout has been limited due to ongoing testing by national health authorities.

  • On 15 February, Prime Minister Viktor Orban outlined seven economic recovery measures, which include a reduced VAT for the construction of new housing, additional support for the renovation of old housing, wage subsidies for businesses, interest-free loans for small companies, the introduction of the 13th pension payment and an exemption from personal income tax for the under-25. Some of these measures have already been announced or implemented during the past few months.

EUROPE: CEE PULSE

( 5 mins) Bulgaria‘s National Recovery and Resilience Plan is ready for submission to the European Commission. In the Czech Republic, the newly elected Chamber of Deputies is scheduled to hold its first sitting on 8 November. On

Read More »

UK/EU: Brexit tensions return – Next steps

( 3 mins) Following remarks by UK Minister of State Lord Frost in Lisbon today, EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic will on 13 October unveil proposals to simplify the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol. The EU will offer

Read More »