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
– The number of daily cases has fallen to below 10,000, which has led several regional governments to relax some of the restrictions. However, the closure of some of the largest regions' borders is likely to remain in place at least until the end of the Easter break (1-4 April).
– Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on 24 February that Spain would receive 136mn vaccine doses from the five suppliers with which the European Commission has signed agreements. While no indication has been given about delivery timeframes, the government still believes it can vaccinate 70% of the population by the end of the summer.
– The government has announced a EUR 11bn package to support the solvency of SMEs and the self-employed, which will focus primarily on the hospitality and tourism sectors.
– The seven-day rolling average of cases is still hovering around 20,000. However, places such as the southern Alpes-Maritimes region and the northern city of Dunkirk have seen a recent surge in infections, which has led the government to enforce new restrictions in these areas.
– The government is also monitoring the epidemiological situation in ten departments where cases seem to be on the rise; Prime Minister Jean Castex could announce further localized restrictions during a press conference today.
– Starting today, occupational medical services will be able to use the AstraZeneca vaccine to immunize individuals at the workplace. According to the official guidelines, workers aged 50-64 who are at increased risk of severe illness due to Covid-19 will be the first to get the jab on a voluntary and anonymous basis.
– Although the number of daily cases has fallen to under 13,000, the infection rate, measuring the percentage of tests that come back positive, has edged up in some areas, and there are several hundred deaths from COVID-19 each day.
– Italy is bracing for another month of restrictions due to the threat posed by new strains of the coronavirus. The government is expected to adopt a new decree in the coming days, extending a three-tier system of regional restrictions currently set to expire on 5 March. An existing ban on travel between regions has already been extended until 27 March.
– The health authorities have raised their age limit for AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine by an extra ten years, approving it for use on people up to 65. The health ministry is likely to tell regions to use all available doses rather than set aside some stock for second shots to accelerate vaccinations.
– The seven-day rolling average of new infections has stopped declining; after having reached the level of some 7,200 cases, the number has reincreased to around 7,500, meaning that the pandemic has arrived on a new plateau.
– The government has delayed the start of the new, free rapid test roll-out, which the federal health ministry had envisaged for 1 March; this will now first be discussed at Chancellor Angela Merkel's next meeting with the 16 regional state leaders.
– In light of the slow vaccine roll-out, Merkel seems willing to rely on rapid testing to allow some gradual reopening of some parts of the economy; the testing strategy might be supported by up to EUR 50bn in new borrowing and no return to debt-brake compliance in 2022.
– The seven-day rolling average of new infections keeps falling and is now just above 10,000 cases, while the successful vaccination effort will soon cross the mark of 20mn people having received a first jab.
– The government's roadmap for reopening England will start with the return to schools on 8 March and, for now, envisages an end to most restrictions by the end of June – based, however, on continued vaccination success and falling cases.
– The chancellor's March budget is likely to entail the extension of key support mechanisms as the government takes a careful approach to exiting from the lockdown; tax hikes could focus on corporate rates but materializing only as of autumn.
– Plans to reopen the retail sector in the coming days hang in the balance after a stark increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. Greece recorded the highest number of daily new cases since early December on 23 February, when 2,147 new cases were detected, with the largest number of infections occurring in the capital.
– Greece launched a digital vaccination certificate for all persons who have taken the two doses of the vaccine against Covid-19. Athens has pushed the EU to adopt a common vaccination passport to help the tourism industry, but Brussels has been hesitant so far, limiting its support to medical purposes only.
– The government is expected to launch a series of legislative initiatives, including a labor reform bill that allows for the introduction of electronic ballots for industrial action, the loosening of Sunday trading rules. It also amends mediation procedures, collective bargaining, and firing procedures.
– The seven-day rolling average of new infections rose by 34% to around 8,000. Variants of the virus found in South African and the UK have been detected in the country, with the latter accounting for around 10% of all new cases.
– Starting Saturday, 27 February, restrictions will be re-imposed in the northern Warmia-Masuria province. In addition, the face mask regime will be tightened across the country, and arrivals from the Czech Republic and Slovakia will be required to quarantine or provide a negative test.
– According to the updated vaccine delivery schedule, the government expects to receive 8.2mn vaccine doses by early April. This should be sufficient to vaccinate the targeted 3mn citizens by the end of Q1.
– The number of new infections increased by 70% in the past seven days compared to the preceding week. Other health indicators, such as the death count, the share of positive tests, and the number of active cases are also worsening. Any easing of restrictions – initially anticipated in early March – is unlikely.
– The pace of the immunization campaign is accelerating as both the Sputnik V and Sinopharm vaccines are now being administered in addition to those supplied through the EU procurement mechanism. To date, the country has received 1.68mn vaccine doses from five different suppliers, of which 680K have been administered.
– The government is conducting a “national consultation” on the reopening strategy and immunity certificates. The consultation has no legal power but is used as a political communications tool to engage the electorate and, if necessary, deflect any criticism during the eventual reopening.