Report Contents

March 4, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

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

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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.

Graph of the week

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching 1

 

France

  • With daily cases still hovering around 20,000, Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to announce this evening localized measures to contain the spread of the virus in certain areas of the country (such as the northern Pas-de-Calais region).
  • Around 54% of respondents to an ELABE poll say they want to get the vaccine, but 75% believe the pace of immunization is too slow. To speed up vaccinations, the government has this week reversed its decision to ban the use of the AstraZeneca jab for over-65s.
  • The Macron administration is considering again the introduction of “health passports.” Given that the French remain split on the idea according to opinion polls, the government might hold a debate in parliament first to promote consensus around the proposal.

Spain

  • Daily cases have continued to decrease and are now around 7,000. In a meeting with the central government held on 3 March, most regions supported keeping regional borders closed until the end of the Easter break (1-4 April). A final decision on the matter will be adopted by next Wednesday.
  • The health authorities managed to triple the vaccination rate in February (150,000 shots a day), and the pace is expected to further pick up with the arrival of additional supplies in March. The government has also decided to give a single shot to under-55s who have recovered from Covid-19.
  • The tensions between the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos have receded in the last few days, but both parties still disagree over issues such as how to make housing more affordable. Despite the divisions, the coalition is likely to stick together.

Italy

  • The contagion curve shows signs of a robust uptick, with the incidence of new cases among younger people having eclipsed incidence among the older population. Health officials say the variant of the coronavirus discovered in the UK is prevalent among Italy’s infected schoolchildren. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases is now above 17,000.
  • The government issued a new decree through which it ordered the closure of all schools in the regions and areas the hardest hit by Covid-19. With the same decree, the government extended the restrictive measures already in place on businesses and the movement of people until 6 April.
  • With the risk of a new nationwide lockdown rising, Prime Minister Mario Draghi is working on an overhaul of the slow and uneven vaccination campaign, which struggles to inoculate more than 130,000 people per day. The government is also expected to extend a ban on layoffs until 30 June and allocate further resources to furlough schemes.

Germany

  • The seven-day average of new infections continues to grow again very slowly; it is up from just above 7,000 cases in mid-February to currently just above 8,000 cases
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional state leaders have agreed on an overall continuation of the nationwide lockdown until 28 March; they will regroup on 22 March to decide subsequent steps.
  • For the time until early April, federal and regional governments agreed on a highly complex five-stage plan for a gradual reopening of the economy, differentiating between areas with an incidence rate below 50 and below 100 cases; the fear is, however, that a re-increasing caseload will push that value back above 100 in most parts of the country.

United Kingdom

  • The seven-day average of new cases keeps falling and has now arrived just above 7,000 infections; meanwhile, the successful vaccination campaign has inoculated more than 20mn people with at least one jab.
  • In his budget presentation, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the bulk of economic lockdown support measures will be extended once more through the summer to provide the government with the space it needs to reopen the country only slowly – despite the resounding success of the vaccination campaign.
  • The anticipated tax hikes will kick in later, with corporation tax intended to rise to 25% by 2023; but the potential for upside surprises in the economic recovery and the political volatility of the new Tory voter coalition mean that the shape of fiscal consolidation plans could still evolve over the years to come.

Greece

  • Covid-19 infections remain on the rise in Greece, despite four months of lockdown measures. The country reported 2,702 new infections on 3 March, the highest daily total this year. The daily number of infections per 100,000 rose to 15.7 as a seven-day rolling average, from 4.2 on 22 January.
  • To control the virus’s further spread, the authorities have also tightened restrictions on movement from 4 March until 16 March. Greece has vaccinated (with one dose) 9.2% of the population, slightly above the EU average, and authorities expect this to more than double by end-March.
  • The delay to the resumption of retail activity will be a further blow for public finances. According to officials, every 15 days that retail stays closed in the affected areas, cash reserves are reduced by EUR 1.2bn, the primary balance deteriorates by 0.7% of GDP, and the economy slows down by 0.8%.

Poland

  • The epidemiological situation is rapidly worsening. The seven-day rolling average of new infections rose by 33% to around 10,600, and the share of positive tests has also risen above 20%. The government is urgently deploying temporary hospitals across the country and is considering regional lockdowns.
  • Amid the resurging pandemic, the Ministry of Health is considering amendments to the vaccination program to increase the number of citizens vaccinated with at least one dose.
  • While President Andrzej Duda and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have discussed potential supplies of the Sinopharm vaccine to Poland, there is no political agreement in Warsaw on this subject. Moreover, surveys suggest that less than 20% of Poles would accept Russian or Chinese vaccines.

Hungary

  • The so-called third wave of the pandemic is accelerating. The seven-day rolling average of new infections soared by 57% to around 4,200, and the number of deaths from Covid-19 rose by 24%. Alarmingly, the number of hospitalized patients (6,300) jumped by 42% in a week.
  • A two-week soft lockdown will come into force on 8 March. This will entail the closure of non-essential shops and services, all education institutions, and tighter border controls. The economic support measures – including wage subsidies and tax concessions – will be expanded to the newly closed businesses.
  • The health authorities are now focusing on administering as many first shots as possible instead of holding back supplies for the second jab. The weekly vaccination pace exceeds 300,000 – around three times higher than in the similarly sized Czech Republic, which relies on vaccines procured solely via the joint EU mechanism.

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