Report Contents

March 11, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

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

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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

  • The last days have seen an uptick of daily cases, which are currently around 21,000. The government has prolonged the weekend lockdown in the Alpes-Maritimes region and has started to move patients out of the Ile-de-France region so they can be treated in other parts of the country.
  • The authorities have started delivering the vaccine during weekends and will start immunizing the over-65s from early April. The government has also suggested has suggested the under-50s would start getting the jab in June.
  • The National Assembly is likely to vote on 16 March in favor of the draft bill leading to a potential referendum to introduce a reference to protecting the environment in the constitution. However, the center-right opposition might still try to block the draft law in the Senate.

Spain

  • Daily cases have spiked up to over 10,000 in the last two days. All regions except Madrid have finally agreed to close their regional borders during the Easter break (1-4 April). The central government is unlikely to force Madrid to close its borders.
  • Around 7% of the population has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 jab. The government expects to receive around 3.2mn doses before the end of the month; Pfizer recently confirmed it would deliver 4.8mn vaccines to Spain in April.
  • A potential election in the Madrid region and other regional political changes are unlikely to change the political outlook of the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party-Unidas Podemos coalition.

Italy

  • The government is expected to introduce tighter Covid-19 restrictions on 12 March, which could include weekend lockdowns and an extension of the inter-regional travel ban. Regions could automatically be moved into the red category if the threshold of 250 weekly virus cases per 100,000 inhabitants is breached. The seven-day rolling average of new infections rose by 18% to around 21,000 between 2-9 March.
  • The vaccination rollout continues to make slow progress mainly due to the lack of personnel and logistical issues and not so much due to delivery delays from drug manufacturers. As of 11 March, 6 million shots had been administered, with 1.8 million of the country’s 60-million-strong population having received the recommended two doses.
  • A new stimulus package worth up to EUR 32bn is unlikely to be unveiled until next week due to disagreements within the ruling coalition. A freeze on layoffs will be extended until 30 June, and around EUR 10bn will be allocated to support the labor market.

Germany

  • On 10 March, the seven-day rolling average of new infections jumped to almost 10,000 cases, after increasing only very gradually from around 7,000 to just under 8,500 cases since mid-February.
  • Rules continue to differ – at times substantially – across the 16 regional states. Still, schools are re-opening everywhere, as well as some specific retailers (often with “click and collect” offers) and even museums.
  • As the government is hoping to increase rapid testing capabilities, the next opening stage could start as of 22 March, with some cultural events and outside hospitality re-opening – but only at local incidence rates below 100.

United Kingdom

  • The seven-day average of new infections keeps falling: it is now below 6,000 cases, while the number of people who have received at least a first vaccine shot will soon cross the mark of 25mn.
  • As schools in England have re-opened, PM Boris Johnson has warned that this could negatively affect the virus spread again, urging everyone to comply with the ongoing restrictions; the next opening steps are only due next month.
  • The UK government has summoned the EU’s representative in London to protest unfounded claims by senior EU politicians that the UK had “blocked” vaccine exports to Europe; in conjunction with ongoing tensions over Northern Ireland, the EU’s panic over its vaccination fiasco continues to pose risks to post-Brexit ties with the UK.

Greece

  • Greece is struggling to suppress a surge in Covid-19 cases despite prolonged lockdown measures. A total of 2,633 cases were recorded on 10 March, 582 fewer than the record-high 3,215 cases diagnosed a day earlier. Most hospitals in Athens run out of ICU beds for those infected, forcing the government to look to state hospitals outside the capital and private hospitals for assistance.
  • Athens plans to lift Covid-19 restrictions in the retail sector and open schools before the end of March, and begin to re-open the tourism sector in mid-May ahead of the summer season. Despite initial reluctance, the EC seems to have come round to the Greek government’s idea of an EU-wide vaccination certificate to unlock holiday travel.
  • The finance ministry indicated that the current restrictions, in place until mid-March, carry a cost of around EUR 750 million per week. The pandemic relief package is now expected to reach EUR 11.6bn (6.5% of GDP) in 2021 if developments on the health front do not produce any negative surprises.

Poland

  • The seven-day rolling average of new infections rose by 25% to around 13,300, while the share of positive tests has also increased to around 24% – the highest in the EU. In addition, the number of hospitalized persons grew by 18% to 18,000. Hospitals are minimizing regular medical services to free up additional capacity for Covid-19 patients.
  • The lockdowns in the two northern regions (Pomerania and Warmia-Masuria) are likely to be extended beyond 20 March. Unless the government rolls out country-wide restrictions, lockdowns appear likely in the Masovia and Lubusz regions. Tighter cross-border controls could disrupt the flow of goods to/from neighboring countries.
  • The pace of vaccination remains stable at around 90,000 doses per week. Authorities are finalizing the vaccination of medical staff, care home residents, and teachers. The elderly and chronically ill are the following priority groups.

Hungary

  • The number of new Covid-19 infections, deaths, and hospitalizations increased by more than 30% week-on-week. Faced with the growing shortage of medical staff, the government has requested private health care operators to take over some patients.
  • The lockdown is scheduled to last until 22 March but will likely be extended until Easter (4 April). However, the existing restrictions are not particularly harsh and entail quite a few exceptions.
  • Around 350,000 vaccine shots have been administered during the past week, which is around 17% more than in the previous week. The government’s target of immunizing 2mn residents (20.4% of the population) by early April seems realistic if the current pace is sustained. However, the expanding vaccination campaign comes with additional organizational and logistical challenges.

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