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
- Daily cases have spiked up back to above 24,000. Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to announce today at 6pm new localized restrictions. The measures will probably target the Ile-de-France (Paris) and Hauts-de-France regions, which have seen a worsening in ICU numbers in the last week.
- Following the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine’s delivery due to health concerns, the authorities are expected to resume it if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirms today that the jab is safe.
- The three parties supporting President Emmanuel Macron in the National Assembly (LREM, MoDem, and Agir) have failed to agree on an electoral reform that would have introduced proportional representation in the legislative elections that will follow the presidential poll taking place in the spring of 2022.
- The nationwide number of daily cases remains stable at around 5,000, but ten regions are starting to see a renewed surge in infections. Some regions have started to lift certain restrictions, but most regional borders will remain closed until at least the end of the Easter break (1-4 April).
- The 15-day suspension of the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine has slowed down the vaccination campaign, jeopardizing the government’s objective of immunizing 70% of the population by the summer. The authorities are still counting on the arrival of the Janssen jab in April to accelerate vaccinations.
- Unidas Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias’s exit from the government is unlikely to threaten the survival of the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE)-Podemos coalition. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has accepted Iglesias’s proposal to be replaced as Vice Prime Minister by Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz.
- Italy reported 431 coronavirus-related deaths on 17 March against 502 the day before (the highest daily number since late January). The daily tally of new infections rose to 23,059 from 20,396 the day before. The country is currently reporting more than 22,000 average cases per seven days.
- The latest numbers come as half of Italy’s region entered a strict lockdown on 15 March to counter a spike in infections. The ten regions in the so-called “red zone” will remain locked down until at least 6 April. They will be joined by the rest of the country over the Easter holiday.
- The decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine is the latest setback in an already slow inoculation effort across the country. As of 17 March, only 4.6% of the total population has received the first dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the decision on the AstraZeneca vaccine has become politically embarrassing for the government, which has been blamed for prioritizing politics over science.
- The seven-day average of new infections keeps climbing very gradually and is now around 10,000 cases; the seven-day incidence value has climbed to 85 cases.
- Some regional state governments are fighting with local districts over the enforcement of agreed rules in case local incidence values cross the threshold of 100 cases; some local districts have refused to pass additional restrictive measures despite locally rising caseloads.
- Federal-level politicians have backed the EU’s line on potential restrictions on vaccine exports to countries that are themselves producers; the UK is not the only country to have attracted criticism, as German politicians also complained about the restrictive line taken by the US administration.
- The decline in the seven-day average of new infections has somewhat slowed down and currently stands just above 5,000 cases; more than 25mn people have received at least one vaccine shot.
- The government has again pushed back against EU allegations that the UK was blocking vaccine exports, instead pointing to existing contracts with drugmaker AstraZeneca (AZ), which guarantee the delivery of the first 100mn doses to the UK.
- The UK’s vaccination effort may itself come under pressure from comparable prioritization issues in other parts of the world; there is speculation that AZ vaccine exports from India to the UK might be held back, creating fears over the UK vaccination campaign slowing down as of April.
- The country recorded the highest number of intubations and coronavirus cases it has ever had in one day on 17 March, when it reported 3,465 cases. The positivity rate in tests across the country remains high, at 5.5%, while the transmission rate R is currently estimated at 1.1. The picture is expected to worsen over the coming days, with wastewater measurements from several major cities showing infection rates galloping.
- Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said on 17 March that unless at least 200 private doctors volunteer to help the public health service’s battle against the virus, he would recommend the prime minister to order the requisitioning of their services. Despite the escalating pressure on the health system, the government appears determined to push ahead with reopening the economy.
- The EC’s decision to back the issuance of so-called “Digital Green Certificates” for travel constitutes a potential boost for Greek tourism. Athens has already announced that it plans to reopen for tourism on 15 May. The agreement to proceed with the implementation of the health status certificate has been hailed as a triumph of Greek diplomacy and a personal success for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
- The seven-day rolling average of new infections reached nearly 18,000, which marks a week-on-week growth of 35%. The number of hospitalizations has increased by around 38% during the past two weeks, and hospital bed occupancy rose from 59% to 72% in the same period.
- A three-week-long countrywide lockdown will come into force on 20 March. The restrictions entail the closure of all sports, entertainment, accommodation, and education facilities but allow the operation of some non-essential services such as household goods shops or beauty salons.
- The ruling Law and Justice party will on 20 March present details of the much-promoted ‘New Deal’ program aimed at restoring economic and living standards after the pandemic.
- The daily average of new infections increased by 26% to nearly 7,400 in the past seven days, and the number of hospitalizations rose by 23% to more than 10,200 – the highest level since the start of the pandemic. No significant easing of restrictions is expected at least until Easter (4 April).
- The pace of vaccination remains among the highest in Europe and puts the country on track to immunize 60-70% of its population by September. As of 17 March, the country has received 3.1mn doses of vaccines (1.6mn through the EU joint procurement mechanism) and provided 1.4mn people (14.4% of the population) with a first jab.
- A relatively swift vaccination campaign could boost the ruling Fidesz party ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for spring 2022.