April 1, 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

– The seven-day rolling average of cases has climbed to 38,000. More than 5,000 Covid-19 patients are currently under intensive care, and doctors in the Paris region have warned that they might have to start turning patients away.

– President Emmanuel Macron announced on 31 March that most educational institutions would close for three weeks. Moreover, the closing of non-essential shops and the mobility restrictions currently in place in 19 departments will be extended to the whole country.

– Vaccinations have significantly accelerated in recent days, with more than 8mn individuals having received a first dose. Under the current pace, the authorities might be in a position to reach the figure of 40mn immunized individuals by the end of July.

Spain

– The average of daily cases has gone up to 6,000, and infections are slowly increasing in 20 provinces (out of 51). The central government has failed to promote a common approach by regions to contain the virus during the Easter break (1-4 April), but most regional borders remain closed.

– The health authorities have authorized the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the 55-65 cohort. The government is betting on the arrival of around 5mn doses of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs in April to accelerate the vaccination pace.

– On 30 March, separatist politician Pere Aragones failed to obtain the confidence of Catalonia’s regional assembly to be appointed regional prime minister. However, a deal between the secessionists to get Aragones appointed is still likely before the 26 May deadline, after which new elections would be automatically called.

Italy

– Italy’s top health institute, the ISS, said on 30 March that the UK variant now accounts for 87% of new cases in Italy, accelerating from a prevalence of 54% in the previous study in February. The current seven-day rolling average of daily new cases is around 20,500.

– The vaccination campaign continues to be delayed by regional inefficiencies, logistical problems, and poor planning. PM Mario Draghi’s government has not managed yet to impose a change of pace. As of 30 March, less than one in three people over 80 have received both doses of a vaccine.

– The government is expected to seek soon parliamentary approval to increase spending. The budget deficit could increase by a further EUR 20-30bn to finance new measures to support the economy, bringing it to around 10% of GDP for 2021.

Germany

– At around 17,000 cases, the seven-day average of new infections is quickly returning to the first November peak, which was just under 20,000 cases.

– Struggling to control the situation, Chancellor Angela Merkel is threatening to pass federal-level legislation to enforce tighter restrictions if the 16 regional state leaders do not stick to “emergency brake” rules agreed in the past.

– After a call with the French and Russian presidents, Merkel announced that Germany would consider using the Russian Sputnik vaccine if it was cleared by the EU regulator; this might, however, still take several months.

United Kingdom

– After having plateaued for a long time, the seven-day average of new infections has finally fallen to just under 5,000 cases; the number of first vaccinations has surpassed 30mn.

Amid spring-like weather, the government is worried that large gatherings in parks and gardens could negatively affect the pandemic situation, warning the population not to endanger the progress made so far.

– To protect itself from potential EU export bans, the government has brokered a last-minute deal for 60mn doses of the UK-made Novavax vaccine also to be bottled in the UK, preventing export to (and reimport from) Germany.

Greece

– Greece identified a total of 4,340 cases of the coronavirus on 30 March, the highest number ever recorded in a single day in the country since the beginning of the outbreak. Nevertheless, the government appears determined to press ahead with the gradual rolling back of the lockdown.

– The government is preparing a new round of economic relief due to the longer-than-expected impact of Covid-19. The package will include new measures and the extension of previous schemes, including a rent grace period for businesses, furlough, deferral of tax obligations, and unemployment benefits.

– The cabinet gave greenlighted the national plan for the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) on 29 March. While the RRF consists of EUR 17.8bn of grants and EUR 12.7bn of loans, the government believes it can mobilize almost EUR 60bn by adding leveraging from the private sector in capital and borrowing.

Poland

– The epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate. The seven-day rolling average of new cases increased by 23% to 287,000, while the death count rose by 17% to 386. Hospital bed occupancy stands at 77%, and some regional hospitals are already overcrowded.

– The government has expanded the list of vaccination sites and persons eligible to administer Covid-19 jabs amid expectations of substantially greater vaccine deliveries in the coming months. Authorities expect to receive 5mn vaccine doses in April and 15mn within Q2. To date, the country has received 7.7mn jabs.

– The existing restrictions are set to remain in place at least until 9 April. The government has also tightened requirements for arrivals from Germany and Lithuania, requiring either a negative test or self-isolation for ten days. Identical restrictions are applied on arrivals from the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Hungary

– The so-called third wave of the pandemic appears to be approaching its peak. The seven-day rolling average of new cases has started gradually declining, although the death count and hospitalizations are still hitting new highs.

– More than 20% of the country’s population has received at least one jab as of 31 March, which is one of the highest rates in the European Union (EU); the pace of vaccination continues to accelerate on a week-on-week basis.

– The government aims to start a gradual easing of the Covid-19 restrictions once the number of vaccinated residents reaches 2.5mn (25.7% of the population). Based on current vaccination progress, this is likely to occur in the first ten days of April.

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