Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

Carsten Nickel, Andrius Tursa, Antonio Barroso, Luis Cornago

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Report Contents

( 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 average of cases is currently at around 39,000, and the number of ICU patients stands at 5,626, which is higher than during the second wave’s peak. The nationwide restrictions imposed last week by the government are expected to remain in place until 3 May.

– Around 14% of the population has received the first dose of one of the vaccines. The authorities are opening 30 large-scale vaccination centers in venues such as football stadiums to deliver jabs en masse.

– Opposition parties are pressuring the government not to delay the regional elections scheduled to be held on 13 and 20 June. However, around 70% of respondents to a recent opinion poll declared they favored postponing the vote. The government is expected to announce a decision on the matter in the coming days.

Spain

– The seven-day average of cases stands at around 6,000, having increased by 20% in the last 14 days. Covid-19 patients occupy around 20% of ICU beds. The recent surge in infections is particularly prominent in Madrid, Catalonia, Navarra, and Basque Country regions.

– The government has suspended the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the under-60s. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said this week that Spain would receive 87 million vaccine doses from different providers between April and September.

– Sanchez also announced that the government would not extend the state of alarm beyond 9 May, when it is scheduled to expire. The decision has triggered renewed concerns about the potential inability of regional governments to adopt measures to contain potential surges in cases.

Italy

– Italy returned to the color-coded system of restrictions on 6 April, after the nationwide Easter red zone lockdown, with the country split again between high-risk red and medium-risk orange zones. The measure will remain in force until 30 April.

– More than three months into Italy’s nationwide vaccination campaign, it remains a long way from meeting the government’s targets. There have been some 230,000 doses administered on average per day in recent weeks, with the goal of half a million daily jabs looking increasingly unrealistic.

– Around 66% of Italian students returned to class on 7 April amid early signs of a slowdown in infections. But as classes have restarted, concerns remain that most local authorities may not be prepared to contain outbreaks of coronavirus in schools.

Germany

– The seven-day average of new infections has fallen from just above 17,000 cases to just below 14,000. Still, this picture might be incomplete given the lack of reporting during the recent Easter holidays.

– Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional state leaders will try to coordinate the next steps at their meeting on 19 April, but in the meantime, Merkel is considering strengthening federal pandemic powers by law.

– Bavaria has announced it would purchase 2.5mn doses of the Sputnik V vaccine to be produced at a facility near Munich, in case that the European regulator clears the Russian vaccine.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day average of new infections has fallen below 3,000 cases, and the number of people who have received a first dose of the vaccine is now above 31.6mn.

– Following concerns about (extremely rare) side effects, the AstraZeneca vaccine will now not be offered to people under the age of 30, where alternative products will be made available.

– Non-essential shops and outside hospitality will reopen in England on 12 April under stage two of the reopening plan; plans for domestic vaccine passports have been received with political and business skepticism.

Greece

– As of 7 April, the seven-day rolling average of new cases was just above 3,000. With around 750 ICU patients, the health system is fully stretched.

– However, the situation appears brighter as far as the rollout of the vaccine program is concerned. As promised by the government, from this week, as many as 50,000 vaccinations are being administered per day. Greece aims to hit 1.5mn vaccinations in April alone, almost doubling its total until the end of March.

– In the meantime, the finance ministry is in an ongoing fight to contain the pandemic’s economic impact. It has repeatedly increased the support package, committing more than EUR 13bn so far this year, although the final figure could be closer to EUR 15bn. This is twice the amount that was initially included in the 2021 budget.

Poland

– The seven-day rolling average of new infections has declined by around 25% to around 21,4000 during the past week, but the Covid-19 bed occupancy rate at the national level is approaching 80%. As a result, the existing restrictions have been extended until 18 April.

– The vaccination campaign experienced two setbacks last week: the government’s uncoordinated opening of immunizations for persons aged 40+ disrupted the entire registration system; meanwhile, an unusually rapid vaccination pace in the city of Rzeszow – which is set to hold municipal elections in May – is raising questions about the integrity of the process.

– The poor management of the pandemic has lowered the public approval ratings of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to almost the lowest point since 2015. A recent survey showed that only 15% of Polish residents held a positive assessment of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Hungary

– The third wave appears to have passed its peak. A seven-day rolling average of new cases stands around 5,100, 40% lower than a week ago. However, the number of active infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid-19 remain close to their peak levels.

– Around 26% of the population has received at least one jab of the vaccine. As a result, the government is fulfilling its promise to start easing restrictions, which includes reopening educational institutions and non-essential retail stores and shortening the curfew.

– Longer-than-expected restrictions on economic activity forced the government to revise up its 2021 budget deficit by one percentage point to 7.5%. The draft 2022 budget is scheduled to be presented extremely early, on 4 May.