April 22, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

BY Andrius Tursa, Antonio Barroso, Carsten Nickel, 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 dropped to 32,000 (from 44,000 last week). The government is expected to lift mobility restrictions on 3 May, and President Emmanuel Macron might announce the partial reopening of outdoor hospitality from mid-May in the coming days.

– The rhythm of vaccinations has slowed down slightly in the last seven days but remains above 300,000 daily jabs. Under the current pace, the authorities might be able to immunize around 70% of the whole population by the end of September.

– The government is meeting with trade unions and employers today, 22 April, to discuss a progressive reduction in state support for the short-time employment scheme. However, no major decisions are expected until next month, at least.

Spain

– The seven-day average of cases seems to have stabilized around 8,500, even though recently released data shows the more infectious variant first found in the UK makes for 80% of new infections nationwide (90% in some regions).

– Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reiterated on 21 April that the government is not planning to extend the state of alarm beyond 9 May. On the vaccination front, the seven-day average of daily jabs remains steady at around 300,000.

– The opposition center-right People’s Party (PP) is highly likely to win the upcoming 5 May election in the region of Madrid. The victory should boost the PP in national opinion polls, although it could also create some internal frictions over who should lead the party in the next general election.

Italy

– The government has approved a new emergency decree that includes the rules for the country’s reopening starting from 26 April. Many activities will be allowed to resume only outdoors, while the main restrictions will be lifted in the low-risk areas classified as “yellow zones.” The state of emergency has been extended to 31 July.

– However, the nationwide evening curfew at 10pm will remain in place until 1 June. In a sign of dissent over the curfew extension, the Lega’s ministers abstained from voting on the new decree. The Lega and some regional governors had asked to postpone the curfew to 11pm.

– Concerns remain about the safety of reopening now amid a still-high infection rate (the 7-day rolling average of new cases is around 14,000) and a sluggish vaccine rollout. Some health experts warned that reopening too soon would risk triggering a new wave of infections that could jeopardize the summer tourist season.

Germany

– The seven-day average of new infections has stabilized at around 20,000 cases; both houses of parliament are about to pass the new “emergency brake” law enabling Berlin to enact new restrictions in districts with an incidence rate above 100.

– Germany’s constitutional court has cleared the way for Berlin to ratify the EU recovery fund formally; as in previous instances, a key argument used by the judges was the “grave harm” that would result from any delays.

– However, the court will still look at the fund’s legality under German constitutional law at a later date; a verdict against the fund is now extremely unlikely, but the judges may provide clarifications of what might be possible in future rounds of fiscal integration.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day average of new infections remains stable at around 2,500 cases, but any potential effects from the economic reopening in England would probably only start to show as of next week.

– The government appears to be moving ahead with plans for so-called pandemic passports, which would allow British holidaymakers to travel to up to 20 destinations without reduced or no testing and quarantine requirements.

– The European Commission is preparing legal action against AstraZeneca amid continued accusations that the largely UK-based pharma giant broke its contractual obligations when delivering vaccines to the UK first.

Greece

– Athens has been forced to keep restrictions on movement through Orthodox Easter next week due to conditions in public hospitals (831 intubated patients) and persistently high Covid-19 infections (3,105 on 21 April). The government had been hoping that it could build up to a return to normality from Orthodox Easter onwards.

– Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis outlined on 21 April Greece’s roadmap – a three-step process – out of lockdown. According to the plan, the country will be almost entirely out of lockdown – which has been ongoing since last November – by mid-May, to coincide with the opening to all international visitors.

– As of 21 April, around 7.3% of the total population has received both doses of Covid-19 jabs. A surplus of AstraZeneca jabs left unused due to vaccine hesitancy by older citizens will be used from next week to vaccinate citizens aged between 30 and 39.

Poland

– The third wave of the pandemic is retreating. A seven-day rolling average of new infections and Covid-19-related deaths dropped by 35% and 16% accordingly; the number of hospitalized patients also declined by 9% in the past seven days.

– A gradual reopening will start in 11 out of 16 of the country’s provinces starting Monday, 25 April. This entails a partial reopening of primary schools as well as beauty salons. A further easing of restrictions could be expected in early May.

– Adults of all age groups will be allowed to register for a Covid-19 jab by 9 May. In addition, the government is planning to start mass vaccination in workplaces. This should further increase the pace of the immunization campaign, which has been picking up in recent weeks.

Hungary

– The epidemiological situation is improving notably. A seven-day rolling average of new infections and Covid-19-related deaths dropped by 33% and 18%, respectively. Hospitalizations and active cases are on the decline as well.

– The country remains one of the EU leaders in terms of vaccination. As of 21 April, nearly 3.4mn people (35% of the population) got the first jab, and 1.4mn (14.6% of the population) were fully vaccinated. However, the pace of immunization is slowing down, which may suggest emerging logistical challenges.

– The government is set to reopen bars and restaurants with outdoor seating once the number of vaccinated residents who got at least one jab reaches 3.5mn (expectedly in the next few days). A further reopening – likely including immunity certificates – is expected in the coming weeks.

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