July 8, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

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

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( 5 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 1EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching 2

Italy

– The highly contagious delta variant is gaining ground, the National Health Institute (ISS) said on 2 July, releasing data showing it accounted for some 22.7% of cases as of 22 June. In the previous such survey based on data from 18 May, the delta variant represented just 1% of cases.

– The seven-day rolling average of daily cases is 829 (up by 30% in comparison to last week). Since 1 July the trajectory has been upward mainly due to the spreading of the Delta variant. Those most at risk are some 2.4mn people aged over 60 who have not yet received the first dose of a vaccine.

– The co-ruling Five Star Movement (M5S) remains engulfed in a major crisis more than a week after a public spat between its founder, former comedian Beppe Grillo, and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte who had agreed to take charge of the struggling party. A committee of seven so-called’wise men’ must now find a compromise for the new M5S statute, the original cause of the current crisis.

Germany

– The long decrease in new infections seems to have come to a halt by now; the seven-day average of new cases has increased again from just above 500 about a week ago to more than 600.

– The spread of the delta variant continues to cause concern, but for vaccinated people arriving from so-called “variant areas”, travel restrictions are being scaled back.

– This development points to an overall trend: there is a debate about rolling back almost all restrictions for vaccinated people as of September, not least to incentivize sufficient vaccination levels before the winter season.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day average of new infections keeps increasing dramatically, having risen to more than 27,000 cases now, but the link with severe illness and hospitalizations seems to remain subdued.

– The government is bracing for 50,000 cases or even more when almost all (English) restrictions will fall on 19 July; however, it is unclear what level of health system pressure will be politically acceptable thereafter.

– Workers and employers are calling on the government for clearer government guidance, as the legal work-from-home guidance will be dropped on 19 July; given the uncertainty, the return to the office will likely only be gradual.

Greece

– A jump in daily Covid-19 infections (1820 on 7 July) has been registered over the past few days, after many weeks of declining numbers. The incidence of the delta variant is also increasing, especially among young people.

– The latest developments have put pressure on the vaccination program, which has experienced a reduction recently in the number of Greeks coming forward to get their first vaccine. About 38% of Greece’s eligible population is fully vaccinated so far and the government has offered incentives to encourage more people to get the shot, including cash and free mobile data for youth.

– The prospects for the tourism sector are looking increasingly grim. This year’s takings are now expected to reach 30-35% of 2019, which is slightly higher than last year (about EUR 2bn more) but way down on what had been expected until recently.

Poland

– The seven day-average of new cases has dropped below 100, while the same figure for deaths stands under 20. So far, more than 100 cases of the delta variant have been detected. Authorities are making preparations in the healthcare sector for a new wave of infections in autumn.

– To reinvigorate stalling vaccinations, the government is urging authorities of the Catholic Church to join the promotional campaign. The health ministry is also considering the introduction of special bonuses to family doctors tied to reaching vaccination targets.

– There are signs of disagreement within the ruling United Right coalition government over tax changes outlined in the post-pandemic economic recovery program Polish Deal. Considering the government’s recently weakened position in parliament, the adoption of the proposed measures might prove challenging in autumn.

Hungary

– The epidemiological situation continues to improve. The seven-day rolling average of new infections stands at just 30 per day, while daily deaths have dropped to 1-2. So far, authorities have detected only nine cases of the delta variant in the country.

– Anecdotal evidence based on anti-body studies in large domestic companies raises concerns about low levels of immunity offered by the Sinopharm vaccine, especially for the elderly. However, the government is reluctant to address these concerns by offering additional testing/revaccination, as this could negatively affect public view on Budapest’s close relations with Beijing.

– Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced his intention to impose export restrictions as well as an “extra profit tax” on certain construction products in the coming months. The statement has not been followed by specific policy proposals yet.

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