July 15, 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 1Spain

– The average of daily cases has risen to above 20,000, and the Delta variant accounts now for more than 60% of all new infections. The number of hospitalized patients is also on the rise, but daily deaths due to Covid-19 have continued to drop in the last two weeks. Around 50% of the population has been fully immunized.

– Some regions have started to re-introduce restrictions to counter the new surge in cases. While a court has validated the re-imposition of the nighttime curfew in Valencia, there is a risk that the judges might strike down similar decisions in other regions, given the lack of a unified legal framework on the issue.

– The Constitutional Court’s recent decision to declare last year’s lockdown unconstitutional will not open the door to legal claims by businesses or people who suffered economic losses. However, it will further incentivize the central government to continue letting the regions manage the pandemic.

France

– Daily cases have risen back to around 5,000, but the number of ICU patients due to Covid-19 remains below 1,000. Vaccination appointments have experienced a spectacular surge following President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement that a “health pass” would be required to participate in a wide range of social activities.

– Macron’s tough approach towards vaccination has triggered protests across the country. However, opinion polls show that a majority of people support most of the measures announced by the president on 12 July.

– The main potential presidential candidates from the center-right will meet on 20 July, when they might agree on the organization of a primary election. However, former Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand, who will not attend the meeting, is unlikely to participate in such an exercise and will probably maintain his presidential bid.

Italy

– The epidemiological situation is taking a downward turn after months of improvement, and the Delta variant could become prevalent within days. Together with the Kappa strain, this variant accounts for nearly 28% of new infections in Italy compared to 5% in May.

– Five out of Italy’s 20 regions could lose their lowest-risk’white’ zone classification and move back into a low-moderate risk’yellow’ zone due to the rising infections. This means they could face restrictions again after several weeks in the’white’ zone, where almost all measures have been dropped.

– With a worsening health situation and no appetite for a new lockdown, the authorities are now considering introducing a special Covid health pass. The pass – certifying that a person has been vaccinated or had a recent negative Covid test – could be required to enter indoor facilities such as restaurants, cinemas, and shopping centers.

Germany

– The epidemiological situation continues to worsen very gradually, on a still low level; the seven-day average of new infections has increased back above 800 cases.

– France’s announcement of mandatory vaccinations for health workers has led to similar debates in Germany; however, amid an overall higher willingness to get vaccinated, the government is not yet planning legal measures.

– The debate continues around better protections for younger people, but coordination problems in education policy mean that it will be difficult to provide all schools with air filters; meanwhile, there is no official recommendation on whether to vaccinate younger children.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day average of new infections continues to rise. It is now well above 30,000 cases, while the number of people who have received both doses of the vaccine has risen above 35mn.

– New modeling by government advisers warns of 100-200 deaths and ten-times that number in terms of daily new hospital admissions after the last restrictions will have been removed; however, it is unclear whether this worst-case scenario will materialize.

– Travel rules continue to create debate, as British tourists have been barred from entering the EU if they were vaccinated with an India-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine; meanwhile, the government will update its green and amber travel lists this week.

Greece

– Greece’s daily coronavirus cases passed the 3,000 mark on 13 July, recording a two-month-high, as the country struggles with a new surge in infections. Experts warned that several thousand daily cases will lead to renewed stress on the healthcare system, peaking in autumn.

– The government announced on 12 July that customers at indoor restaurants, bars, and cafes would have to prove they have been vaccinated against or have tested negative within the last three days.

– Athens will make vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory for frontline healthcare staff in a new effort to boost immunity coverage in critical sectors. The government is also adding to the pressures and inducements on the general population to pick up the flagging pace of vaccination.

Poland

– The seven-day rolling average of new daily infections and deaths fell below 80 and 10, respectively. While only 153 cases of the Delta variant have been detected by 12 July, the new strain is increasingly spreading through domestic transmission.

– During the past week, 221,000 first vaccine doses have been administered in the country, the lowest figure since January. However, the government appears hesitant to introduce compulsory vaccination for certain groups of individuals due to the potentially adverse reaction from its electorate.

– Government members are touring the country to promote the post-pandemic recovery package (“Polish Deal”) presented in early June. However, continuing disagreements within the ruling camp over the proposed tax adjustments may postpone implementing certain elements of the deal.

Hungary

– Although the epidemiological situation remains favorable, a slight increase in new cases and deaths over the past week is raising concerns about the start of the new wave of the pandemic.

– To reinvigorate a sluggish vaccination pace, the government is launching a door-to-door campaign to reach out to citizens aged 60+ who have not been vaccinated yet. Hungary’s vaccination rate for the 80+ and 60-69 age brackets stands below the EU average.

– The European Commission has extended the period of assessment of the country’s EUR 7.2bn national recovery and resilience plan beyond the 12 July deadline, likely due to rule of law and transparency issues. A protracted approval process will delay the disbursement of EU recovery funds to Hungary.

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