September 9, 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 epidemiological outlook has continued to improve in the last week, with daily cases at 11,932. Hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid-19 are also declining. 73% of the population has been fully vaccinated, but the pace of daily jabs has continued to slow down in the last seven days.

– Prime Minister Jean Castex said on 8 September that “it was not the moment” to reform the pension system, contradicting rumors suggesting President Emmanuel Macron wanted to introduce policy changes ahead of the presidential election. Macron will take a final stance on the issue in the coming weeks.

– Marine Le Pen has revealed some of the measures of her economic program for next year’s presidential election, such as nationalizing highways or privatizing the public television and radio broadcaster. Additional clarity on her policies might emerge in her speech at the National Rally’s party congress on 12 September.

Spain

– Cases are still dropping, with the seven-day average of new infections at 5,196, and the number of hospitalized patients and deaths due to Covid-19 is also going down. Some regional governments have started to lift some of the restrictions that were put in place to contain the last wave of infections.

– 73.4% of the population has gone through a full vaccination cycle, and the pace of daily jabs seems to be recovering from the summer slowdown. Given the high public acceptance of the jab, the government remains unlikely to make vaccination compulsory. As an example, 75% of the 12-19 cohort has received one vaccine dose.

– The government is likely to extend beyond 31 December the deadline for businesses and the self-employed to apply for non-refundable payouts from the state. Some regions have recently revealed that they had only delivered 50% of the funds earmarked under the direct aid scheme.

Italy

– The health authorities have confirmed that one-third of all Covid-19 cases in August were detected in children and young people between the ages of 0-19 years old, caused by the spread of the Delta variant. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases is just above 5,600.

– Even though the vaccination campaign slowed down significantly over the summer, authorities remain confident about meeting the goal of vaccinating 80% of the eligible population by the end of September. Italy will start giving a third dose of Covid-19 vaccines to people with the most fragile immune systems later this month.

– The government is looking to extend its Green Pass scheme further, making it a requirement for employees at all public and private sector workplaces. The prospect of compulsory vaccination is also under discussion by the executive after Prime Minister Mario Draghi confirmed last week that the move is being considered.

Germany

– The seven-day average of new infections is back up above 10,000 cases, triggering new warnings from experts and politicians about new restrictions amid a powerful fourth wave this autumn.

– Health Secretary Jens Spahn has vowed to make another attempt to push the share of fully vaccinated people above the current level of around 60% with another “vaccination week” next week; one reason is that pressure on ICU bed capacities is again on the rise.

– However, with the Bundestag election just over two weeks away, no party has any interest in a serious conversation about how to design countermeasures that might become necessary as soon as in October.

Greece

– National Covid-19 infection rates have been falling gradually since the beginning of the month, with the current seven-day rolling average of daily cases at just below 2,500. It was around 3,000 a week ago.

– The government is looking for ways to boost vaccination rates among students and teaching staff to return to in-person teaching in schools and universities. Official data show that only around one in five senior high- school students has been vaccinated so far. The coverage is lower among junior high school students, with fewer than one in 10 having received a shot.

– Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to announce a package of fiscal relief measures during his speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair at the weekend. Rising prices of basic goods have created pressure to include measures to protect lower-income households from price hikes.

United Kingdom

– With the seven-day average of new infections climbing back towards 40,000 cases, the reopening of English schools this week is being closely watched; the earlier return to Scottish had led to new infection spikes north of the border.

– The government will raise national insurance contributions by 1.25 percentage points for both workers and employers in a bid to finance measures to combat NHS waiting lists and the country’s care crisis; this is yet another step towards fiscal consolidation in the run-up to the end-October autumn budget.

– The political conversation around booster shots and rolling out the vaccine to children continues. While the health secretary has indicated that third doses would be approved in the next few days, health experts continue to doubt the necessity of the move.

Poland

– The seven-day rolling average of new cases surged by 45%, and daily deaths doubled during the past week. Multiple outbreaks have been reported in nurseries and schools, some of which are already returning to distance education. The government is considering starting regular antigen testing in schools.

– Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hopes that rising infection levels will spur vaccinations, which have been steadily declining since mid-June. The country has also started administering third vaccine doses to persons with immune system disorders.

– The cabinet is starting consideration of various tax amendments outlined in the post-pandemic recovery package. One of the proposals entails the introduction of a minimum income tax on large foreign corporations.

Hungary

– Although the epidemiological situation is gradually deteriorating, per capita infections and deaths remain among the lowest in the EU.

– The country’s vaccination campaign is showing signs of recovery after an extremely slow second half of the summer. However, the relatively low vaccination rate (70%) of care home residents is creating concerns.

– The government’s plans to raise the national monthly minimum wage (MMW) by nearly 20% to HUF 200,000 (EUR 572) is being criticized by the manufacturing sector, which is seeking additional tax breaks in return. The country’s industrial output is already suffering from global supply chain disruptions.

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