September 30, 2021

Europe

EUROPE: Managing the pandemic – what we are watching

BY Andrius Tursa, Antonio Barroso, Carsten Nickel, Wolfango Piccoli

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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.

United Kingdom

– The seven-day average of new infections has risen back above the mark of 30,000 cases over the last week.

– The government will simplify its travel regime as of 4 October, with previously “green” and “amber” lists of destinations merged into a new category and the testing burden to be reduced for fully vaccinated travelers.

– At its annual conference, the Labour party is trying to cash in on the government’s looming cost-of-living crisis; opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer has underscored his project of moving the party back to the center with changes to how future party leaders are elected; polls suggest that this might be paying off with voters.

Germany

– The seven-day average of new cases has been on a very gradual decline, falling from just under 10,000 infections to just below 8,000 during the last week.

– Leading virologists keep pointing to the risks associated with the low vaccination ratio; less than 65% of the population are by now fully vaccinated, and researchers warn that the current phase might be the beginning of yet another wave of new infections.

– Following the 26 September Bundestag elections, government formation might take time; Chancellor Angela Merkel will serve as a caretaker in the meantime, and the new Bundestag must convene one month after the election. But even among the newly elected MPs, Merkel’s outgoing grand coalition has a majority and could, therefore, act if required.

France

– The seven-day average of cases has continued to decline in recent days, with infections at 5,248. The pace of daily vaccinations has continued to drop since August, with the average of daily shots at 164,7661.

– The government is preparing a draft bill to allow for the potential imposition of the health pass until at least 31 July of next year. Last week, the government suspended 3,000 health workers without pay for refusing the Covid-19 jab. At this stage, fewer than 12% of hospital staff and about 6% of doctors in private practice have not been vaccinated.

– From 30 September, all individuals from the 12-18 cohort will be mandated to use a health pass to participate in a wide range of activities, which the authorities hope will encourage vaccinations. However, the government will continue to cover the costs of Covid-19 tests for the under-18s, reflecting concerns about a potential backlash from being too forceful vis-a-vis the younger population.

Italy

  • The seven-day average of new cases has dropped to around 3,330. In the coming days, the government is expected to release details of its next decree updating Covid-related rules and restrictions within the country. It looks likely that the maximum allowed capacity at stadiums, cinemas, and theatres will increase to 75-80%.
  • As of 28 September, just under 78% percent of the entire population over 12 years old have now completed their vaccination cycle. Italy pledged back in March to vaccinate 80% of the eligible population by 30 September. Five of Italy’s 21 regions have already surpassed the national benchmark.
  • According to the NADEF updated economic blueprint that the government issued on 29 September, Italy’s economy will grow by 6% in 2021 and by 4.7% in 2022. Moreover, thanks to the stronger than expected recovery, the deficit-to-GDP ratio should be at 9.4% this year – down from the target of 11.8% set in April – and 5.6% in 2022.

Spain

– The seven-day rolling average of infections is at 2,267. The pace of daily vaccinations continues to drop, with average daily jabs now below 100,000. Given that the regions have stored a substantial number of vaccines, the authorities have started to ask suppliers to halt the delivery of doses to avoid them going to waste.

– Regions have started to lift most of the restrictions to control the spread of the virus. While some regional governments will do so incrementally, others such as Madrid’s will remove all capacity limitations from 4 October.

– The government managed to reach a last-minute agreement with trade unions and employers this week to extend the state-sponsored furlough scheme to 28 February. The new rules will tie state compensation for firms to the provision of training to workers.

Greece

  • The seven-day average of new infections appears to continue its movement around the mark of 2,200 cases, with infections somewhat on the decline over the past week.
  • As of 29 September, around 56% of the population is fully vaccinated, far below the 70% that health officials said is needed to beat back the pandemic. Greece has selected the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as the preferred version for third booster shots for the elderly and most vulnerable.
  • While the latest polls suggest that ruling New Democracy (ND) still has an edge in terms of credibility over main opposition SYRIZA, the balance seems to have tipped between those who assess ND’s track record in office positively (46.9%) just past the halfway point in its term, and those who take a negative view (52.6%).

Poland

– All main epidemiological indicators are deteriorating at a steady albeit manageable pace. The government is considering additional restrictions in the Lublin province (eastern Poland), where infection levels are three times the national average.

– Today, 30 September, the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) is set to resume the consideration of a case concerning the primacy of national legislation over EU law. A ruling in favor of the latter would further delay the approval by the European Commission of the country’s EUR 36bn national recovery and resilience plan.

– This week, the government adopted the 2022 budget, which will now go to parliament for consideration. Although the projected central government deficit stands at 2.8% of GDP, there are concerns about a higher structural deficit.

Hungary

– The seven-day rolling average of new cases increased by 9% to 436 during the past week. Daily death rates from Covid-19 are steadily rising too but remain in single digits. While the government is not considering additional restrictions at this stage, any future measures would primarily target unvaccinated residents.

– There are some 400,000 people above 60 years of age who are yet to be vaccinated. The government’s efforts to reach them via door-to-door visits by doctors have yielded little results.

– Prime Minister Viktor Orban hinted at a full rollout of 13th pension payments to senior citizens already in 2022, instead of earlier plans to phase in such payments gradually by 2024.

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