October 7, 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

– With around 33,000 cases, the seven-day average of new infections keeps moving around the 30,000 mark, but it has so far refused to either substantially increase or fall.

– Major countries, including Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa, are likely to be taken off the English “red” travel list requiring hotel quarantines; however, PCR tests – rather than lateral flow tests – might still be required for travelers arriving from other countries.

– While PM Boris Johnson focused on his project of raising living standards for everyone during his speech at the Conservative conference, the weekly GBP 20 uplift on the universal credit scheme has expired, ending another key measure from the government’s economic crisis-fighting program.

Germany

– The seven-day average of new infections remains at a relatively elevated level, but at around 8,000 cases, it is still below the threshold of 10,000, which it had briefly crossed in early September.

– Several German states continue to gradually lift restrictions on mass events, with clubs reopening and football stadiums ramping up capacity again; where PCR tests were required in the past, these are often being replaced with antigen tests.

– Following the killing of a petrol station worker by an armed opponent of Covid restrictions, Chancellor Angela Merkel used her speech at Germany’s national holiday last weekend to warn of anti-lockdown protestors turning violent.

France

– The number of daily infections has dropped below 4,500. The government is holding a cabinet meeting today to discuss a potential relaxation of the obligation to use a health pass contingent on the epidemiological situation of each region.

– The National Authority for Health has recommended the provision of third doses to healthcare workers. A decision on extending them to the general population is expected in the coming days. So far, only 7% of those currently eligible have received booster shots.

– A Harris Interactive opinion poll on next year’s presidential election published this week puts far-right polemist Eric Zemmour at 17%, ahead of Marine Le Pen (15%), and in a position to make the runoff against President Emmanuel Macron. As previously explained, Zemmour’s rise could make things easier for Macron, depending on the electoral standing of the center-right.

Italy

  • The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases is at around 3,000, registering a small decrease over the past week. Starting from 15 October, all persons who work in the public and private sectors need to hold the “Green Pass,” showing they have been vaccinated, tested negative, or recovered from Covid-19.
  • Around 73% of the total population has been fully vaccinated, and another 4.3% is waiting for the second dose. A third booster dose has been administered to around 0.36% of the population. The over-80s and those in care homes are currently eligible for the booster shot.
  • The cabinet approved on 5 October the framework of a contested tax reform promised to the EU. After the bill has been approved by parliament, it must be implemented within 18 months. Ministers from the League boycotted the cabinet meeting – a move to regain visibility after the party’s lackluster performance in the local elections.

Spain

– Daily cases have fallen below 2,000, and the regional governments have continued to withdraw the measures to limit the spread of the virus. Regions such as Madrid have lifted almost all the restrictions, while others, such as Andalusia, are implementing a gradual approach.

– With around 78% of the population having gone through a full vaccination cycle, the authorities have given the green light to give booster shots to the over-70s (around 7mn people) from the end of the month.

– The government is holding a series of meetings with the country’s main energy companies in the coming days to discuss a potential modification of the recent decree that imposed a tax on the windfall profits of renewable and nuclear energy plants.

Greece

  • The overall number of fatalities from Covid-19 in Greece crossed the 15,000-mark, reaching 15,012 on 6 October. Meanwhile, the seven-day rolling average of new daily cases has remained steady at around 2,200 over the past week.
  • The government has decided to abolish from 9 October most restrictive measures for vaccinated individuals, even in areas labeled “red,” the highest alert on a scale measuring the incidence of coronavirus cases. The move is intended to tempt more citizens to get vaccinated, as the administration of vaccines approached a new low of 5,246 doses on 4 October.
  • According to the government’s draft budget for 2022, the Greek economy will grow by 6.1% in 2021 and by 4.5% in 2022. On the fiscal front, next year’s draft budget projects the primary budget balance, which excludes debt servicing outlays, will see a deficit of 0.9% of economic output, down from an expected 7.7% of GDP gap this year.

Poland

– While the seven-day rolling average of new cases jumped by 50% and deaths rose by 25% during the past week, the epidemiological situation remains manageable compared to the previous peaks. Therefore, no significant nationwide restrictions are expected this week.

– Poland is dragging its feet on dismantling the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which is one of the key obstacles holding up the approval of the post-pandemic recovery plan by the European Commission.

– Today, 7 October, the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) is set to continue considering a case concerning the primacy of national over EU law. A ruling in favor of national law would further complicate relations with the EU, but the TK will likely postpone its verdict once again.

Hungary

– Infections and deaths are rising slowly and remain among the lowest in the EU on a per capita basis. No significant restrictions are likely in the near term, while any future measures would primarily target unvaccinated residents.

– The share of fully vaccinated residents remains stuck at around 58% as the vaccination campaign is extremely sluggish. However, around 8.6% of the population has already received a third booster dose.

– On 10-16 October, the opposition will hold a second-round runoff to select its prime ministerial candidate in the 2022 general election. All three remaining candidates – Klara Dobrev, Gergely Karacsony, and Peter Marki-Zay – have chances of winning, although Dobrev appears to hold a slight edge after winning the first round.

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