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Europe: Managing The Pandemic – What We Are Watching

November 8, 2021
By Antonio Barroso, Carsten Nickel, Andrius Tursa & Wolfango Piccoli

This piece provides snapshots of how selected European governments are dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss any of the countries mentioned in greater detail.

United Kingdom

  • The seven-day average of new infections has fallen back below the mark of 40,000 cases again, but it remains at elevated levels, much higher than in most other places in Europe.
  • The high level of cases relatively early in the autumn and winter season has raised concerns amid the government’s senior scientific advisors, one of whom resigned this week; the fear is that a combination of higher covid infection rates among older people and a more aggressive flu could again test the health system.
  • Despite apparent preparations on the administrative level, the government has so far refused to consider switching to its so-called Plan B which would involve the use of controversial vaccine passports and a return to stricter face covering requirements.

Germany

  • The fourth wave is fully underway, according to Federal Health Secretary Jens Spahn, as the seven-day average of new infections has risen back to just under 20,000 cases, close to levels last seen at the peak of third wave in spring.
  • While Acting Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for another coordination meeting, several of the 16 regional state leaders remain skeptical about the merits of another gathering; while Social Democrat (SPD) state leaders are less keen, members of Merkel’s Christian alliance (CDU/CSU) are pushing for quick decisions.
  • Party politics are a factor to watch in the coming weeks; in the negotiations to form the next government, the SPD accepted demands by the Greens and the center-right Liberals (FDP) to end the nationwide pandemic emergency on 25 November, which might complicate coordination with the regional states.

France

  • The seven-day rolling average of infections remains above 5,000, and the number of hospitalized patients due to Covid-19 has started to rise again. The National Assembly has overridden the Senate in a vote to authorize the government to mandate the use of the health pass until 31 July.
  • The health authorities have still not decided on whether to extend the provision of third doses to the general population. So far, only around one third of those eligible for booster shots have received the dose. The government is considering deactivating their health pass if they do not attend their vaccination appointments.
  • Five candidates have collected the necessary signatures to run in the internal election that the center-right The Republicans (LR) party will hold on 4 December. Former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and former Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand are the front runners to win the contest.

Italy

  • The number of positive cases is increasing by around 30% week-on-week and the occupancy rates of beds in medical and intensive care areas associated with the virus are also no longer decreasing but are stable. The seven-day rolling average of daily cases is around 4,270.
  • Currently, Italy has fully vaccinated almost 76% of the total population. As for the booster shots, only 26% of those eligible (3% of the population) have received it and there are major regional differences in terms of coverage. Italy is set to offer everyone a third dose from January.
  • The authorities are considering extending the Covid-19 health pass system until the Spring of 2022. The government would also need to prolong the state of emergency – which allows pandemic containment measures to be introduced rapidly by government decree. The current expiry date is 31 December.

Spain

  • The seven-day rolling average of cases remains below 2,000, and the number of hospitalizations due to Covid-19 seems to be slightly rising again. With mask wearing still mandatory in indoor spaces, there are no plans at this point to impose additional restrictions to contain the virus.
  • With ERC and PNV having announced last week that they would not veto the draft 2022 budget, the PSOE-Podemos coalition looks increasingly likely to get the accounts passed in parliament. However, the government still has to negotiate concessions with these parties to get the budget approved before end-November.
  • The government has proposed to trade unions and employers an increase in social contributions to boost the funding of pensions, in addition to additional measures that could be adopted in the long term if the sustainability of the system deteriorates. A final decision on the issue will be adopted by 15 November.

Greece

  • The country has seen an unprecedented increase of daily infections since last weekend, while the vaccination rate of the general population has plateaued for some time and the health system is under growing pressure. Greece recorded 6,700 new cases on 2 November, the highest single-day figure since the start of the pandemic.
  • About 61.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, less than the EU average of 65.3%. Letters and text messages on mobile phones will soon be sent as part of a new campaign to boost vaccinations. Athens has ruled out an expansion of mandatory vaccination, which already applies to all health care workers as well as to workers in care homes for the elderly
  • The government’s response to the latest Covid-19 wave targeted exclusively unvaccinated Greeks. From 6 November, all unvaccinated workers should undergo two rapid tests a week instead of one – paid for themselves. To enter most stores, banks and restaurants, they will have to present a negative test too.

Poland

  • The number of hospitalized persons with Covid-19 increased by 47% during the past week and hospital bed occupancy rose to 64% (up from 54% a week ago). The epidemiological situation will continue to deteriorate swiftly as the government still does not plan any significant restrictions in the near term.
  • As of 2 November, booster vaccine doses are available to all adults vaccinated six months ago or earlier. To date, 52% of population has been fully vaccinated and around 2.2% have received a booster shot. The resurging pandemic has also increased the number of new vaccinations to around 0.5% of population per week.
  • The government plans to offer vouchers to around 1.5-2mn households to compensate for the soaring energy prices. The scheme is expected to cost the budget around PLN 3bn (USD 756mn).

Hungary

  • The pandemic is picking up rapidly. The seven-day average of Covid-19-related deaths increased by 62% during the past week, while the number of hospitalized patients shot up by 76% in the same period. The share of positive tests is approaching 15%, which is one of the higher figures in the EU.
  • As of 1 November, the government has tightened mask regime in public places and banned hospital visits. The use “immunity cards” to access public venues/services will likely be expanded in the coming weeks.
  • Following the government’s decision to introduce compulsory vaccinations in all public enterprises starting 15 December, various labor unions – particularly in the transport sector – warn about significant dissatisfaction among their members, potentially leading to a halt in their services.
The views and opinions in these articles are solely of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Teneo. They are offered to stimulate thought and discussion and not as legal, financial, accounting, tax or other professional advice or counsel.

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