Let’s take a quick holiday from the American election. By ‘holiday’ I mean a review of European countries’ preparedness to tackle the new strain of Covid-19. Well, you didn’t actually think you’d be going anywhere, did you?
Yesterday, the European commission approved the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Good news, even if it comes amid accusations from some EU governments that the commission has been too slow to buy and approve vaccines. Individual governments can, however, hardly blame the commission for the massive inconsistencies in roll-out. At the start of week, France reported only 500 vaccinated patients: not a patch on Germany’s 200,000 but far better than the Netherlands, where vaccinations only began yesterday.
Poland remains in a strict national lockdown while Italy, which was due to ease restrictions from today, has instead extended them. Unless vaccination rates pick up rapidly, their neighbours may soon have to follow this tough approach.
For the beleaguered French p, Emmanuel Macron, his government’s lethargy may not be the only hold-up. In the final week of last year, Ipsos found only 40% of French respondents would accept a vaccine if available: the lowest figure of any of the 15 countries surveyed and behind the UK at 77%. In Germany, the deployment of 2,000 troops to help administer the vaccine has sparked consternation among left-wing local authorities. In 2021, the spirit of ’68 may persist in infections more than insurrections.
It’s not all doom and dissent. Although Belgium will not vaccinate key workers until the spring, its government’s action offers hope that tough lockdown measures can work. In October, its case numbers were spiralling. From November, the government moved to consistent, strict measures that now put its case rate at the lower end of EU countries.
We are yet to see how well the continent will react to the potential spread of the new strain of Covid-19. I will, though, make one relucant recommendation: don’t book a gîte just yet.