Light at the End of Tunnel? – Europe’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hopes Tempered by ECB’s Boss

Written by | Friday, November 13th, 2020

The United Kingdom has become the first country in Europe to pass 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to latest figures. On Wednesday (11 November), the country recorded an additional 595 daily deaths and another 22,000 cases of the virus. It comes as the UK attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19 with new lockdown measures with non-essential shops, pubs, and restaurants closed, though schools are remaining open as they are in many other European countries. “The virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers,” UK PM Boris Johnson said when announcing the lockdown on Halloween. Also Spain’s rate of new cases continued to soar, with its coronavirus death toll surging to over 40,000 with infections passing the 1.4 million mark. A further 349 people died within 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 40,105 in the country – the fourth-highest within the European Union after the United Kingdom, France and Italy.
Cyprus is yet another country that has announced partial lockdowns in the towns of Paphos and Limassol to curb a surge in COVID-19 cases. The local measures, which include a ban on travel into and out of the towns and a nightly curfew, will take effect from Thursday (12 November) and last until the end of November. In Sweden, its PM, Stefan Lofven, said his government plans to ban nationwide the sale of alcohol after 10pm in bars, restaurants and night clubs from 20 November in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Sweden has witnessed record numbers of new coronavirus infections in past weeks, which is burdening the country’s health care system and intensive care wards. On the other hand, the Czech Republic will reopen the 1st and 2nd grades of elementary schools on 18 November as the latest data show a drop in new COVID-19 cases in Europe’s worst-hit country in the second wave.
Meanwhile, the EU’s first vaccinations against COVID-19 could take place, in an „optimistic“ scenario, in the first quarter of 2021, a European health chief, Andrea Ammon, has said. Her comments come after Pfizer and BioNTech said their potential vaccine had been found to be more than 90% effective. “This is the most promising vaccine so far,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who also added, “Once this vaccine becomes available, our plan is to deploy it quickly, everywhere in Europe.”Brussels has reportedly signed a deal to secure up to 300 million doses of BioNTech and Pfizer’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, whereby it will pay less than $19.50 per jab, according to a senior EU official involved in talks with vaccine makers. The price is less than $19.50 per jab for 100 million doses that the United States agreed to pay, but the price agreed by the bloc partly reflects the financial support given by the EU and Germany for the drug’s development.
However, European Central Bank (ECB) president Christine Lagarde on Wednesday (11 November) warned of an “unsteady” eurozone recovery from the pandemic despite “encouraging” news about a vaccine. Speaking in virtual forum on central banking, Lagarde cautioned that “until widespread immunity is achieved, we could still face recurring cycles of accelerating viral spread and tightening restrictions.“ While COVID-19 has been reported as having already put 3 million young Europeans out of work this year, the ECB’s boss warned that „the recovery may not be linear, but rather unsteady, stop-start and contingent on the pace of vaccine roll-out.”

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