Beating COVID-19: EU Economy Picks Up Pace as ‚Health Pass‘ Pledges to Reopen Travel

Written by | Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic was a preventable disaster that need not have cost millions of lives if the world had reacted more quickly, an independent high-level panel concluded, castigating global leaders and calling for major changes to ensure it cannot happen again. The report by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, chaired by Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, found “weak links at every point in the chain”, whereby this ‘toxic cocktail’ of dithering and poor coordination meant warning signs went unheeded. The report entitled ‚COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic‘ argues that the global alarm system needed overhauling to prevent a similar catastrophe. Clark described February 2020 as “a month of lost opportunity to avert a pandemic, as so many countries chose to wait and see”. While “there were clearly delays in China – but there were delays everywhere,” she said, adding that it was only in March after the WHO described it as a pandemic that countries were jolted into action.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s economy is set to grow faster than expected in 2021 and 2022 thanks to the accelerating pace of vaccination across the bloc and the gradual ease of coronavirus restrictions. As of now, EU countries have administered 175.3 million vaccine doses and almost 30% of the population have received at least one dose. This has led the European Commission to upgrade its economic forecast for the EU’s economy that it predicts will grow by 4.2% (up from 3.7%) while the eurozone will expand by 4.3% (up from 3.8%). Since the coronavirus hit the continent, EU economies have been injecting enormous amounts of fiscal support to prevent companies from going bankrupt and workers from becoming unemployed, which has seen the debt-to-GDP ratio inside the eurozone soar to the highest level ever recorded. The Commission also believes the EU’s unemployment rate will be higher in 2021 (7.6%) than it was in 2020 (7.1%) and will then recede in 2022 (7%).
To further boost the economic growth, the European Commission expects to finish work soon on a COVID-19 certificate that could allow citizens to travel more easily this summer in the 27-nation bloc, the EU executive said on Tuesday (11 May) after a meeting with European affairs ministers. The pass would allow those vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or with negative test results to cross borders within the Schengen area. “For the certificate to work, it has to be on smartphones, it has to be interoperable, possible to check it. So it is quite the task to do it at the pan-European level”, Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi? said after the meeting in Brussels, adding that he expected a full roll-out by the summer. This comes as especially southern European countries are desperate to welcome back holidaymakers. To facilitate international travel, Spain has announced (11 May) to lift its requirement for Britons to present a negative coronavirus PCR test upon arrival from 20 May, provided that the infection rate in Britain keeps declining.

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