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World

Pandemic upsurge hits Europe recovery hopes

  • Credit insurer Euler Hermes estimates that the EU is now seven weeks adrift of its target to have 70 percent of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, compared with five weeks in February.
Published March 28, 2021
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PARIS: An upsurge in new coronavirus cases is forcing governments across Europe into new, damaging lockdowns that threaten to delay a much hoped-for return to growth, economists say.

The plan was that mass vaccination programmes would turn the tide on the pandemic, allowing locked-down consumers free rein after months penned up at home.

Instead the virus has embarked on a third wave which is proving more difficult to bring under control.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned Thursday that the European Union would have to do more and beef up its already massive 750 billion euro ($885 billion) virus recovery fund as a result.

The EU had made a major effort after the first wave last year, Macron said, but "following the second and third waves... we will no doubt have to add to our response".

In September, as the economy picked up sharply after a rapid reverse in the first wave, expectations were high that by the middle of this year it would be solidly back on track, thanks especially to the vaccine rollout.

123 billion euro delay

Just a couple of weeks ago, European Central Bank head Christine Lagarde was even talking about a "firm rebound in activity in the second half of the year".

Now the EU's strongest economies -- Germany, France and Italy -- have reimposed restrictions and the vaccine programme in Europe is mired in a blame game over supplies.

Credit insurer Euler Hermes estimates that the EU is now seven weeks adrift of its target to have 70 percent of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, compared with five weeks in February.

It estimates the delay will cost the bloc's 27 member states some 123 billion euros this year.

"If you compare us with the US, where the outlook is so much more positive, we are falling further behind on the recovery because of this third wave," said Charlotte de Montpellier, economist with Dutch bank ING.

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