The spread of Delta variants casts a shadow over the European economic rebound

The rapid spread of variants of the Delta coronavirus has caused economists to worry that Europe’s increasingly bright economic outlook may be undermined by rising infection levels and the re-implementation of travel and social restrictions.

The lifting of most of the blockade measures in the area in recent months has resulted in Surge In terms of business activities, retail spending and household confidence, many economists have raised their forecasts for European economic growth.

However, due to the highly contagious virus, these assumptions are being questioned. Delta variant Already accounted for the majority of new cases in many European countries, and is pushing the infection rate to its highest level in months.

“I am a little worried that Delta Air Lines may derail,” UniCredit chief economist Eric Nielsen said, the company has raised its forecast for economic growth in the euro zone this year from 4% to 4.5%. “Before we block it again, the situation must get very bad, but Google mobile data shows that it is not the blockade that drives the behavior, but voluntary restraint.”

On Friday, Germany and France warned their citizens not to travel to Spain, where the coronavirus infection rate has surpassed that of Portugal. Highest In continental Europe, its tourism industry was hit at the beginning of the critical summer.

Pablo Hernández de Cos, President of the Bank of Spain, stated that his forecast for strong growth is “based on the assumption that the health crisis will end after the end of the summer” and that Spain’s tourism industry will achieve half of its pre-pandemic revenue this summer, from last year The fifth place rises. He warned that “there is still uncertainty surrounding the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the containment measures that may be required”.

The Netherlands said on Friday that it will re-implement restrictions In restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs, and live events-only two weeks after cancellation-because the country’s daily infection rate has increased more than tenfold during this period, reaching nearly 7,000.

After its daily coronavirus infection rate hit its highest level this year, Cyprus also reintroduced regulations on the number of people allowed to enter hotels and entertainment venues last week. At the same time, Portugal stated that in many regions, vacationers must be vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the virus before staying in their hotels or dining in restaurants.

European Center for Disease Control and Prevention Say On Friday, the weekly Covid-19 infection rate in the European Union and the European Economic Area rose from 38.6 the previous week to 51.6 per 100,000 people, while the hospitalization rate and death rate remained stable. It predicts that the infection rate will exceed 90 per 100,000 people within four weeks.

Carsten Brzeski, head of macro research at ING, said: “There is reason to worry because there are risks and there seems to be a negative momentum.”

Last week, the European Commission Improved forecast Following a record contraction of 6.2% last year, the EU will grow by 4.8% in 2021. Its forecast will be the fastest expansion since 1976, which means that the EU economy will resume its pre-pandemic output levels by the end of this year.

EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni (Paolo Gentiloni) said that the EU’s forecast does not take into account the prospects for a new wave of Delta variables, but this is a “downside risk.” He downplayed the possibility of a new blockade, saying: “We have not seen the trend of new restrictions… We have seen the trend of loosening restrictions in important countries.”

Some economists are relieved that most people infected in the Delta are young people who are unlikely to get seriously ill. The number of hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus is still low, and more than 44% of EU adults have been fully vaccinated.

“Because of the rapid progress in vaccination, we still believe that countries are unlikely to again impose strict restrictions on economic activities to control medical risks,” said Berenberg economist Callum Pickering.

The Spanish government argues that the hospitalization rate is still low-Covid patients occupy only 2.6% of the beds, compared to 2% a week ago-and the infection rate is not as significant as the increase in the proportion of fully vaccinated people.

Additional reporting by Daniel Dombey in Madrid and Sam Fleming in Brussels

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