EU fears that COVID outbreak will slow economic recovery

The strong rebound in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent weeks is threatening the European Union’s recovery after the deep economic recession caused by the pandemic last year, the bloc’s economic chief warned on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, EU medical experts warned that the public health situation could get much worse.

Just two weeks ago, the EU executive raised his growth forecast for an economy emerging from the worst of the pandemic, but Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Wednesday that optimistic outlook was again in doubt, amid the increase in infections and the reintroduction of restrictions by a growing number of member states.

The fear is that the forecast of 5% growth for this fall in the 19-member eurozone could be affected by the new crisis caused by the virus.

“Our message is: let’s take the situation very seriously,” Gentiloni said, “but without thinking that the economic impact is going to be the same as a year ago.”

Medical experts warned that there will be more difficulties ahead and called for urgent measures that could impact crucial sectors such as the restaurant, bar and tourism branches, already battered by the virus last year.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a report Wednesday that it expects the burden of the highly infectious delta variant “to be very high in December and January,” unless governments take drastic measures and that vaccinations increase further.

All of this contradicts initial expectations for the Christmas season, when it was thought that Europeans, freed from COVID-19 restrictions, would spend their forced savings in the last year, giving the economy a significant boost.

Now, the ECDC warned, “the end-of-year holiday season is traditionally associated with activities such as social gatherings, shopping and travel, which pose significant additional risks to an intensified transmission of the delta variant.”