Despite the fact that the European Region on WHO dashboard has accounted for more than half of the over 200,000 global COVID-19 deaths, many European countries are forced to fight a two-front battle to save both life and livelihood amid deepening economic woes.
FROM “STAY HOME” TO “STAY SAFE”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis outlined on Tuesday the government’s plan for gradual transition to normalcy after lifting the nationwide lockdown on May 4.
During a televised address to the nation, he told citizens the country’s new motto after May 4 would be “stay safe” rather than “We stay home” during the lockdown.
“We are coming back, but we remain cautious. Above all we remain safe,” the PM said.
The motto change in Greece partially reflects the strategy adjustment across Europe, as in the coming May, a wide exit from lockdown is expected on the continent, with Austria on May 1, Portugal on May 2, Spain and Italy beginning on May 4, and France from May 11.
Italy started with the manufacturing, construction, and wholesale sectors, which will be followed by retailers, museums, galleries, and libraries on May 18, and bars, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons on June 1.
France’s relaxation comes after the lockdown brought the country’s economic activities to a standstill in six weeks.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Tuesday when presenting the “deconfinement” plan to the national assembly that “the prolonged large-scale stop of our economy, the lasting disturbance in the education of a great number of children and teenagers, the interruption of public and private investments, the closure of borders, the extreme restriction of movements… will give the country not only the painful inconvenience of confinement, but, in reality and for the worse, the risk of collapse.”
“It is time to tell the French how our life can resume,” he added.
The battle to save lives from virus is costing many people’s livelihood. Economic output in Germany, a major economic engine in Europe, collapsed by 16 percent during the coronavirus shutdowns, according to a company survey published by the ifo Institute on Tuesday.
Gross domestic product (GDP) in Germany was likely to have fallen by 1.9 percent in the first quarter before collapsing by 12.2 percent in the second quarter, according to ifo.
In 2020, economic output adjusted for calendar effects in Germany was expected to shrink by 6.6 percent, according to the survey of around 8,800 German companies. “We will not return to pre-coronavirus conditions until the end of 2021,” said Timo Wollmershaeuser, head of forecasts at ifo.
While limiting people at home, the lockdown is starving enterprises. More than 2.2 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Germany recorded sales losses in March due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a company survey published by the German development bank KfW on Tuesday.
According to the survey on about 3,400 companies, SMEs in Germany lost around 75 billion euros (81 billion U.S. dollars) or 2 percent of their annual turnover in March. More than half of all German companies had recorded sales losses and German SMEs had lost an average of 53 percent of anticipated turnover in March.
Along with the business slump comes the devastation in labor market. The labor market barometer of the German Institute for Employment Research (IAB) dropped by 6.8 points in April compared to the previous month, and for the next three months it fell to 93.5 points, the lowest value in its history, the IAB announced on Tuesday.
“The decline is unprecedented,” said the IAB, the research institute of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency.
The devastating consequences are being felt across Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic has idled nearly a quarter of the Romanian labor force in the private sector, the data released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection on Monday revealed.
Riksbank, the Swedish central bank, on Tuesday projected that the country’s GDP will shrink by up to 9.7 percent this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid the economic woes across the continent, Europeans are carefully walking out of home and back to work. “Recover daily life without risking the health of the people,” the words from Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez represent the strategy in Europe’s two-front war. Enditem