coronavirus

Europe's Second Wave Shows Signs of Slowing After New Lockdowns

Diego Puletto | Getty Images News | Getty Images
  • new lockdowns and tough social restrictions were reintroduced across numerous European countries in October in an effort to contain the second wave.
  • The latest numbers suggest these steps seem to be working.
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that the restrictions were causing case numbers to stabilize "somewhat, but too slowly."

LONDON — The second wave of the coronavirus in Europe has started to show signs of slowing, but experts have warned that it's too early to get complacent.

European countries have been grappling with a second wave of infections since September, but the latest numbers show a stabilization in new cases in Germany, Spain and Italy, and a decline in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. 

It comes after new lockdowns and tough social restrictions were reintroduced across numerous European countries in October in an effort to contain the second wave; the latest numbers suggest these steps seem to be working.

"These countries and some other parts of continental Europe may be close to turning the corner again, or may already have done so," Florian Hense, economist at Berenberg, said Tuesday.

Belgium, for instance, which had been experiencing some of the highest Covid-19 daily infections in Europe, has been reporting lower numbers. Daily infections peaked on Oct. 30 near 24,000, while on Monday there were 4,659 new cases.

"For now, the trend is good," Simon Dellicour, a bioengineer and research associate at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, told CNBC on Monday, in reference to Belgium.

The country's government twice stepped up restrictions last month to deal with the post-summer surge in cases, and people are now working from home and cannot visit the houses of family and friends, for instance.

Dellicour told CNBC that these moves have started to impact the number of cases and the latest round of restrictions should help to further reduce new infections.

However, he said: "It's too soon to claim victory," and added that any easing of current restrictions needed to be done carefully to avoid a third wave.

Meanwhile in Germany, which has been locked down to some extent since Nov. 2, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that the restrictions were causing case numbers to stabilize "somewhat, but too slowly."

The largest economy in Europe reported 10,824 new cases on Monday, compared with 16,947 the previous day.

In Italy, there were 27,354 new cases on Monday, compared with 40,092 on Friday. The southern European country also stepped up restrictions earlier this month, but they're not yet as severe as in the first wave when schools and universities were also closed.

A mixed picture across Europe

However, Hense from Berenberg warned that, "the picture remains mixed with still high or still rising infection rates in other countries."

This is the case in the Czech Republic, Austria, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein. They have the highest 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 infections per 100 000 inhabitants in Europe, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

In Luxembourg and the Czech Republic, for instance, the numbers have not yet shown a clear sign that new infections are coming down, according to data form John Hopkins University. On Monday the countries reported 1,325 and 5,407 new Covid cases respectively, compared to 713 on Friday and 7,355 on Sunday, according to JHU.

However, despite this mixed picture, some are optimistic that Europe's latest set of restrictions might be eased in a few weeks.

JP Morgan noted that the measures taken across the region in the wake of the second wave had started to bear fruit, meaning that they could potentially be eased in time for Christmas.

"Lockdowns should be eased by early December, which will allow a strong bounce in economic and social activity ahead of the holiday season," David Mackie, an economist at JPMorgan, said on Thursday.=

"Whether or not there is another European lockdown during the early months of next year remains to be seen, and much depends on developments in the vaccine candidates. But, for now, enough has been done to turn infections around."

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A sign with a reference to the rules of hygiene during the Corona pandemic with the inscription "Please disinfect your hands" is placed at a closed booth for a small Christmas market at Potsdamer Platz.
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