Kate Andrews Kate Andrews

Europe’s long Covid: things aren’t getting better any time soon

[Getty Images]

China is now suffering only mild symptoms from the global pandemic. It is Europe that is stuck with the dreaded long Covid. The Chinese economy has rebounded and its exports are going through the roof, as it sells medical equipment to a world devastated by the pandemic it covered up. The virus originated in Wuhan, yet China has avoided much of the pain, despite how slow Beijing was to admit to the initial outbreak. But eurozone economies were a tenth smaller this spring than at the start of the year.

Only a few weeks ago, it had seemed that Britain — and Europe — was on a steady path to recovery. The UK economy seemed to be bouncing back. This stood to reason: we have significantly more control over Covid-19 than we did in March. We’re armed with more facts, including fatality rates — 0.05 per cent for under-seventies. Treatments have come a long way. We’ve traded ventilators for anti-inflammatories, and are saving thousands of lives because of this. Second waves of Covid, while on the rise in Europe, have not yet come close to reaching infection rates or the death toll we experienced the first-time round.

It was possible — in theory — for the West to continue the job of social and economic repair while regarding Covid as a manageable risk. But that battle was played out over the summer when Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, subsidised people to ‘help out’ by eating out — the opposite message to ‘stay at home, save lives’. It seems Sunak has lost the argument now. Wales is returning to its ‘stay at home’ messaging with a 17-day lockdown, Northern Ireland is in a ‘circuit breaker’, and more than 28 million people across England are no longer able to meet up with friends and family in pubs or restaurants.

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