The pandemic in Europe
What has gone wrong?
The European Union has handled covid-19 poorly. Why, and what does it mean for the union?
Look around the world at the devastation wrought by the covid-19 pandemic and something odd stands out. The European Union is rich, scientifically advanced and endowed with excellent health-care and welfare systems and a political consensus tilted strongly towards looking after its citizens. Yet during the pandemic it has stumbled.
In the brutal and blunt league table of fatalities, the EU as a whole has done less badly than Britain or America, with 138 recorded deaths per 100,000, compared with 187 and 166 respectively— though Hungary, the Czech Republic and Belgium have all fared worse than either. However, it is in the grip of a vicious surge fuelled by a deadly variant. That underlines the peril of Europe’s low rate of vaccination. According to our tracker, 58% of British adults have had a jab, compared with 38% of Americans and just 14% of EU citizens. European countries are also behind on the other criterion of a covid-19 scorecard, the economy. In the last quarter of 2020 America was growing at an annualised rate of 4.1%. In the euro area the economy was still shrinking. A year ago Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s prime minister, called covid-19 the worst crisis to afflict the EU since the second world war. How has its response gone so wrong?