‘Virus metrics are getting uglier’: Why COVID-ravaged Europe is locking down again

March 19, 2021, 2:32 PM UTC

A brutal third wave of COVID-19 is sending Europe back indoors.

The eurozone’s biggest economies—Germany, France, and Italy—have either introduced stricter measures that call for the closing of schools, no in-restaurant dining, and restricted movement within cities or regions—or they soon will.

The big culprit is the highly virulent B.1.1.7 variant (a.k.a., the British variant), and to a lesser degree the P1 mutation, which originated in Brazil and has made its way to Europe in recent weeks, triggering a recent spike in cases. The trend suggests another wave is inevitable.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus mutations are sending hospitalizations and death rates higher as the bloc’s vaccination campaigns sputter.

“Virus metrics are getting uglier in France and Italy,” BofA Securities strategists write in an investor note on Friday. They lay out the cold, hard facts: Vaccinations are falling behind as infections rise.

Unlike last spring, it’s not just the elderly who’ve been hard hit.

“Vaccinations of the 80Y+ cohort can reduce COVID-related deaths significantly,” they continue, “but ICU patients are mostly younger than that, so immunization will not help much on this, until broader segments of the population are vaccinated. And filled ICUs lead to new restrictions.”

Sure enough, hospital beds are filling up fast.

And while the Biden administration is targeting July 4 as a kind of “independence day” from COVID, the European Union continues to fall further behind the curve. According to BofA Securities, the EU won’t get the bulk of its Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson shipments until the summer.

The BofA table above breaks out vaccine shipments (in millions). Even with the bulk of shipments arriving in Q3 of 2021, there are now serious doubts the EU will hit its goal of vaccinating 70% of the population by September.

This post has been updated to clarify the COVID vaccine shipment amounts due to arrive in the EU this year.