In this issue: EU opening external borders, EU exceptional state aid rules extended until end of 2021, European People’s Party calling on the EU for better cooperation in healthcare.
The Commission has announced that certain state aid rules will be extended until the end of 2021, including guidelines on regional state aid, state aid to promote risk finance investments and more. The move is to “provide predictability and legal certainty, while preparing for a future update of the state aid rules.” Guidelines on state aid for rescuing and restructuring non-financial undertakings in difficulty, the block extension regulations and de minimis regulation are extended until the end of 2023.
State Aid:Since this newsletter was published last, the Commission approved a number of Member State state-aid applications under the temporary framework for state aid. Below is an overview, and here are all the details.
- France: €30 billion subordinated loan scheme to support companies
- Croatia: €80 million to support companies in the maritime, transport, travel and infrastructure sectors
- The Netherlands: 1.4 billion scheme to support SMEs
Political Groups: The European People’s Party (EPP) has called on the EU to step up to ensure better cooperation across Member States to respond to health issues in the future. The largest party in the European Parliament states that to be better coordinated it is supporting funds to build a better hospital infrastructure and health services, supporting the development, production and shared distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine, encouraging digital solutions to fight Covid-19 and more.
- Opening borders: The Council has announced that it has adopted a recommendation that will lift the restrictions on non-essential travel from non-EU countries. The list will be reviewed every two weeks. The Council recommends that from 1 July the following countries have their travel restrictions removed: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China – subject to reciprocity. The US is notably left off the non-legally binding list.
- Agriculture SME assistance: The Council has adopted a regulation that “allows member states, as an exceptional measure, to pay up to €7,000 to farmers and up to €50,000 to small and medium enterprises (SME’s) active in processing, marketing or development of agricultural products or cotton, except fishery products.”
Mobility, Transport, and Trade
EASA outlines airline risks: The EU Aviation Safety Association, in conjunction with the General Aviation community, has published a poster that provides an overview of measure that can be taken to reduce the risk of virus spread. The poster includes recommendations for crew, as well as a health status checklist for crew and passengers.
ACEA calls for truck driver support: ACEA has issued a statement noting that while truck drivers ensured Europeans were able to get necessary supplies during Covid-19, the current recovery plan mainly focuses on passenger cares, overlooking heavy-duty vehicles. Director-General Eric-Mark Huitema states that the Member States’ schemes “fall remarkably short when it comes to much-needed measures for the commercial vehicle market, which has also plummeted to an all-time low.”
Tracing app cooperation: German ambassador to the UK has announced that Germany and UK are discussing potential cooperation on the German Covid-19 tracing app. However, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has previously said that making the app available abroad might run into legal issues due to privacy concerns. The UK announced last week that it was postponing its tracing app due to accuracy issues.
Vaccine Development & European Health Resilience
140,000 excess deaths: In March and April alone the number of additional deaths due to Covid-19 is estimated to be 140,000 according to Eurostat. The data covers 90% of all deaths in Europe but does not include deaths from the UK, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania or Slovenia. The data is taken from 2 March to 26 April, with the peak occurring the week ending on 5 April.
Covid on the decline in Europe: The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has announced that between 16-30 June the rate of Covid-19 infection have dropped 12%. However, it did stress that some countries are seeing a resurgence of cases, or large localised outbreaks.
The Republic of Gilead/USA: The US government and Gilead Sciences have agreed to an arrangement where the US will buy 500,000 doses of remdesivr for use in American hospitals. Gilead’s licensing deal for production outside the US, mainly for distribution in 127 poorer countries, is still in early stages. Tests show that remdesivr cuts recovery time, while it’s not yet clear if it improves survival rates. The deal between the US government and Gilead was met with criticism, as it means that the drug will be in short supply out of the US. The European Medicines Agency has recently recommended a conditional marketing authorisation for the drug; the fast tracked procedure allows it to be placed on the market more quickly.
WHO is missing money: The WHO initiative to ramp up research and development of new Covid-19 diagnostics and vaccines needs $31.3 billion over the next 12 months – but currently has only received $3.5 billion. The initiative, Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, was launched at the end of April and focuses on accelerated development and equitable allocation of Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.
Wait 2 weeks before an antibody test: Research recently published by Cochrane found that accuracy of antibody tests increase over time, with two kinds of tests picking up 9 out of 10 positive cases between 15 and 35 days after infection was identified. Their research also notes that there isn’t yet enough data to determine whether antibody tests offer utility in a public health management sense. The organisation also made clear that their research was done on hospitalised patients, meaning they likely had higher amounts of antibodies than those who were able to stay home. The lead author, Jon Deeks, added that he’s optimistic about the prospect of antibody test accuracy going forward.
Ski resort antibodies: Over 42% of residents in Ischgl have Covid-19 antibodies according to research by the University of Innsbruck. Ischgl authorities responded to the March outbreak slowly, allowing thousands of infected tourists to return home from ski holidays to spread the disease around Europe. Dorothee von Leer, who supervised the study, noted that “this is the highest proportion of antibody-positive individuals in any region published to date,” and that only 15% of those who tested positive for antibodies were aware they had contracted the virus. The study also found lower evidence of antibodies in children, where 27% carried antibodies. Von Laer was clear to stress that even with the large number of residents carrying antibodies, “this does not imply herd immunity.”
EU’s slow response + Brexit = poor crisis management: Former French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn was summoned by a French inquiry commission that will spend the next 6 months interviewing former ministers, officials and scientists to determine how health policies of the last 10 years impacted the country’s crisis management. Buzyn told the commission that it was a “battle” to get EU health ministers together and that Brexit complicated the response.
Chinese Covid-19 vax for army: A Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in in the Chinese military for one year. The vaccine is one of China’s eight that has been approved for human trials, and also got the greenlight for human testing in Canada. The Vaccine was developed by CanSino and the Academy of Military Science.
Italian blame game: Italian banks and the government are trading blame over who is slowing down emergency loan payments to small businesses. The Italian competition authority has accused banks of deliberately delaying and hindering access to Covid-19 related loans and has opened probes into four banks. The Italian business lobby has instead blamed excessive bureaucracy for the delays, not collusion between banks. Italy’s central bank published figures in May that showed banks had provided loans for approximately €10 billion, but the applications amounted to €50 billion.