Covid cases are on the rise again in Europe, while a new variant is detected in South Africa that shook global stock exchanges on Friday. Countries like Austria once again adopt massive lockdown measuresWhile in Germany we see unpublished images, even during the toughest moments of the pandemic, with airplanes transferring infected to hospitals in other countries and the Army supporting the vaccination of the population. And if the prices of large tourism, financial, oil companies … were severely punished at the end of last week due to investors’ fear of a new slowdown in the economic recovery, small and medium-sized companies tremble at the possible closures that have just sunk their
already run down businesses.
“We will again refuse to choose between health and economy,” he said. Javier Fernández-Lasquetty, Minister of Finance, Economy and Employment of the Community of Madrid, in a round table at the first Aecem Congress, which was held last Thursday in Madrid. But not all politicians have it so clear. The Government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso took a risk last winter, and through selective perimeter closures, managed to keep not at full capacity, but at least open, commerce, restaurants, gyms … many of them in the hands of freelancers and small businesses. And it didn’t go wrong. Madrid suffered the Covid more than any other place in Spain in the first wave, when everything was closed tight, but late. However, in the rest of the waves, and despite having not as drastic measures for the economy as the rest of the communities, it managed to maintain the health figures, if not better than other communities, not worse either.
Some may have learned their lesson, if only for electoral interest. Citizens ratified at the polls their support for the policy that Isabel Diaz Ayuso and his government carried out during the pandemic. But businessmen do not have all of them with them and fear that some autonomies will re-implement the dreaded confinements and closures of shops and hotels, which have done so much damage to them. Logically the easiest thing to avoid contagions is to close everything, but after almost two years of a pandemic that is not acceptable. They could already do that in the Middle Ages. The challenge is to make the economy as compatible as possible with health, taking into account what has been learned in these almost two years.
Nor can we forget that unlike last year, we have a great ally to mitigate the pandemic, or at least its effects: vaccines. Yes, yes, we have to do everything possible to convince those who have not yet done so to inoculate themselves, not only for them, but for everyone else. And although in Spain, with current legislation, it would be practically impossible to impose mandatory vaccination, measures can be taken to isolate the unvaccinated. And the requirement of the Covid passport to enter in places where contagion is easier, it is a totally reasonable and effective measure to avoid this expansion. What is not understood is that the autonomies have to be at the mercy of the court on duty to let them or not demand it. It is, without a doubt, a measure that should have legal support at the state level, although later each community may or may not apply it. And entrepreneurs undoubtedly prefer that to new closings.
Perhaps the only positive thing we experienced on Friday was the fall in the price of oil. The Biden agreement, with China, Japan, the United Kingdom, India and South Korea to release strategic reserves and thus lower the price, now coupled with the fear of this slowdown in the economy can help curb the price of crude oil, and thereby contain, at least in part, inflation.
And with the fear of the spread of the virus as a backdrop, small and medium-sized companies strive not to lose the opportunities that European funds represent for them. The biggest challenge, say businessmen, politicians and economists is getting the funds to reach the last mile, to the smallest. They need them to digitize and adapt to this new world in which the commitment to new technologies is no longer an option to become a matter of survival. The Covid rebound makes everything a little more difficult.