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Spread of Delta variant casts shadow over Europe’s economic rebound

The rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant is causing economists to worry that Europe’s brightening economic outlook risks being undermined by rising infection levels and the reintroduction of travel and social restrictions.

The lifting of most lockdown measures across the region in recent months has led to a surge in business activity, retail spending and household confidence, prompting many economists to upgrade their forecasts for European growth.

However, those assumptions are being thrown into doubt now that the highly infectious Delta variant already accounts for the majority of new cases in many European countries and is driving infection rates up to their highest level for months.

“I’m a bit more nervous that it could get derailed by Delta,” said Erik Nielsen, chief economist at UniCredit, which has raised its eurozone growth forecast for this year from 4 to 4.5 per cent. “It has to get quite bad before we get another lockdown, but Google mobility data shows that it is not so much the lockdowns that drive behaviour but voluntary restraint.”

On Friday, Germany and France warned their citizens against travel to Spain, where the coronavirus infection rate has surpassed Portugal to become the highest in mainland Europe, dealing a blow to its tourism sector at the start of the crucial summer season.

Pablo Hernández de Cos, governor of the Bank of Spain, said its forecasts for strong growth were “based on the assumption that the health crisis would be over after the summer” and that Spain’s tourism sector would achieve half its pre-pandemic income this summer, up from a fifth last year. He warned that there was still “uncertainty surrounding the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the containment measures that these might necessitate”.

The Netherlands said on Friday it would reintroduce restrictions on restaurants, bars, cafés, nightclubs and live events — only two weeks after lifting them — because of a more than tenfold rise in the country’s daily infection rate to almost 7,000 in that period.

Cyprus also reintroduced rules on the number of people allowed at hospitality and entertainment venues last week after its daily coronavirus infection rate hit a high for the year. Meanwhile, Portugal said holidaymakers must be vaccinated, have a negative test or have recovered from the virus to stay in its hotels or eat inside restaurants in many areas.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Friday that the weekly Covid-19 infection rate for the EU and European Economic Area had risen to 51.6 per 100,000 people, up from 38.6 the previous week, while the hospitalisation and death rates were stable. It forecast the infection rate would exceed 90 per 100,000 people in four weeks.

“There are reasons to be concerned, as the risks are there and there seems to be negative momentum,” said Carsten Brzeski, head of macro research at ING. 

Last week, the European Commission raised its forecasts for EU growth in 2021 to 4.8 per cent, after a record contraction of 6.2 per cent last year. Its prediction would be the most rapid expansion seen since 1976 and would mean the EU’s economy regained its pre-pandemic level of output by the end of this year.

Paolo Gentiloni, the EU’s economics commissioner, said the EU’s forecasts did not factor in the prospect of a new wave triggered by the Delta variant, but this was a “downside risk”. He played down the likelihood of fresh lockdowns, saying: “We don’t see a tendency towards new restrictions . . . we see a tendency towards easing restrictions in important countries.”

Some economists take comfort from the fact that most Delta infections have been among younger people who are less likely to fall seriously ill. Hospitalisations and deaths from the virus remain very low, while more than 44 per cent of EU adults are fully vaccinated.

“Thanks to rapid vaccination progress, we still consider it unlikely that countries will again have to impose serious restrictions to economic activity to contain the medical risks,” said Kallum Pickering, economist at Berenberg.

The Spanish government argues that hospitalisation rates remain low — with only 2.6 per cent of beds occupied by Covid patients compared with 2 per cent a week ago — and that the infection rate is less significant than the rising share of fully vaccinated people.

Additional reporting by Daniel Dombey in Madrid and Sam Fleming in Brussels

Rafael Nadal casts doubt over Wimbledon appearance after Novak Djokovic defeat

Asked if his appearance at Wimbledon was now in danger, the champion in 2008 and 2010 said: “I don’t know what I’ll do in my future.

“After two intense months in a positive gravel season without having achieved the final goal, I have managed to achieve two titles.

“The body after so much struggle usually suffers a slump. Wimbledon this year is in two weeks. It’s different from when I was 25 years old. I am 35 and you have to see how I recover in every way.

“I need to digest it all, be calm, take a few days off and go home. We have been locked up in Paris for two and a half weeks and I need to breathe a little, enjoy the good weather in Mallorca and what is going to happen is of little importance ”.

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This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed

Tyson Fury casts doubt on Anthony Joshua unification bout despite Bob Arum comments

Tyson Fury has suggested that his highly-anticipated heavyweight unification fight with Anthony Joshua may not be as close to fruition as previously reported. A meeting between the two British champions has been in the works for some time, with Fury’s promoter Bob Arum claiming earlier this month that a deal has been agreed and is ready to be signed off.
Negotiations are believed to be at an advanced stage, with only a few details including the fight date and location yet to be ironed out.

Both Fury and Joshua have repeatedly expressed their desire to face one another over the last few months.

The eventual winner of the bout would become the first undisputed champion of the division since Lennox Lewis in 1999, with all four versions of the heavyweight title up for grabs.

Although all the murmurs since Joshua’s victory over Kubrat Pulev in December have pointed to a unification fight happening sooner rather than later, Fury has poured cold water on the possibility of an imminent announcement.

The ‘Gypsy King’ told IFL TV that a number of potential setbacks could still put an end to negotiations, claiming that Arum and Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn are only talking about the bout in order to maintain the buzz and anticipation surrounding it.

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“Eddie Hearn’s a boxing promoter, so is Bob Arum. It’s their job to sell the fight,” said Fury, who has not entered the ring since his win over Deontay Wilder in February of last year.

“Joshua is saying what he’s saying, I don’t know what he’s saying, I’m not on social media at the moment at all. So whatever they say is very unimportant to me.

“Until I’ve got a date, a fight date, and a hell of a load of money in my pocket, there’s no fight. There’s a lot of things going on, that people don’t know [about] behind the scenes, that could scupper a fight like that.

“So nothing’s actually on until you’re actually in the ring. We’re nowhere near that at the moment.”

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When pressed on what he could do in order to push through a deal, Fury argued that his hands are tied as he is not involved in the crunch talks between Arum and Hearn.

He stressed that nothing is imminent, but expressed his belief that he will eventually trade blows with Joshua at some point regardless of how current talks proceed.

“It’s out of my hands, it’s nothing to do with me,” added Fury. “Nothing to do with me at all, I’m just a boxer.

“There’s a lot of things behind the scenes going on like I say that can alter a fight.

“Do I think I’m going to be fighting Joshua in the next ten minutes? Hell no. Do I think the fight will eventually happen sooner or later? Yes.

“It has to happen, but do I think it’s imminent, right next minute? No, I don’t. We’ve seen Mayweather and Pacquiao, how long did that go on for?”

Fury is yet to taste defeat in his professional career but could face his toughest challenge to date against Joshua, who has just one stain on his otherwise unblemished record.

The Watford-born fighter was sensationally stopped in 2018 by Andy Ruiz Jr, a result that was successfully avenged a year later.

Fury’s closest shave came in the final round of his first meeting with Wilder, when he was brutally knocked to the canvas by the big-punching American.

The 32-year-old somehow rose to his feet to see out the fight, which ultimately ended in a controversial draw.