By Stefan J. Bos
The official Eurostat agency reveals a grim outlook for several European nations amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections. Spain has plunged into its deepest recession in modern times by the coronavirus pandemic and related government-imposed measures.
The official figures show its economy shrank by 18.5 percent in the April-to-June period. It already fell 5.2 percent in the first three months of the year. The country was the worst performer in the eurozone, the countries that use the euro as their primary currency.
It saw its overall Gross Domestic Product declined by a record 12.1 percent.
France's economy has also been badly hit, with GDP there falling by 13.8 percent in the second quarter. The French statistics agency said the low point had come in April, with a gradual recovery in May and June as lockdown restrictions eased. But economic activity was still well below average.
Italy, which was among the first European countries to be hit by the pandemic, has reported a similar drop, with the economy contracting by 12.4 percent.
However, the fall was less steep than expected.
Across the EU, the economic contraction was nearly 12 percent. The Eurostat agency said the falls were the largest since it began recording the figures in 1995.
Britain, which left the EU, also struggles with the coronavirus pandemic. And its prime minister Boris Johnson, who himself survived Covid-19, warns of a second wave of infections.
"Let's be absolutely clear about what is happening in Europe and among some of our European friends. I am afraid that you are going to see the signs of a second wave of the pandemic," he stressed.
"And we all remember what happened the last time. It is absolutely vital, therefore, that we make the necessary preparations in the UK as we are doing. It is vital that when people come back from abroad if they are coming back from a place where I am afraid there is another outbreak, they must go into quarantine.
Several European countries that had their coronavirus outbreaks under control have begun to see a rise in cases that are feeding fears of a second wave.
Governments are urging their citizens to be more vigilant amid the lure of summer gatherings and vacations. Health officials warn that lax public attitudes are putting the continent on a dangerous trajectory.
A spike in infections has led Belgium to ramp up restrictions on social contact, while Spain has closed gyms and nightclubs in Barcelona. Critics argue that the spike is also linked to more testing.
Worldwide, more than 600,000 people have reportedly died of coronavirus on a population of 7.8 billion people.