Europe’s economic outlook has been clouded by the Delta variant.

By Eshe Nelson, Jack Ewing and Liz Alderman

Across Europe, governments and businesses are maneuvering to try to stop a surge in coronavirus cases — driven by the rapid spread of the Delta variant — from hampering the continent’s recovery.

For the past few months, the relaxation of pandemic restrictions and the growing ranks of the vaccinated have propelled the economy forward. The European Commission recently upgraded its forecasts for the region. Britain has recorded four straight months of economic growth and in some regions of the country, the number of employees on payroll is higher than before the pandemic.

But now the Delta variant has made the path of the recovery much more unpredictable and uneven.


In Britain, the final lifting of restrictions on Monday is expected to add fresh momentum to the economic recovery. But the surge in infections presents an unexpected new hurdle to businesses trying to operate at full capacity. Businesses including hospitality, theater and trucking are having to temporarily shut as staff go into self-isolation because they have either caught the virus or have been told they have come into contact with someone who has.

The surge in the number of people self-isolating has been a curveball even for businesses that prospered during the past 16 months. Fowlds Cafe, on a residential street in South East London, needed to close only five days during the first lockdown while the owner quickly transformed it into a coffee shop and general store with no seating. Business has been strong.

But after carefully navigating the pandemic restrictions for over a year, Fowlds recently had to shut for three days because a member of staff was in contact with someone who had the virus — so the rest of the team also needed to self-isolate and wait for coronavirus test results. Such closures are becoming more frequent.

“I do think it’s going to be very disruptive,” said Jack Wilkinson, the owner of Fowlds. He’s trying to mitigate the impact by looking for more part-time staff to reduce the chances of the whole team needing to isolate at once. But he said he was unlikely to reintroduce seating in the cafe until next spring, to help keep staff and customers safe.

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