Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice-President and I are very pleased to welcome you to our press conference. We will now report on the outcome of today's meeting of the Governing Council, which was also attended by the Commission Executive Vice-President, Mr Dombrovskis.
The start of vaccination campaigns across the euro area is an important milestone in the resolution of the ongoing health crisis. Nonetheless, the pandemic continues to pose serious risks to public health and to the euro area and global economies. The renewed surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and the restrictive and prolonged containment measures imposed in many euro area countries are disrupting economic activity. Activity in the manufacturing sector continues to hold up well, but services sector activity is being severely curbed, albeit to a lesser degree than during the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020. Output is likely to have contracted in the fourth quarter of 2020 and the intensification of the pandemic poses some downside risks to the short-term economic outlook. Inflation remains very low in the context of weak demand and significant slack in labour and product markets. Overall, the incoming data confirm our previous baseline assessment of a pronounced near-term impact of the pandemic on the economy and a protracted weakness in inflation.
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