Europe’s ‘Post-Covid’ Opening: Denmark Lifts All Restrictions, Other Set to Follow

Written by | Thursday, February 3rd, 2022

The World Health Organization (WTO) head warned Tuesday (1 February) it is too early for countries to declare victory over Covid-19 or give up attempts to stop transmission. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the “virus is dangerous, and it continues to evolve before our very eyes.” His comments came as Denmark became the first EU country to lift all its domestic Covid-19 measures, despite record numbers of Omicron cases. With the Danish government saying it no longer considers the coronavirus a “socially critical sickness,” this means that an indoor mask mandate, the use of a “Covid pass” for bars, restaurants and other indoor venues, and the legal obligation to self-isolate if you test positive are all ending. “No one can know what will happen next December. But we promised the citizens of Denmark that we will only have restrictions if they are truly necessary and we’ll lift them as soon as we can,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told the press on Monday (31 January). “That’s what’s happening right now.”
Also other European countries have begun to ease curbs with hospital admissions not rising in line with record Covid cases. After the Netherlands, Belgium and France last week began to take steps to return to a semblance of normal life, Austria has lifted its “lockdown of the unvaccinated”, Switzerland is gearing up for a “turbo” reopening and Germany’s finance minister has demanded an end date for Covid curbs as more countries prepare to ease pandemic controls. Although infections, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, are still hitting record highs, data continues to show hospital and intensive care admissions are not surging in line with cases. Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said that from next Saturday (5 February), shops and restaurants would be able to stay open until midnight and the maximum number of people able to participate in events would rise from 25 to 50.
In Switzerland, meanwhile, experts who studied both Swiss and German infection rates said Omicron was significantly more infectious, but seemingly less severe, than the Delta variant and was “unlikely to cause record numbers of admissions to ICUs”. Amid estimates that up to 40% of Swiss companies were experiencing staff shortages due to quarantine rules, the Swiss health minister, Alain Berset, has called for remaining restrictions to be lifted from 16 February, saying he wanted a “turbo” reopening of the economy. Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, also said the government should be laying the foundations for a smooth return to normal, arguing that even though the peak of the Omicron wave may still be several weeks away, business required a “planning horizon”. Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Monday suggested that the country, which is recording record high infection numbers, had failed to hit its goal of vaccinating 80% of the population before the end of January.

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