No need to fear omicron: these EU countries are easing Corona measures

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Omicron has now lost its terror for many. Despite high case numbers, many countries in Europe are venturing back to normal.

The 2G rule falls in February. Sweden abolishes almost all Corona rules

The Czech Republic abolishes Corona passes
When Omicron began its conquering march, many countries resorted to harsh measures to keep the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus at bay. Some brashly, others in cautious clumsy steps. Once again, the Scandinavians are at the forefront.

No fear of omicron: These EU countries are easing corona measures.
“Celebrate as if it’s 2019,” they say in Sweden: In the night to Wednesday, the vast majority of Corona measures were lifted – and many people celebrated extensively. Long queues formed in front of some clubs at midnight. Footage from discos showed Swedes on dance floors – tight and without masks. “Finally, you can live life and feel freer,” a 19-year-old told the newspaper “Aftonbladet” in Malmö. All restrictions on restaurants and pubs would also be dropped, as would participant limits for gatherings. Vacationers from the European Economic Area also now do not need proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative corona test when entering the country.

In Denmark, there are practically no more restrictions
Thus Sweden follows its southern neighbor Denmark: Since February 1, apart from remote entry rules, practically no more restrictions apply. The mask obligation belongs to the past, like the showing of injection, recovery, and test proofs by Corona passport. There are no more extended attendance limits for concerts or soccer matches, and discos and inns are open again – with no curfews on the sale of alcohol.

Relaxations also in Norway and Finland
The rest of Northern Europe is also doing relaxation exercises: Norway has already comprehensively rolled back restrictions, and Finland plans to relax rules for restaurants and pubs and lift all restrictions on culture, sports, and events starting February 14. All Nordic countries justify their steps with very high vaccination numbers and milder disease courses with Omikron infections.

Gradual relaxation in Austria
In Austria, the relaxation will be gradual. On Saturday, the 2G rule falls in retail and museums. In addition, visiting the hairdresser with a negative test is possible again. In addition, the upper limit for visitors at events will be overturned. Those who have been vaccinated and have recovered can, for example, go to the soccer stadium again. Red Bull Salzburg, for example, will be allowed to play in front of a packed crowd in the Champions League round of 16 against FC Bayern Munich on February 16. As of February 19, vaccinated and recovered people and those who have tested negative will be allowed back into the stadium. The 3G rule will then also apply to tourism. The relaxation steps are justified with the controllable situation in the clinics.

Calls for relaxation prospects in Germany grow louder
In the meantime, the calls for relaxation perspectives are growing louder in Germany, despite further increases in infections. Christian Dürr, the leader of the FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag, told Bild that as soon as the danger of overburdening the healthcare system no longer existed, restrictions would have to be withdrawn. “That is why we are also already talking about concrete opening perspectives.” The next conference of minister presidents should pass initial resolutions on this. The German GP Association called on the German government to develop an opening plan for the phase-out of Corona measures.

As of Friday, Corona rules no longer apply in England
From Friday, Corona rules will no longer apply in England. Then the obligation for tourists to take a rapid test on the second day after arrival at the latest will also cease to apply. Most other rules have already been lifted since mid-July 2021. At the turn of the year, masks were again compulsory for a few weeks because of Omikron, for example, in local transport, stores, and museums, but that is over. In pubs and restaurants, masks have not been an issue for months anyway. The government points to the declining number of infections. Whereas at the beginning of the year more than 200,000 infections a day were reduced, the figure is now around 65,000, and the incidence was recently around half that of Germany.

Romania retains the 3G rule
At the other end of the relaxation, scale is Romania. Access to hotels, restaurants, cultural institutions, stores (except food pharmacies) is still subject to the 3G rule. Masks are mandatory in public areas. Anyone who tests positive while on vacation in Romania must be quarantined and may only travel home afterward. The state of alert will remain in effect until at least March 8.

Relaxation of Corona rules in Bulgaria perhaps in March
Bulgaria is discussing relaxations of Corona protections, possibly in March. Under pressure from protests and key parliamentary parties, Corona certificates for entry to restaurants and shopping centers are to be eliminated. The seven-day incidence of 702.9 new infections per 100,000 population is about half Germany. Clinics still have spare capacity. However, the Balkan country is still the EU’s worst performer in Corona vaccinations, with just under 30 percent vaccinated.

Caution is also exercised in Belgium
Belgium is also being cautious. Although the Omikron wave seems to have peaked there, the infection figures recently fell by around 40 percent in a weekly comparison. However, there has been no significant easing so far. The two-week incidence is still just under 4,500, but on Friday, the government plans to discuss, among other things, easing nightlife restrictions. Discos are likely to reopen soon, the curfew for restaurants and pubs could be abolished, and more guests are likely to be allowed to attend indoor cultural events again.

The Netherlands to decide on relaxations next week
The Netherlands plans to decide next week whether restaurants will be allowed to open longer than 10 p.m. and whether theaters and sports arenas will be allowed to host more spectators. There is also growing pressure from society to abolish the Corona Pass. Until now, people have had to prove that they have been vaccinated, recovered, or tested when visiting restaurants’ cultural and sports facilities. Whether the government will give in to the pressure is likely to depend on hospital developments. Infection rates are still rising rapidly at a seven-day incidence of about 4,700, but the number of patients in hospitals is growing only slightly.

Switzerland to decide on restrictions February 16
Switzerland plans to decide on February 16 whether to lift restrictions gradually or entirely. Experts assume that the peak of the omicron wave has been reached or passed. The burden on clinics is not critical. To be sure, the vaccination rate is relatively low at 69 percent, and the seven-day incidence is relatively high. However, throughout the pandemic, Switzerland has been somewhat restrained with restrictions. Recently, the quarantine requirement for contacts was lifted. The 2G rule and the obligation to wear a mask still apply indoors and when visiting restaurants.

Italy dares to make some relaxations but remains cautious
The government dares some relaxations but remains cautious: The state of emergency is in force until March 31. Since January, Corona vaccination has been compulsory for people over 50, and the 3G rule applies in many stores, except for supermarkets and pharmacies. The seven-day incidence was last at 1,362 per 100,000 population and was declining. Starting Friday, people in much of the country will no longer have to wear masks outside if they can keep the minimum distance. Indoors, the mask requirement remains. Consideration is being given to allowing more people to attend sporting events again – soccer stadiums could then fill up to 75 percent of their seats.

Omicron wave seems to be over in France
The peak of the omicron wave also appears to be over in France. The country is past the dizzying incidence levels of just over 3,700 and is still recording just under 2,500 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a week. But even as the wave was still swelling, the government had already presented a detailed relaxation plan. Working in a home office is now only recommended and no longer imposed, and caps on sports and cultural events have been dropped in some cases. Clubs are also to reopen in a few days. For the time being, however, 2G will continue to apply to visits to restaurants, bars, and cinemas, as well as long-distance travel.

Falling case numbers also in Spain
With falling infection rates, very high vaccination rates, and a relatively relaxed situation in hospitals, restrictions are being relaxed or abolished on the Iberian Peninsula. In Spain, the outdoor mask requirement ends this Thursday. Catalonia with Barcelona, which has the highest Corona numbers in the country with two other regions, reopens the nightlife from Friday. In many places, however, the 3G rule still applies. In Portugal, vaccinated and recovered people no longer need a negative test on entry since Monday. The Corona emergency, however, runs until March 22. 3G applies in hotels, restaurants, and other establishments. However, the government is considering relaxing the rules soon. In Spain, the seven-day incidence is 675; in Portugal, the figure is much higher at 2,519.

Falling new infection figures in Poland
Poland is also relaxing in light of falling new infection figures. From February 15, infected persons will only have to remain in isolation for seven days instead of ten. The quarantine for contacts will be abolished entirely from February 10. In addition, entry regulations will be relaxed: travelers from the Schengen area who are not fully vaccinated or have not recovered will no longer have to undergo quarantine after entry. Students in 5th grade and above will be able to return to classrooms from distance learning a week earlier than planned on February 21. The number of new Corona infections in Poland has fallen for about a week; the seven-day incidence is currently 772 per 100,000 population.

Hungary lifted Corona restrictions back in June
Hungary had already lifted most Corona restrictions in June 2021. Since the onset of the fourth wave in the fall, masks have been mandatory in public transport and indoor public spaces. No relaxation is currently envisaged. Authorities do not publish incidence figures – unofficially, the seven-day incidence is about 1,000.

Low vaccination coverage in Croatia
In Croatia, 3G rules apply to tourist entry as well as to visits to restaurants, but also employees of public institutions. Because of the low vaccination rate of 55 percent, the authorities are not currently considering any relaxation. They also do not publish infection rates for specific periods.

In the Czech Republic, plans for mandatory Corona vaccination are off the table
Czech Republic: Since the liberal-conservative government took office in December, plans for partial compulsory vaccination have been off the table. Also, as a result of a court ruling, the 2G Corona rule will no longer apply in the hospitality industry in the future. Corona mass testing in businesses and schools will expire at the end of next week. The FFP2 mask requirement indoors will be maintained. PCR testing remains mandatory for tourists entering the country, from which only boostered individuals are exempt. Unvaccinated persons must take a second test upon arrival. According to official figures, there were 1,962 new Corona infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days.

Slovakia struggles with enormously high infection rates
Slovakia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the EU and enormously high infection rates. As a result, the government is hesitant to relax. Complicated rules for private meetings and public gatherings, which were hardly observed anyway, have been simplified, but the obligation to wear FFP2 masks has been tightened. Only 49 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Lithuania takes the first step in the Baltic States
In the Baltic States, Lithuania is leading the way. The country has suspended the use of Corona certificates despite high infection rates. A “green passport” is no longer required for those vaccinated or recovered to visit restaurants, stores, or cultural events. There are similar considerations in Estonia and Latvia. Mask requirements, distance rules, and hygiene regulations remain in effect. In the three Baltic states, the omicron variant is on the rise. The 14-day incidence rate recently rose to more than 5,000 infections per 100,000 people in each country.

In Turkey, there are hardly any corona restrictions
There are few corona restrictions in Turkey. The government has not significantly tightened measures despite record case rates since massive relaxations in July 2021. The Interior Ministry also suspended a testing requirement for the unvaccinated before attending theaters or concerts, which was in place until recently. Although the government insists on mandatory masking, it is rarely strictly controlled in metropolises such as Istanbul. Cafés, restaurants, bars, and discos are also open. Proof of vaccination, testing, or recovery must still be presented for domestic flights.

Discovery of the Omicron Variant in South Africa
It all started in South Africa. The country had publicized the discovery of the Omicron variant worldwide and was then considered an “Omicron hotspot. Many countries stopped flying to South Africa, even though Omicron had long since reached other parts of the world. But after just over a month, the Cape state began to relax. Most of the restrictions have long been history, and the country is on the lowest of the five levels of the almost two-year-old Corona alert system. The drastic drop in infection and death rates is cited as the reason. According to studies, about 70 percent of South Africans have already been through infection and thus have some immune protection. And it’s summer, which makes infections rarer.

  • sources vienna.at/APA/picture: pixabay.com

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