People are drinking at a bar along Rembrandtplein when cafes and restaurants reopened after the easing of the Covid-19 measures, in Amsterdam on January 26, 2022. The Netherlands lifted some of Europe’s toughest Covid restrictions with bars, restaurants and museums that were allowed to reopen their doors, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on January 25, 2022.
RAMON VAN FLYMEN | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – From the reopening of bars and restaurants to the repeal of legal requirements for masks, many of Europe’s largest economies are now easing Covid-19 rules and restrictions in an effort to save their economies.
This is despite high levels of infections throughout Europe, mainly caused by the spread of the omicron variant. But many governments are now impatient to reopen their communities, especially as it has become clearer that the new variant is causing fewer hospital admissions than previous strains, and as booster covid vaccine shots continue to be rolled out.
Many citizens on the European continent have become more and more frustrated and angry about restrictions, especially when they see other countries like Britain doing relatively well after opting out of tighter restrictions in the midst of the omicron wave.
On Thursday, England put an end to the legal requirement for face clothing and Covid passports to gain access to certain venues as the government eased its so-called “Plan B” measures, which were adopted before Christmas.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands – which had some of the toughest rules in Europe, where the country went into a partial closure before the holiday period – bars, restaurants and museums were allowed to reopen on Wednesday, although the former has to close at. 22. stay, people are still advised to work from home and there is a limit to the number of guests people can receive at home.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the easing of measures in a televised speech on Tuesday, “we are really taking a risk today and we need to be aware of that.”
Denmark has also announced plans to scrap all Covid measures before 1 February, where the Danish government on Wednesday issued a statement that it has “decided that Covid-19 should no longer be categorized as a socially critical disease after 31 January 2022 “, although there would still be some rules, e.g. to wear a mask in a nursing home.
While Covid cases have peaked and are declining in the UK, cases in France and Germany are still close to records. On Wednesday, France reported just over 428,000 new Covid cases during the previous 24-hour period. Germany reported a new record of 164,000 new daily infections the same day, but this was broken off Thursday with 203,136 new infections reported by the public health body, the Robert Koch Institute.
Germany is yet to show any signs of easing restrictions, but France’s health minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday (when more than 500,000 daily Covid infections were reported) that he believed France would reach the top in a matter of days. The government has already signaled that it will ease the rules for working from home from early February and then allow nightclubs to reopen several weeks later.
While infection levels remain high, officials have focused on data showing a decoupling of infection rates and hospitalizations once they have made the decision to gently reopen.
While omicron has been more transmissible than previous variants like delta, it has caused less serious illness (though mass Covid vaccination coverage has helped), and booster shots significantly improve one’s immunity to omicron.
Different vaccination rates affect the rate at which governments seek to reopen their economies, with booster programs more sluggish in some countries than in others.