As efforts to prevent the transmission of the virus have faltered and nations lower the threat presented by SARS-CoV-2, Europe is speeding plans to end the COVID regulations. Sweden and Switzerland have announced that they will lift COVID limitations and eventually open their nations, joining Denmark, Norway, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Lithuania, France, and the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s cabinet said that the policy amendment will enter into force on February 6, awaiting approval by a legislative panel. For occasions including parties or weddings, Israel’s proof-of-vaccination regulation will stay in force.
“To continue the green pass in the same way can create false assurances,” said Nadav Davidovitch, an epidemiologist and public health physician advising Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government. “It’s not reducing infections in closed spaces like theatres. It needs to be used mainly for high-risk places like hospitals, elderly care homes, or events when you are eating and singing and dancing.”
Sweden’s government announced on Thursday that all COVID restrictions will be lifted by February 9th.
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As per Politico, due to a greater awareness of the Omicron variant, which in itself is weaker and linked with fewer hospitalizations, the Swedish Public Health Agency reviewed COVID as “not being socially critical.”
“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.”
Sweden’s resolution comes a day after Switzerland declared that, from today, compulsory work-from-home and isolation requirements will be abolished, citing excellent immunity rates and the milder Omicron variant.
The administration would also relax border health regulations, removing the requirement for tourists to get Swiss COVID certificates.
After speaking with 26 cantons, employers, trade unions, and parliamentary committees, the Swiss government said it intended to start taking down further limitations.
By an official statement, the government will decide the subsequent measures to ease pandemic precautions in two weeks, based on the health status.
A gradual departure strategy or a swift stop to all COVID restrictions on Feb. 17 are two options.
Denmark to classify COVID as endemic disease
Denmark has since become the first nation in the European Union to abolish all COVID regulations, relabeling COVID as an endemic disease, just days prior to Sweden and Switzerland made their statements.
COVID was no longer a “socially critical disease,” according to Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke, who submitted a statement to the parliament’s epidemiology committee on Feb. 1.
The government chose to remove COVID regulations relying on the committee’s suggestions.
The “rules will lapse when the illness will no longer be categorized as ‘socially critical’ on 1 February 2022,” Heunicke wrote.
When an illness is classified as “socially critical,” the government has the right to impose broad restrictions, such as closing companies and mandating mask use.
The spread of an endemic disease is unrestricted, but it is regarded as providing a lower risk to society.
“No one can know what will happen next December,” Heunicke told CNN on Monday. “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. That’s what’s happening right now.”
In response to a question regarding vaccine requirements, Heunicke stated:
“Luckily we don’t need that in Denmark … I’m really happy that we don’t need it because it’s a very troubling path to move that way.”
Director-General of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, agreed:
“I do not believe in imposed vaccine mandates. It’s a pharmaceutical intervention with possible side effects. You need as an authority, to recognize that. I think if you push too much, you will have a reaction — action generates reaction, especially with vaccines.”
When dealing with big sections of the population, Danish officials will continue to encourage at-home tests and therefore will render PCR tests accessible to the general public. Visitors coming into the country will still be subjected to a medical assessment.
Other European countries drop COVID restrictions
According to Bloomberg, limitations were also eased in Italy, France, Norway, Lithuania, England, and Finland.
“We should discuss whether it’s time for us to take a different viewpoint and start unwinding restrictions even with a high number of infections,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters. “I hope that we can be rid of restrictions during February.”
The administration resolved to abolish all limitations on meetings and soften limitations on restaurants and bars on February 14 during a meeting in Helsinki to examine the speed of lifting constraints. Until March 1, nightclubs will be closed. There will be no limits on cultural venues, activities, or sports.
The government of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi convened on Wednesday to consider ways to reduce limitations. The administration will first concentrate on child quarantine restrictions, with intentions to reduce the 10-day isolation mandate to five days.
The Lithuanian authorities will also no longer force unvaccinated employees to undertake weekly screening and will no longer need them to provide an immunization certification in public places such as restaurants and sporting activities.
On Wednesday, France’s new laws took effect, abolishing forced work-from-home guidelines, removing face mask requirements outside, and relaxing capacity limitations in stadiums and theatres.
Norway jumped on board, removing prohibitions on private parties, pubs, and restaurants, as well as eliminating the need for border tests.
Last Thursday, England declared the relaxation of COVID limitations. Face veils were no longer needed by law anyplace in England as of Jan. 27, and COVID permits were no longer necessary to access large gigs and clubs.
In addition, the administration removed guidelines for face-covering in schools, advise for those working from home, and limits on visitors to nursing homes.
As part of a wider relaxation of regulations, the Netherlands reopened restaurants, pubs, museums, and theatres on Jan. 26.
Lockdowns had little-to-no benefit on public health, analysis shows
Little, if any, research have been conducted to see if vaccine passports and COVID limitations reduced COVID incidence, hospitalizations, and deaths.
COVID lockdown procedures imposed in the United States and Europe, on the other hand, had almost little influence on public health, according to a new study released by John Hopkins academics.
“We find little-to-no evidence that mandated lockdowns in Europe and the United States had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality rates,” the researchers wrote.
Shelter-in-place orders lowered COVID fatality by only 2.9 percent, according to the study.
Shelter-in-place orders reduced COVID deaths by 5.1 percent in studies that looked at them alone, but when paired with other lockdown tactics, they ultimately raised COVID mortality by 2.8 percent.
Researchers discovered that limiting gatherings may have elevated COVID mortality. They stated:
“[Shelter-in-place orders] may isolate an infected person at home with his/her family where he/she risks infecting family members with a higher viral load, causing more severe illness. But often, lockdowns have limited people’s access to safe (outdoor) places such as beaches, parks and zoos, or included outdoor mask mandates or strict outdoor gathering restrictions, pushing people to meet at less safe (indoor) places.”
COVID lockdown protocols also played a role in “reducing economic activity, rising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence and undermining liberal democracy,” the report said.