Here we are. The much-desired normalization of our lives, barring unwanted twists and turns, is on the horizon. Covid is finally starting to retreat and governments are starting to talk about reopening. Easing of restrictions. To give us back a life that is no longer “controlled”. In Italy and Europe the horizon is visible, the pandemic is becoming endemic, the bans are lifted. In some European countries, the new rules are already in force, which are “non-rules”, i.e. normalcy as it was before the covid era. Every region of Europe has turned dark red in the ECDC map update, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and it could herald an overshoot of Omicron’s peak across the continent. It is no coincidence that the regional director of the WHO, Hans Kluge, delivered more than optimistic forecasts. The Belgian official spoke of a “ceasefire which could lead us to a lasting peace” with the Covid-19.
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Stop drastic measures
The elements in favor of this perspective are the “large capital accumulated in terms of natural and vaccine immunity”, the end of the cold season and a “lesser severity of Omicron” compared to the other variants. What offer governments “the opportunity to take control of the transmission” of the virus. And even if a “more virulent variant” emerges, according to Kluge, a response will be possible “without reinstating the drastic measures that we have needed so far”. Provided that vaccinations continue, especially in Eastern Europe, still late with the second dose. On the contrary, in countries where progress is going well, even with third doses, the prospect of everything free is no longer a mirage.
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Booster, the “hi” stays everywhere
Third doses are seen as a key element across Europe to move towards the end of the pandemic and to let go of the last restrictions. So far in the EU, around 70% of the 450 million people have received two doses, but only half of the booster. In a phase where Omicron continues to operate, the ECDC, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has again taken over, which in its map on the spread of Covid has marked almost all areas in dark red. This is the case, for example, of Germany, where new infections exceeded 200,000 for the first time, but with a drop in deaths. In a country which remains behind on vaccinations (74% of the population has received at least one dose, much less than Italy, France and Spain). The effectiveness of reminders to reduce hospitalizations reinforces the front of experts who call for caution on the fourth dose. According to the French Council for the Orientation of the Vaccine Strategy (COSV), it is not necessary at this stage, except for “severely immunocompromised people”. The Ema in recent days issued the same advice, warning against excessive use of reminders in a short period of time. Israel, the first country in the world to administer the fourth dose, has also moved in this direction, offering it to the entire public over the age of 60 (so far 600,000). But health authorities decided that the second booster would only be extended to high-risk people over 18 and at least 4 months after the third injection.
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Italy, Monday changes
The only fixed point in each country is therefore the importance of vaccination, the only certainty towards the abolition of restrictions. In Italy, the new provisions will begin on Monday, namely the end of restrictions for vaccinated people (also in the red zone), reduced quarantines at school and above all the “unlimited duration” green pass. With the latest decree adopted by the executive, Italy finally seems ready for a gradual exit from the pandemic. But let’s see, country by country, who anticipated, albeit slightly, the Italian turn, perhaps even completely removing all restrictions, such as that of the obligation of outdoor masks. This is the case in Spain, where infections and hospitalizations have been falling for days. But let’s see in detail the European map of “reopenings”.
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Spain will be decided on Tuesday
The Spanish government plans to approve at the next Council of Ministers, scheduled for Tuesday February 8, a decree that will remove the obligation to wear a mask outdoors, as confirmed yesterday by the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, explaining that the epidemiological indices » They are improving. The requirement to wear the face mask outdoors had been reintroduced in Spain before Christmas as Covid cases soared for the expansion of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The government had presented the measure as an “interim measure”. Last Tuesday, this interim directive, introduced by the government by decree, was validated by the Congress of Deputies. The measure authorizing you to no longer use the mask should come into force on Thursday.
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France, only “recommendations”
Promises by the government on January 20, measures to ease pandemic restrictions were launched in France on Wednesday, as the fifth wave has shown signs of receding for a week now. From February 2 it is no longer compulsory to wear the mask outside, only the “recommendation” to wear it remains when “it is not possible to respect the distance”. A long-awaited measure for everyone in culture and sport, more access limits for sites that receive the public, from stadiums to cultural venues, theaters, cinemas and concert halls. On the other hand, nightclubs will have to wait another two weeks, which will be closed from December 10. Finally, still from Wednesday, teleworking will no longer be compulsory 3 or 4 days a week but only “recommended”, without specifying the number of days. Despite government orders, however, remote working had not increased in January.
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Denmark, first in the EU
Denmark became the first country in the European Union to abolish all anti-Covid measures on February 1, despite the record number of infections still plaguing a country determined to only deal with the Omicron variant if it does. relying on the high vaccination rate of its citizens. . After a first attempt to abolish all restrictive measures between September and November 2021, Copenhagen is once again trying to get rid of masks, passes and reduced hours for bars and restaurants. And with the abolition of limits on indoor gatherings, nightclubs are also reopening. Only border measures for the arrival in the country of unvaccinated people from countries outside the Schengen area will remain in force. Meanwhile, Denmark continues to register around 40,000 to 50,000 new cases a day, almost 1% of the population of 5.8 million. More than 60% of Danes received the booster dose of the Covid vaccine, compared to a European average of just under 45%. Counting people who have recently contracted the virus, Danish authorities estimate that 80% of the population is protected against the disease.
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Norway, only social distancing
After Denmark, Norway will also revoke with immediate effect most of the anti-Covid measures still in force on its territory, taking into account that the spread of infections does not currently endanger the health system. This was announced at a press conference by Oslo Premier Jonas Gahr Stoere. With this easing of restrictions, restaurants will once again be able to serve alcohol after 11 p.m., smart working will no longer be mandatory in sectors where it was envisaged and the current limit of 10 people for meetings in private homes will also be reduced. removed. However, the recommendation to maintain social distancing remains. There is also the possibility of a reintroduction of the measures in the future if necessary, clarified the Norwegian Prime Minister.
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Sweden, only the symptomatic at home
Scandinavia is moving compactly and harmoniously towards the abolition of restrictions. After Denmark and Norway, Sweden is also acting in this direction: practically all anti-covid restrictions will be removed from February 9. “It is time to reopen Sweden, the pandemic is not over but it has entered a new phase,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Thursday, announcing the end of restrictions thanks to the high number of vaccinations and the least severity of infections. caused. to the omicron variant. In addition, she pointed out, despite the high number of infections, admissions to intensive care are stable. From next Wednesday, restrictions on bars and restaurants will be lifted, as will the maximum number of attendees at public events. Finally, it will no longer be recommended to wear a mask in crowded public transport. There remains the recommendation to unvaccinated people not to frequent crowded places and to stay at home in the presence of symptoms. Anti-contagion measures remain in place in hospitals and retirement homes.
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Great Britain, the focus is only on vaccinations
Via masks and the green pass: these are the two strongest signs of the return of everything free in Great Britain, after the long emergency phase linked to Covid. As expected, the final phase of the lifting of restrictions has begun in England, while the other nations of the Kingdom are gradually lining up. Proof of a return to normal, strongly desired by the government, thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign and the third doses. Reminders decisive for the reduction of hospitalizations, and which also convinced Israel to contain the audience for the fourth dose: only for high-risk adults and those over 60. January 27, 2022 was the date chosen by London to drop Plan B of the restrictions. which had been adopted after Omicron’s push. And we returned to plan A, based on vaccinations, in the face of a decrease in new infections and with hospitalizations at a minimum for months. So the British started going to shops again and taking public transport without the obligation to wear a mask, the imposition of smart work disappeared as well as the roof for visits to nursing homes. The (short) parenthesis of the mini Green Pass vaccine for discotheques and mass events has also been filed. Obligations replaced by recommendations to adopt responsible behavior, as the virus continues to circulate. All of this was possible thanks to vaccines, which make the British leaders in Europe with 37 million boosters administered. And that “they give more freedom to this country”, underlined the Minister of Health Sajid Javid.