World, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Many countries scrapping COVID-19 restrictions, thanks to high vaccination rates, low case incidence

Most European countries began easing COVID measures amid high vaccination rates, despite increasing daily cases

11.02.2022
Many countries scrapping COVID-19 restrictions, thanks to high vaccination rates, low case incidence

BRUSSELS

Amid a drop in infections and high vaccination rates, many countries are now completely lifting the restrictions they put in place to curb the coronavirus outbreak, with some dropping COVID passports, others mask mandates, and others restrictions on entering social areas.

Most European nations have begun easing coronavirus measures after high vaccination rates and the emergence of omicron as a dominant variant with mild symptoms, despite a continued rise in case numbers.

Denmark is leading Europe in the return to normal life, having removed all virus restrictions as of Feb. 1 and declaring that the coronavirus is "no longer a critical threat to society."

The Swedish Public Health Agency also lifted all COVID-19 restrictions as of Feb. 9 and put an end to COVID-19 testing, while Norway is set to remove its COVID measures as of Feb.17.

In Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin has also announced that all coronavirus-related restrictions in the country will be relaxed on Feb. 14 and lifted as of March 1.

UK

The British government hopes to end all its remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including self-isolation, by the end of the month.

It had previously been announced that restrictions would be lifted on March 27, with daily cases starting to fall after a peak on Jan. 4.

The British Health Ministry in the UK has stated that "Plan B" measures implemented on Dec. 8, 2021 to deal with the omicron variant were ended thanks to the success of its initiative for booster coronavirus vaccines.

Accordingly, the country has since dropped vaccination passports.

Italy

Italy, which tightened anti-virus rules for the holiday season as omicron cases mounted, has begun relaxing them in different areas.

The Health Ministry finally decided to lift the outdoor face mask mandate as of Feb. 11.

In a decision announced at the beginning of the month, the government began to exempt people who received a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or those who recovered from the virus with at least two doses, from all restrictions as of Feb. 7.

Green Pass certificates, which are required for traveling, eating out, and other social activities, will now be valid indefinately for those have gotten a booster shot or recovered from the virus with at least a double dose.

Spain

Spain has relaxed its measures after a decrease in the number of daily cases over the past two weeks.

The government on Thursday ended its outdoor mask mandate in force since Dec. 24, 2021.

Other restrictions specific to each of the country's 17 autonomous administrations, are also gradually being lifted.

Capacity limits on indoor areas, such as concert halls, museums, cinemas, theaters, bars, and restaurants, as well as an obligation to show proof of vaccination, have also largely come to an end.

Austria and Czech Republic

Various measures implemented in Austria will be gradually lifted this month.

As of Feb. 12, shoppers will no longer need to have been vaccinated or recovered from the disease to enter stores or personal care centers. Unvaccinated people will also be allowed to enter restaurants and cafes with a negative test result starting on Feb. 19.

The government, which stopped requiring face masks in primary schools on Feb. 14, plans to end mask-wearing mandates through the entire education system as of March.

The Czech Republic has decided to remove the majority of its measures as of March 1, except for mandatory mask wearing.

This will end participant restrictions number on big events, and, as of Thursday, proof of vaccination or recovery will no longer be needed for entry into indoor areas where cultural events are held, especially restaurants and cafes.

Switzerland

Switzerland is considering to expand its recent easing of pandemic-related rules after scrapping work-from-home requirement on Feb. 3.

The government is working on a proposal to end a home quarantine mandate for those who were in contact with COVID-19 patients. The country is also in the process of making a final decision to lift other bans on Feb. 16.

In this context, measures such as COVID certificates in restaurants and collective events, along with mask wearing on public transport and supermarkets, will be eased in one move or gradually, depending on the risk situation.


Belgium

Belgian authorities on Friday will weigh whether to lower its coronavirus barometer to "code orange" instead of "code red."

The government is expected to discuss measures, such as an whether to extend to the working hours of businesses such as restaurants and cafes, reopen nightclubs, allow crowded concerts, and change restrictions imposed on cinemas and theaters.

US, Canada

The state of New York has lifted mask-wearing requirements indoors on Thursday. However, face masks will still be mandatory in schools, hospitals, buses, and similar areas.

New Jersey, California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon are among the other states that have decided to end compulsory indoor mask wearing for the vaccinated.

Massachusetts will abolish required mask-wearing in schools at the end of the month.

In other states, mask-related obligations are expected to be gradually lifted from March, with the states in question citing falling cases numbers.

In Canada, the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island will no longer require COVID passports for entry into indoor areas.


Middle East, Africa

The Israeli government has removed its "Green Pass" system, which was used to monitor and limit the spread of the coronavirus in the country, as of Feb. 7, except for "very high risk" situations such as weddings and party.

Removing all countries from its "red" travel list in January, the Israeli administration said a requirement for passengers to submit PCR tests before boarding and after landing will continue until March 7.

In an effort to stem a surge in virus cases, Tunisia took a series of protective restrictions on Jan. 12, including a night-time curfew and the postponement or cancellation of all public gatherings or demonstrations.

The Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs announced on Thursday that weekly Friday prayers will once again be performed in mosques as of this week.

Over the last six months, the Iraqi central government has stopped requiring mask wearing outdoors. In indoors areas, such as shopping malls, masks are still required only at the entrance amid a decrease in the number of cases compared to last year.

Asia and the Caucasus

While the quarantine period was halved to a single week in Azerbaijan, while the Georgian government ended the mandatory use of "green passports" -- used in the country as COVID documentation -- on Feb. 1 after they were introduced two months earlier.

In a bid to revive the country's economy in Kazakhstan, COVID-19 quarantine measures are gradually being relaxed. The government lifted restrictions on entering hotels, airports, railway stations and highway rest areas, post offices, banks, covered market places, beauty salons, and spas.

It also extended the working hours of cafes and restaurants.

Following the recent fall in daily case numbers, Uzbekistan resumed in-person education in schools as of Feb. 7.


* Writing by Seda Sevencan

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