It has been nearly two years since governments around the globe began to impose COVID-19 pandemic restrictions — initially billed as just “two weeks to slow the spread” — and while the virus is still an issue in many places, the dire threat it once posed appears to have decreased substantially.
As such, numerous governments in Europe have recently announced plans to relax or completely end various pandemic restrictions, including in England, which just scrapped harsh measures imposed ahead of the holiday season, ABC News reported.
England ends it
Citing declining cases, hospitalizations, and deaths amid a successful vaccine and booster campaign, the British government has now lifted a public face mask mandate as well as its COVID-19 vaccine pass for entry into certain businesses and public venues.
Also dropped were work-from-home requirements and mask mandates for schools, and soon to be dropped are the restrictions on nursing homes and long-term care facilities, such as limitations on the number of visitors residents may receive.
All of those restrictions and then some were part of the so-called “Plan B” measures imposed in December by the British government in response to the surge of the omicron variant in the United Kingdom.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that omicron appeared to have “peaked nationally” and was on the decline, and though some government officials have continued to express caution, the general consensus appears to be that the worst has now passed and the country can begin to return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy.
Others ease restrictions
The British government is not alone in easing pandemic restrictions, either, as CNBC reported this week that several other European nations have announced plans to do away with their own strict measures, whether immediately or in the very near future.
That includes the Netherlands, which previously had imposed arguably the most stringent pandemic mitigation measures but is now beginning to ease at least some of those restrictions, such as lockdown orders and forced business closures, though a number of less severe measures will remain in place for the time being.
Another nation on the same track is Denmark, which set a date this week of Feb. 1 to end all of its COVID-related restrictions, though that government acknowledged that the virus still posed a risk to some people and some measures targeted at vulnerable individuals, such as mask requirements for the elderly, would potentially remain in effect.
Others get stricter
Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, COVID-19 is not yet completely gone from the European continent, and while some nations are easing restrictions, other countries are strengthening existing regulations or temporarily imposing new ones for the foreseeable future.
On the easing side of things are Austria, which lifted its draconian lockdown order on unvaccinated people, and France, which announced that it would begin rolling back its own harsh measures starting next month, as well as Russia, which just shortened its mandatory isolation period for infected people.
But then there are places like Germany, Poland, and other Eastern European nations like Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania that are still experiencing surging cases and hospitalizations, and are taking actions of varying degrees to address that problem, at least for the next few weeks or so.