The Netherlands, France, and Denmark are all moving to abandon their strictest COVID policies to allow their citizens greater access to public spaces and workplaces. 

The Netherlands, Denmark, France, Austria ease COVID Restrictions

Even Austria, known for having some of the most draconian COVID policies announced on Wednesday that it would lift lockdown rules for unvaccinated citizens.

Rising Case Rates and Falling Hospitalization Rates 

With increasing infection and falling hospitalization rates, the Netherlands has decided to reopen restaurants, museums, and other establishments to partial capacity after having been closed since the middle of December. Most of those found to be infected with COVID at hospitals were admitted for reasons other than the virus.

Denmark, too, has seen the same trend of record high infections but relatively low numbers of patients in intensive care and fatalities. The Scandinavian nation allowed many of its public places to reopen earlier this month and announced on Wednesday that its other pandemic controls will cease as of February.

“There has been a decoupling in the trend earlier in the epidemic, between increasing infection and increase in Covid hospitalizations,” the government’s expert advisory panel said. The number of Covid patients in intensive care has nearly halved since early January.

Less Lethal More Transmissible Omicron Disrupts Health Policies

The rise of the Omicron variant, a less lethal, more transmissible mutant strain of the coronavirus, has prompted governments across the world to re-examine their responses to a pandemic, which now appears to be endemic.

The failure of vaccines to provide sterilizing immunity or to reduce infection rates is also a policy consideration for many governments that imposed mandates at a time when public health officials erroneously claimed that the shots would provide durable protection.

UK Led The Way For Europe

The European nations’ easing of pandemic restrictions follows the lead of the United Kingdom, which announced last week that it would scrap COVID vaccine mandates and reopen schools, businesses, and other public spaces to its subjects, vaccinated or not, and Israel, which pioneered the mandating of multiple doses of COVID vaccines is considering abandoning its health pass program.

France Introduces Passport and Announces Restrictions to Ease

France as well is relaxing restrictions in February. Despite breaking a daily infection case rate record of more than 501,000 cases earlier this week, the number of intensive care patients has been falling since January 12. French Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced that COVID restrictions, including would begin to be lifted next month. It is unclear, however, whether the nation would continue to rely on a vaccine pass it has instituted since this week.

In Spain, the nation’s most restrictive region, the autonomous community of Catalonia announced today that it would withdraw compulsory vaccines and a passport program in force for the past two months. 

The Catalonian government determined that Omicron “has been shown to have immune escape and thus decrease infection prevention, compared to the Delta variant” leading the region to reconsider the use of vaccine passports.

The government concluded that “the effectiveness of the mandatory use of the COVID certificate decreases as a measure that adds a layer of security.”

The government announced that restrictions of nightclubs and other nightlife, among the few remaining aspects of COVID lockdowns in the region, will be lifted shortly.

While some European nations and the U.K. have begun to ease COVID restrictions, other nations, including Germany and Sweden, have responded to increasing Omicron case counts by extending restrictions.

Lockstep COVID Responses No More

Whatever the course of Europe, however, the former lockstep approach to the pandemic is beginning to give way to a diversity of responses to endemic COVID.

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