European countries begin to lift restrictions – will Portugal follow?
Several European countries have lifted, or are soon lifting restrictions against Covid-1, spurred on by the “less harmful” Ómicron variant and the success of vaccination.
img decoding=”async” loading=”lazy” src=”http://algarvedailynews.com/images/news2/20076.jpg” alt=”EUROPEAN COUNTRIES BEGIN TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS – WILL PORTUGAL FOLLOW?” width=”160″ height=”107″ style=”margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px; float: left;” />Several European countries have lifted, or are soon lifting restrictions against Covid-1, spurred on by the “less harmful” Ómicron variant and the success of vaccination.
Although the number of cases of Covid-19 still remains very high in Europe, due to the Ómicron variant, hospitalisations and deaths are on a stable trend. Therefore, several European countries are saying goodbye to all or some restrictions, because they consider that they are now in a less “critical” phase. Is Portugal ready to step out of the shadows of the coronavirus?
Portugal’s current border controls and rerstrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 remain in place until 9th February, when any changes or new rules will be confirmed.
Earlier this week, England abandoned all the restrictions of their so-called “plan B” that were imposed before the wave of infections caused by the Ómicron variant.
It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask in stores and public transport, vaccination certificates are no longer needed to access crowded spaces and the recommendation of teleworking is no longer required.
The British Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, argued that the success of vaccination combined with a better understanding of the treatment of the virus “allows a cautious return to plan A, restoring more freedoms to the country”.
The British government stressed that the recommendation to wear a mask in closed and crowded places remains, and that establishments can decide whether or not to require the digital certificate from customers.
When Boris Johnson announced the end of restrictions, he justified that experts believe that the Ómicron wave has already peaked. “Because of the extraordinary [vaccination] booster campaign, along with the way the population responded to the Plan B measures, we can go back to Plan A,” he said.
Ireland has also lifted almost all measures to combat the pandemic since 6:00 am last Saturday, January 21st. “As we navigate this new phase of the pandemic, it’s time to be ourselves again,” said Ireland’s head of government, Micheál Martin, adding that the country “has weathered the Ómicron storm”.
Nightclubs have reopened in Ireland, early closing times for catering have been eliminated, as have capacity limits for outdoor and indoor events, including weddings. The phased return to the offices began this Monday. Some protection measures were also abolished, such as physical distancing and the need to show the digital certificate.
Vaccination “completely transformed the situation” in Ireland, said Micheál Martin, arguing that it was no longer justified to maintain most public health measures. Ireland has about 77.4% of the population fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
In the Netherlands, establishments such as bars, restaurants and museums were allowed to reopen on Wednesday, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the government was “consciously trying to act within the limits of what is possible”.
Cases continue to hit new daily highs, but deaths and intensive care admissions are declining. In this sense, the decision to prolong the restrictive measures would have risked “harming our society”, said Dutch health minister Ernst Kuipers.
Cafes, bars and restaurants closed since mid-December can now reopen with reduced capacity until 10 pm, as long as customers present the digital certificate. Also cinemas, theatres, museums and sporting events are allowed to open their doors to the public.
Starting next Tuesday, February 1st, Denmark will eliminate all restrictions to combat the pandemic, as Covid-19 will no longer be considered a “critical” disease in the country.
“We are ready to say goodbye to restrictions and welcome the life we ??had before. The pandemic continues, but we are past the critical phase,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a press conference.
This means that, in Denmark, masks are no longer mandatory in closed spaces and public transport, restaurants no longer have limited opening hours and can serve alcohol after 22:00, it is also no longer mandatory to show the vaccination certificate when accessing spaces, stores can increase their capacity and, finally, clubs can reopen.
The decision to fully reopen society comes at a time when cases are reaching record numbers due to Ómicron, but hospitalisations are stable because the variant is “less likely to cause harm”, said the Danish prime minister.
“It may seem strange and paradoxical that we lift restrictions with current levels of contagion, but we should look at more numbers. One of the most important is that of the seriously ill and that curve has dropped”, said Mette Frederiksen.
The end of restrictions has the “authorisation” of the expert panel that advises the Danish government on its response to the pandemic.
Austria has already decided that it will end the confinement for the unvaccinated next Monday, as the pressure on hospitals is decreasing. The announcement was made by the Austrian government this Wednesday.
Although cases still remain high, due to the new, more transmissible Ómicron variant, the occupancy rate of intensive care units is decreasing. Therefore, as the Minister of Health, Wolfgang Mueckstein, stated, “the conclusion was reached that the confinement of unvaccinated people in Austria is only justifiable in the case of the threat of an imminent overload of the capacity of intensive care units”.
Since November 15th, people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 have been confined in Austria, which means that they are only allowed to leave the house when strictly necessary, such as going to work or going to the supermarket, for example.
Belgium has also announced, last Friday, the relaxation of some rules: the public will return to stadiums, with a maximum of 70% of capacity, concert halls with a capacity of up to 200 people can reopen, and those that have a higher capacity can be occupied up to 70%, or in full if there are good ventilation conditions. In addition, bars and restaurants may stay open until midnight (instead of 11:00 pm) and some recreational and leisure activities may resume.
“The reason we can do this is because we have such a high vaccination rate,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo explained at a press conference. About 89% of the population of Belgium is fully vaccinated and 67% received a booster dose.
However, the Belgian government announced this Thursday that quarantines in classrooms have fallen. Thus, schools no longer have to close whenever a new outbreak is detected in classes. Only infected children will have to comply with isolation at home. Ventilation, mask use and frequent testing in schools will continue.
At the same time, the government also determined that the booster dose will be necessary five months after the complete vaccination schedule, in order to maintain the vaccination certificate. The measure takes effect from March 1st. This five-month limit is among the tightest in Europe.
Last week, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a timetable for the gradual lifting of restrictions in France, starting on February 2nd, next Wednesday. “This exceptional wave is not over yet, but the situation is starting to evolve favourably,” he said at a press conference.
The vaccination certificate required to enter restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces will make it possible to lift the capacity limits for cultural, sporting and other events. Teleworking will no longer be mandatory for many people and the use of a mask will not be necessary outdoors.
The peak of the current wave in France should be reached in the coming days, as Health Minister Olivier Véran said. This Tuesday, the country reported a new maximum number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic: 501,635.
In mid-February, when the French government expected that Ómicron’s peak had already been passed, bars and clubs will reopen and eating and drinking will again be allowed in spaces such as theaters and stadiums.
em style=”color: #000000;”>Source in Portuguese at http://postal.pt/