From Tuesday, Danes can live as before the pandemic, and in several other European countries, infection control measures will be scaled down. But for the unvaccinated, the future is uncertain.
In both the Netherlands and France, the authorities have indicated that the relief will come gradually in the coming weeks.
At the end of last year, together with a number of other European countries, they implemented strict measures to stem the strong spread of infection that the omicron variant has led to.
But that was before the experts were sure that omicron infection led to a milder course of the disease than previous virus variants.
Denmark has now announced that covid-19 is no longer considered a socially critical disease and has lifted virtually all restrictions, except for the requirement for a corona passport or negative test upon entry.
The British in the breeze
However, it was the British who were the first to reset to a normal everyday life. On January 27, most of the restrictions were lifted, including the requirement to wear a face mask. The requirement to show a corona passport to enter nightclubs and major cultural and sporting events was also removed.
This week, moreover, there will no longer be a ceiling on the number of visitors to nursing homes, and on Monday the British Nurses’ Association RCN stepped out and demanded that the government also lift the vaccine requirement for health workers.
The association believes that the order poses a danger to patients because many positions in the health care system are now vacant.
In other countries, the reopening is more gradual than in Denmark and the United Kingdom.
Last week, the Netherlands reopened restaurants, theaters, museums and cinemas for the first time in a month, and in France, the home office requirement is expected to be eased in early February.
Other countries are still holding back, such as Germany and Sweden, but the Swedes hope that relief is just around the corner. The current infection control measures only apply until 10 February.
Infection rates are still sky high in Europe, but as the authorities believe that the infection will soon decrease, the reopening will start anyway.
In late January, Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias announced that all indications were that the summit had been reached.
– Everything indicates that the infection curve is falling. The figures show a clearer decline day by day, she said.
By then, Spain had registered almost 1.5 million cases of infection in two weeks, at the same time as the number of corona patients in hospitals has begun to fall.
Several countries adjust the speed of reopening based on how large a part of the population has been fully vaccinated and how many have received a refresher dose. Here, countries such as Denmark and Portugal are at the top, while the vaccination rate is lower in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands.
Strictly for unvaccinated
But even if the infection control measures are on the way back, it is highly uncertain whether European countries will also scrap the use of corona passports, as the British have done. Greece is going the opposite way. From Tuesday, a refreshing dose is required to eat, drink and attend indoor events.
Italy, France and Belgium also say no to unvaccinated people at restaurants and cultural events, and in Austria the authorities have gone even further.
Here, the differential treatment between vaccinated and unvaccinated was introduced already in November, and on Friday a vaccine order will be introduced for everyone over 18 years of age.
In practice, this means that the unvaccinated can neither go to public places nor show up physically at work.
But the order will not be enforced until March, and by then the world may have gained new knowledge about whether the pandemic is about to ebb, as many experts now believe and hope.
The use of corona passports should both get more people vaccinated and ensure that companies could stay open without society risking too great a spread of infection. However, when the coronavirus has mutated to a milder variant, the authorities must consider whether it can still be defended, both ethically, health-wise and socio-economically.
They must also decide whether it is worth the high level of conflict between the authorities and vaccine opponents, which week after week has led to large demonstrations in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Austria.
In Austria, tens of thousands have gathered in the streets since the government announced the vaccine ban. The country’s security service DSN warned before the weekend that the country is now attracting extreme vaccine opponents from other countries.
The development is described as “very, very frightening” by the country’s security chief Omar Haijawi-Pirchner, who says that foreign vaccine opponents use the demonstrations to spread right-wing extremist ideology and anti-Semitism.
– We see many people who are very radicalized, the DSN boss stated just before the weekend.