Countries throughout Europe have been easing up on Covid-19 restrictions as hospital admissions have begun to level out. Austria has lifted the lockdown that was in place for unvaccinated individuals while Switzerland is preparing for a “turbo” reopening of public spaces.
The Danish government declared that Covid-19 “should no longer be categorized as a socially critical disease after January 31st.” The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and France have all begun taking steps to ease up on restrictions and return to some sense of normalcy.
While the Omicron variant is continuing to cause cases to rise in Europe, hospital and intensive care admissions have not been surging in line with new cases, meaning most individuals who are getting it are likely vaccinated and protected from severe disease.
Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said that from “next Saturday, shops and restaurants would be able to stay open until midnight and the maximum number of people able to participate in events will rise from 25 to 50.”
The nation also has become the first EU member state to make vaccination legally compulsory for adults. Under this law, individuals who refuse to get their inoculations are liable for fines up to €3,600.
Unvaccinated individuals in Austria can now leave their houses, but are barred from eating in restaurants or shopping for non-essential items as the government continues to try to increase western Europe’s vaccination rates; where the rates are currently lowest.
In Switzerland, experts who studied both Swiss and German infection rates said “Omicron was significantly more infectious, but seemingly less severe, than the Delta variant and was unlikely to cause record numbers of admissions to ICUs.”
Around 40% of Swiss companies have previously reported major staff shortages. Alain Berset, the Swiss health minister, has now called for remaining restrictions to be lifted by mid-February as a means of “turbo reopening” the economy.
Germany’s finance minister, Christian Lindner, also said “the government should be laying the foundations for a smooth return to normal, even though the peak of the Omicron wave may still be several weeks away, business requires a planning horizon.”
Germany initially had the goal of getting 80% of its population vaccinated by the end of January, and currently have 75.8% of the population vaccinated. This puts Germany behind other larger countries such as Italy, France, and Spain.
The World Health Organization has said it is “plausible that the Omicron variant, which seems to cause less severe symptoms in the fully vaccinated, may signal the pandemic’s transition towards a more manageable phase and eventual endgame, but the situation remains unpredictable.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.