1. Breaking free
As of 1 February, Denmark will no longer impose Covid-19 restrictions, despite having registered a record number of 53,655 cases on Friday. The rising cases of Covid-19 in the Scandinavian country aren’t preventing the authorities from lifting all restrictions, following the footsteps of the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands.
We are saying farewell to the restrictions and welcome to life as we knew it before Covid-19. Tonight we can begin to lower our shoulders and find our smiles again. The pandemic is still here, but with what we know now, we can dare to believe we are through the critical phase.Matte Frederiksen, Danish Prime Minister
2. Vaccination uptake and mild Omicron
In Denmark, the recipe for unlocking the country is the combination of a mild Omicron variant and a high vaccination rate among the Danish, which is leading to a drop in patients in intensive care, slowly pushing the country to an endemic phase. Only testing on arrival from aboard will remain in place.
The situation in Denmark is that we have this decoupling between infections and intensive care patients, and it is mainly due to the large attachment among Danes to revaccination. That is the reason why it is safe and the right thing to do now.Magnus Heunicke, Danish Health Minister
In September 2021, thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign, Denmark was the first EU country to lift all coronavirus restrictions and to completely go back to pre-pandemic daily life. Ahead of Christmas time, Copenhagen decided to tighten up measures again.
3. European countries opening up
In the UK, mandatory masks have been scrapped in shops or in public transports, alongside Covid-19 vaccine passports. The country registered more than 80,000 cases on 28 January. In Ireland, where cases went over 5,000 on 28 January, almost all pandemic restrictions have been lifted, including pub opening hours and limits on social gatherings.
Alike Denmark, the Netherlands decided to relax some restrictions, including opening bars and restaurant, as of 3 February, regardless of the rising number of cases. Registering 74,019 cases on 28 January, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said “we are taking a very big step” but noted that the government will reassess the situation in three weeks.
The German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who is a professor of epidemiology, recently said it’s the right time to start thinking about the pandemic in a different way: “When we have this [surge] behind us … we can start opening again, step by step,” he told local media. “It’s correct to envisage this now.”
In Spain, the Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had already spoken about his plan to begin treating the coronavirus more like the flu. Spain would “have to learn to live with it, as we do with many other viruses,” said Sanchez.
In Portugal, with around 98 percent of the eligible population vaccinated, epidemiologists agree that the country has already entered the endemic phase of Covid-19. As for the French, Health Minister Olivier Veran has also suggested this could be the final wave of the pandemic.
The argument for opening the country is based on a drastic reduction of serious cases and hospital admissions, despite the high number of infections caused by the more infectious Omicron.