The vaccine pass has just come into force in France this Monday, January 24, and yet some European countries seem to have already moved on. In recent days several of them have decided to consider Covid 19 as one disease among others. Thus, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands are the first to return to a more or less normal life. Despite the contaminations which are still exploding due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, this end to health restrictions seems to be justified by the decongestion of intensive care services.
England, the Covid-19 becomes a “simple flu”
This Thursday, January 27 marks the end of the last health restrictions in England. After ending the recommendation to work from home last week, Boris Johnson’s government is now suspending other restrictions – among the lightest in Europe – introduced in December to stem the spread of the Omicron variant. The English will no longer be obliged to wear the mask indoors in public places or to present a vaccination passport to enter nightclubs or access gatherings. If the only legal restriction is now the isolation of infected people, the British Prime Minister has declared that this measure could also be suspended, in March according to The Guardian “just as there is no legal obligation for people who have the flu to isolate themselves”.
The pressure from hospitals has also fallen sharply according to The Guardian, as the proportion of patients hospitalized “with” Covid rather than “for” Covid has increased sharply. In total, across all hospitals in England, 501 patients were in beds with life support on January 25, down from 773 at the start of December – and well below the 3,736 recorded at the height of the second wave on January 24, 2021.
In Ireland, “the storm” has passed
It has now been a week since Ireland ended the majority of coronavirus restrictions. In an address to the nation on January 21, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin confirmed that the country had “overcame the Omicron storm” and that he was therefore “no longer justified to keep most of our restrictions in place”.
Thus, since January 22, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have reopened normally, without time constraints. Similarly, the health pass is no longer required in places of leisure. As in some cities in England, the mask remains compulsory in public transport and shops.
According to Our world in data, on January 15, Ireland had 89 people in intensive care in hospital.
In Denmark “welcome to life”
Denmark is the first EU country to take the plunge. This Wednesday, January 26, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the lifting of all restrictions due to Covid-19 as of February 1: “We say goodbye to restrictions and welcome to life as we knew it before the coronavirus” she proudly declared. Despite record cases of contamination, the Nordic country considers its high vaccination coverage sufficient in the face of the slightest severity of the Omicron variant. Indeed, 82.5% of Danes have received a first dose and 80.6% two doses, while 60% have already been vaccinated three times, even though Denmark has not imposed vaccination. From now on, “coronavirus should no longer be considered a threatening disease for society” according to the Prime Minister and in the light of scientific data.
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While Denmark does not rank among the EU countries with the most intensive care beds, its strong screening campaign has been very effective, with 3,656 deaths ” only “ were recorded on 5.8 million inhabitants. It is even the European country that has tested the most since the start of the pandemic. In the world public health professor Ole Frilec Olesen explains that this strategy has allowed the country to avoid the worst: “We were able to detect and intervene quickly when there were outbreaks of contamination” he adds.
According to AFP, the number of hospitalizations due to Covid in the country has continued to increase in recent days and has exceeded 900 patients. But the health authorities believe they can cope with the burden. At the beginning of January, the number of hospitalizations increased by only 16% for an increase in the number of new cases of 35%, they argue. In addition, the number of intensive care admissions has decreased from 74 at the beginning of January to 44 currently. The National Health Agency considers that 35% of people currently hospitalized with Covid are in hospital for another pathology.
In the Netherlands, a return to calm
This Tuesday, January 25, the Dutch government announced the conditional reopening of bars, restaurants and cultural venues, in a country where restrictions on the Omicron variant were among the strictest in Europe. A decision which is explained by the rise of tensions in the sectors of catering and culture, according to the Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. “We are taking a big step today (Tuesday, editor’s note) to further deconfine the Netherlands” stating that the government was taking a “risk” given the record number of new cases of contamination.
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Indeed, shops and hairdressers were allowed to reopen on January 15, unlike bars, restaurants, museums and theaters. Since Wednesday, the latter can thus remain open until 10 p.m. and with a reduced reception capacity. However, the sanitary pass remains compulsory at the entrance, as well as the wearing of a mask for standing customers and nightclubs remain closed. Events are possible again, gathering a maximum of 1,250 people indoors.
According to our world in data, at the beginning of December 2021, some 650 people were hospitalized in intensive care compared to 190 on January 26, 2022.