People waiting in the queue outside a store maintain social distancing. © Getty Images
Belgium and Germany remain cautious about relaxing too quickly
Denmark, France, Ireland, and Norway have pushed ahead with relaxing or removing Covid restrictions in recent weeks, as they listen to calls from the public for measures to be relaxed due to fading concerns about the Omicron strain.
While the European continent recorded over 2.4 million cases in the past 48 hours, the Covid alert level in the region has fallen, with healthcare systems able to cope with the Omicron variant due to the milder symptoms it causes and widespread protection from vaccines.
Ireland was one of the first European nations to roll back almost all Covid restrictions imposed amid the spread of Omicron, declaring on January 21 that the nation had passed the peak of the variantís wave and could return to normal operations.
Denmark and Norway scrapped the majority of their Covid restrictions on Tuesday, with the Danish government stating that the variant can no longer be considered a "socially critical disease" due to its limited burden on healthcare providers. France acted a day later, relaxing its Covid measures on Wednesday, allowing workers to return to offices, and full attendance in stadiums and theatres again.
In the coming days and weeks, Finland, Italy, and Switzerland are each expected to hold meetings of their governments to discuss timelines for relaxing restrictions despite the high number of infections, as there is a declining hospitalization rate in Europe.
However, while most European nations are rolling back measures, Germany has shown little interest in removing restrictions, with the countryís health minister, Karl Lauterbach, claiming the peak of Omicron wonít be seen until mid-February. Similarly, Belgium is maintaining many of its red zone areas, requiring citizens to work from home and placing limits on businesses.
Elsewhere, Austria has taken a middle ground approach, refusing to remove its policy of fining individuals who fail to get the Covid vaccine, but gradually phasing out restrictions on shops, hotels, and restaurants throughout February.
Since the start of the pandemic, Europe has confirmed over 147.7 million cases of Covid, with 1.77 million deaths recorded. The continent experienced a spike in cases throughout January, as Omicron continues to spread but fatalities have remained at a lower level than earlier periods of the pandemic.