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European countries scrap Covid rules despite warnings it’s too soon


A pedestrian zone in Oslo on Feb. 2, 2022, after Norway scrapped most of its Covid restrictions.

Terje Pedersen | NTB | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — Several European countries are scrapping Covid regulations, despite the WHO urging governments to “protect their people using every tool in the toolkit.”

Sweden lifted the majority of its remaining Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday, following the lead of fellow Nordic nations Denmark and Norway.

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week plans to end self-isolation rules for people who test positive for Covid earlier than expected.

In Sweden, social distancing requirements, the use of vaccine passports and limits on the number of people gathering in one place were lifted this week. Free testing in the country also ended on Wednesday, and the government is looking to reclassify Covid as a disease that is “not a danger to society or a threat to public health” from April 1.  

In a press release last week, the Swedish government said it believed the situation was “sufficiently stable to begin phasing out infection control measures.”

“Vaccination is the single most important weapon in the fight against Covid-19,” it added.

In Sweden, 73% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University.

‘Have a little more patience’

However, Fredrik Elgh, professor of virology at Sweden’s Umea University, told Reuters the country needed to “have a little more patience” and wait at least a couple more weeks before lifting restrictions.  

“We are wealthy enough to keep testing,” he argued. “The disease is still a huge strain on society.”

It comes after Denmark became the first country in the EU to lift all of its Covid restrictions on Feb. 1, despite cases rising. Infections in the country reached record highs just a day later.

The Danish government said in a statement in January it had decided that “Covid-19 should no longer be categorized as a socially critical disease.”

More than 80% of Denmark’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus, JHU data shows.

‘Vaccines offering protection’

Norway also lifted “a large number of Covid-19 measures” on Feb. 1, but kept its recommendation to maintain a 1-meter distance from others and a requirement to wear a mask when this is not possible.

“Even though many people are becoming infected with Covid-19, lower numbers of people are being admitted to hospital,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement at the time. “Vaccines are offering good protection — this means we can now remove a large number of measures, even though the infection rate is rising quickly.”

Norway recorded a record high of 26,109 new cases on Tuesday, according to JHU data.

In the U.K. this week, Johnson told lawmakers in Parliament that his government planned to lift the legal requirement for people with Covid to self-isolate at the end of this month.

Currently, people who test positive for the virus can end their isolation after five days providing they…


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European countries scrap Covid rules despite warnings it’s too soon