Europe starts lifting restrictions as Covid infections fall

Madrid Desk, Feb 16 (EFE).- Several European countries on Wednesday were considering lifting restrictions in the coming days and weeks amid falling coronavirus infection rates.

France on Wednesday allowed nightclubs to reopen, while consumption of food and drinks in stadiums, cinemas and on trains also returned.

Authorities are also mulling the gradual end of masks indoors from mid-March “if the virus circulates much less and hospitals are in normal operating conditions,” health minister Olivier Véran said in an interview with French public radio.

In neighboring Switzerland, the government announced Wednesday the immediate lifting of most Covid restrictions, including the requirement to present a vaccination certificate or to wear a mask in public places — except for health centers and public transport, where masks will still be required.

The lifting of these measures, which take effect on Thursday and will see Switzerland all but return to pre-pandemic “normality,” was announced at a press conference by the Swiss president Ignazio Cassis.

Austria is also preparing to remove almost all coronavirus restrictions next month, federal chancellor Karl Nehammer told a press conference in Vienna on Wednesday.

While masks will still be required on public transport, supermarkets and pharmacies, from Saturday people will no longer need to present a Covid pass to enter leisure and cultural venues, restaurants and bars, although a negative PCR test will still be required.

“With care and caution we want to regain step by step the freedom that the virus has taken away from us,” Nehammer said in announcing the relief measures.

In Portugal, health minister Marta Temido said Wednesday that the country has overcome the peak of the fifth wave of infections in January and is in “a new phase” that allows authorities to relax restrictions on the use of masks, capacity limits and lockdown criteria.

The country is experiencing a “decrease in the number of cases”, with a risk of transmission below 1 but still with an incidence and mortality that still prevent a full return to normality, the minister said at a press conference after a meeting with public health experts. EFE


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