Sweden lifts all Covid measures as Europe infection rates continue to soar

Madrid Desk, Feb 9 (EFE).- Sweden on Wednesday became the latest European country to lift all coronavirus restrictions due to its high vaccination rates and the less severe threat posed by the Omicron variant.

Sweden follows neighbors Denmark, the first country of the European Union to lift all restrictions on February 1 as it no longer considers Covid-19 a “socially critical” disease, although the country is still reporting record numbers of infections.

The United Kingdom last month also lifted the majority of Covid rules, including requirements to wear face masks in public.

Some health rules remain in place in Sweden, such as staying at home if symptomatic, a five-day quarantine for infected health personnel and avoiding crowds for those who have not been vaccinated.

Travelers from the EU and the European Economic Area will be able to freely enter the Scandinavian country without having to present a coronavirus test.

Some 83.8 % of Swedes over 12 years of age have received the full course of the vaccine, and 53.1 % of those over 12 years of age have received the booster dose.

While Sweden pushed ahead with reopening, several countries across Europe were still reporting record numbers of coronavirus infections.

Slovakia and Russia, where vaccination rates remain lower than much of Europe, both registered their highest numbers of new daily infections, while Germany again reported record breaking cumulative coronavirus incidence rates, with 1450.8 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days, compared to 1441.0 on Tuesday and 1227.5 a week ago, the country’s disease control center said Wednesday.

But the record caseloads driven by Omicron have not translated to increased pressure on German hospitals.

The President of the German Hospital Society, Gerald Gass, told Bild newspaper that he no longer feared an imminent saturation of the healthcare system, despite the current wave, insisting that current restrictions on large parts of the hospitality and cultural sectors were making a “significant contribution to the fact that the dreaded wave was less than feared.”

Gass said he was in favor of maintaining the measures until the current wave’s peak has been reached, which the government predicts to come in one or two weeks, after which it should be possible “without a doubt, to contemplate a gradual lifting” of the restrictions.

In Poland, where cases have been falling steadily since the peak in late January, health minister Adam Niedzielski told local media that the government would look at removing Covid restrictions in March if the current trend can be maintained.

In the UK, meanwhile, many families have canceled planned trips to Spain this month for school half-term vacations because Spanish authorities require all travelers over 12 years old to be fully vaccinated, according to travel industry firms.

The Canary Islands are popular with British families during the February school break which starts next week but the measures are complicating some families’ travel plans because not all minors have received both doses of the vaccine.

It is estimated that more than 80 vacation destinations worldwide still require Britons to take a PCR test before entry.

According to the BBC, English independent travel agency Kitts said that because Spain requires double vaccination for those aged 12 and over, half the families who had booked to go to Spain have changed their destination and, in some cases, delayed the trip until Easter.

The president of the Tenerife Hotel Association, Jorge Marichal, wants the Spanish government to change the rules to make it easier for Britons to travel.

“For us the British market is the biggest one. We have more than 2.5 million British citizens coming to Tenerife every normal year,” he said.

“This part of the year is one of the most important. All these profits will be lost.” EFE


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