COVID in Europe: Czech Republic follows Scandinavian countries in lifting most restrictions

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People in the Czech Republic no longer have to show COVID passes from Thursday to gain access to bars, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers, as well sports and cultural events.

It comes after the Czech government moved forward on Wednesday with easing coronavirus restrictions.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said his government will lift measures further during February, depending on the development of the pandemic. The majority of coronavirus restrictions should be lifted by March 1, Fiala said.

Health Minister Vlastimil Valek said that starting February 19, up to 5,000 people will be allowed to attend concerts, sports competitions and others where the visitors are seated, up from the current 1,000.

The government had previously decided to end mandatory coronavirus testing at schools and companies.

Coronavirus cases have fallen from a daily record of over 57,000 on February 1 to 37,600 on Tuesday, still the seventh highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Czech Republic has registered 3.3 million infections and 37,612 virus-related deaths during the pandemic.

The nation of 10.5 million has over 6.8 million people fully vaccinated and almost 3.9 million who have received a booster shot.

Elsewhere in Europe, Sweden lifted almost all of its anti-Covid restrictions from Wednesday, as the pandemic enters what’s described as a “new phase” with the dominance of the contagious but apparently less severe Omicron variant.

Among the changes, bars and restaurants are longer required to close at 11 pm and the rules on gatherings will be eased.

Also, requirements for vaccination passes to enter public venues are being removed, as is the recommendation to wear a mask on public transport during busy periods.

“The pandemic is not over, but we are entering a whole new phase… knowledge has improved… several studies show that Omicron leads to less severe disease,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said last week, as she announced the move.

Even though the Omicron variant has caused a spike in infections, it has not translated into an increase in hospitalisations for severe forms of the disease in a country where the population is widely vaccinated. More than 83% of the population over 12 years old have received two doses of vaccine to date, and just under 50% have had three doses.

If “the overall assessment shows that we can start to return to normal”, the government “will continue to be vigilant as to the evolution of the pandemic”, said Health Minister Lena Hallengren.

A return to the workplace will be gradual, as will face-to-face teaching in higher education courses. The recommendation to stay at home for people displaying COVID symptoms remains in place.

Restrictions on travel from the rest of the EU, the European Economic Area and Nordic countries were due to be lifted from Wednesday. Travel restrictions from the rest of the world are due to expire at the end of March.

Some recommendations remain in place for the unvaccinated – such as avoiding indoor crowds.

Latest figures show a total of 16,028 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in Sweden, which puts the country in line with the European average – but significantly higher than its Norwegian, Finnish and Danish neighbours.

Last week, Denmark became the first EU country to lift almost all coronavirus restrictions.

It was quickly followed by Norway, where Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said society had to “live with” the virus.

source : euronews

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