The Netherlands has lifted its toughest Covid controls, Denmark is to remove all restrictions within days and France will begin easing curbs next week, as many – but not all – EU countries opt to reopen despite record infection numbers.
The moves come as data shows hospital and intensive care admissions are not surging in line with cases, and after the World Health Organization suggested the Omicron variant – which studies show is more contagious but usually less severe for vaccinated people – may signal a new, more manageable phase in the pandemic.
Dutch bars, restaurants and museums were allowed to reopen on Wednesday after the prime minister, Mark Rutte, said the government was “consciously looking for the limits of what is possible” as case numbers continued to hit new daily highs.
Intensive care admissions and deaths, however, have been falling in the Netherlands, and the health minister, Ernst Kuipers, said a decision to prolong restrictive measures would have risked “harming our health and our society”.
The Danish government, which two weeks ago allowed cinemas and music venues to reopen after a month’s closure, also announced on Wednesday plans to scrap remaining domestic coronavirus controls from 1 February. The move – which must be approved by parliament – will allow nightclubs to reopen, restaurants to serve alcohol after 10pm, and shops to lift limits on customer numbers. Vaccine passes will no longer be needed, and commuters may travel without wearing masks.