Spain removes more quarantine requirements, another step in Europe’s halting move toward normality


People in close contact with those who have tested positive for the coronavirus in Spain are, as of Saturday, no longer required to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status.

Instead, the country’s Health Ministry recommends that those exposed to an infected person exercise caution and act responsibly. A similar rule for vaccinated people had been lifted recently, and this extension was attributed in part to lower case rates, the government said.

The change is expected to particularly affect schools, some of which have had to quarantine entire classrooms after detecting cases among students. Children under 12 are less likely to have completed their vaccination program, and only about 17 percent of the age group is fully vaccinated, according to government data.

Spain has joined a number of other countries in Europe in recently easing restrictions. The strategies and situations across the continent have varied, with some taking a more staggered approach and others more immediately trying to “live with the virus.”

Spanish island relaxes more Covid rules from today


Gran Canaria has relaxed more of its Covid restrictions today, making it easier for people to socialise.

The Canary Island was on the highest level of Covid alert – Level 4 – but as of midnight this morning, it has been reduced to Level 3.

The change means that groups of up to 12 people can sit at a table in a restaurant in Gran Canaria, compared to just eight under Level 4 rules.

Hospitality venues, such as restaurants and bars, can stay open until 4am instead of 3am and nightclubs can operate at 100 per cent capacity outside, compared to 75 per cent.

Gran Canaria follows in the footsteps of Tenerife and La Palma which were downgraded from Level 4 to Level 3 last month.

The change will come as good news to Brits with plans to go to the Spanish island in the coming weeks.

‘Lots of happy tears’: joy as New Zealand opens border after two years of isolation

Tears, hugs, laughter and the shouts of children echoed through the arrivals halls of New Zealand, as the country opened its borders and lifted isolation requirements.

“I’ve been waiting six months for this moment,” says Steve, 72, who was waiting for his fiancee, Karin, to arrive from Australia. “I’m over the moon,” he said. “I feel a bit shaky.”

Steve said he had cleaned their motor-home, complete with karaoke machine, from top to bottom, in preparation for taking a trip around New Zealand for the pair to see their friends and family. “We’ve been talking on the phone for five hours a day to keep our sanity that way,” says Steve. “It’s been very hard.”

For almost two years, New Zealand’s international airports’ arrival terminals have been shuttered ghost towns. Apart from a short-lived travel bubble with Australia, the country’s borders have been closed, with those lucky enough to secure entry into the country whisked to government-managed isolation and quarantine facilities for a costly two weeks secluded in a hotel room.

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Travel restrictions are quickly disappearing in Europe


Travel restrictions are quickly disappearing in Europe, with new announcements coming by the week — and, more recently, by the day.

Changes to eliminate Covid-related travel rules gained momentum in January, as a wave of omicron-related infections engulfed the continent.

But parts of Europe didn’t wait to act. Citing high vaccination rates and the mildness of most omicron infections, nations moved to drop rules deemed no longer effective in the global fight against Covid-19.

Before Covid infections peaked in Europe in late January, the United Kingdom and Switzerland had already announced they were scrapping pre-departure Covid tests for vaccinated travelers. Meanwhile, other European countries shortened self-isolation periods and dropped color-coded country travel restrictions.

The Council of the European Union recommended on Jan. 25 that member nations apply a “person-based approach” — rather than a country-based one — that allowed free travel for those with an EU digital Covid certificate that showed proof of vaccination with an EU-approved vaccine, a recent negative Covid test or recovery from an infection.

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US – Nearly two years into the pandemic, the crowds are (almost) back to partying like it’s 2019


Just weeks away from Pandemic Year Three, the scene on Saturday along D.C.’s U Street NW — that premier corridor for lines, liquor, and late-night traffic — may as well have been captured in 2019.

The crowds had showed up to eat fried chicken and sip on cocktails. To dance to ABBA, aptly outfitted in bell bottoms and flower-print T shirts, or jump around to punk music. They lined up outside the new gay bar, just a few weeks old, and the late-night stalwart pizzeria, nary a face mask in sight.

“It’s like, ‘This is it.’ It’s over. There’s no going back anymore,” said Guillermo Roa, the general manager at El Techo, a rooftop cocktail bar in the Shaw neighborhood.

Inside the establishment, techno beats bumping under pink and red lights, 32-year-old Justin Pope was nursing an IPA and Old Fashioned at the bar as he chatted with his younger brother, back to their bimonthly routine of sibling nights out.

“It’s a big tidal wave about to wash ashore,” Pope said. “Everybody’s been tired. Everybody’s been waiting. Our freedom is coming back.”

With coronavirus case counts in and around Washington high but trending down — and government officials changing guidance and easing requirements — many here said that life, or at least nightlife, has maybe, finally, possibly gotten “back to normal,” even if that normal turns out to be another fleeting phase in the pandemic.

Once the Epicenter, New York City Plans to Drop Vaccine Mandate and Masks in Schools


Face masks and vaccine cards, two essentials in the everyday lives of New Yorkers, are starting to get phased out in the city whose leaders are looking to return daily life to pre-pandemic habits.

On Sunday, Mayor Eric Adams announced his intention to reverse the city’s “Key2NYC” policy, which currently requires anyone 5 and older to show proof of vaccination in order to enter most public spaces, such as restaurants, bars, gyms and grocery stores. He also said he wants to end the indoor mask requirement for students and staff in schools across the city.

Those steps, some of the biggest in New York City’s move toward a return to pre-pandemic life, would start Monday, March 7.

“At the end of this week, we will evaluate the numbers and make a final announcement on Friday. If we see no unforeseen spikes and our numbers continue to show a low level of risk, New York City will remove the indoor mask mandate for public school children, effective next Monday, March 7,” the mayor said in a statement.

Victoria and Queensland relax mask rules as Omicron peak passes


Mask rules are set to be relaxed in Australia’s three biggest states, with authorities also considering removing isolation requirements for household contacts of Covid-19 cases as part of a “big shift” towards living with the virus.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that from 11:59pm on Friday, the public health recommendation for Victorians to work or study from home will be removed and masks will only be required in certain settings including public transport, hospitals and primary schools, and for workers in hospitality, retail and large events.

It aligns with a similar plan which will take effect in New South Wales from Friday.

“We’re going to a situation on Friday where there are essentially no Covid rules, or so few that it’s unrecognisable to what it was a year ago, and indeed what it was two years ago,” Andrews said on Tuesday.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, also said her government would relax the requirement to wear masks in most indoor settings, from 6pm on 4 March.

She told parliament the state was now confident that the peak of the Omicron wave had passed.

People in England will no longer have to self-isolate after testing positive by end of next week


People in England will no longer have to self-isolate after testing positive for coronavirus by the end of next week, Downing Street has said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce the decision tomorrow – which also applies to close contacts – as he moves to scrap all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

When he unveils his “living with COVID” plan, he is expected to tell MPs that the vaccine programme, testing and new treatments will be enough to keep the public safe.

“We’ve built up strong protections against this virus over the past two years through the vaccine rollouts, tests, new treatments, and the best scientific understanding of what this virus can do.”

Portugal drops most COVID-19 rules as Omicron ebbs


As an Omicron-fuelled wave of infections ebbs, Portugal said on Thursday it would drop most of its remaining coronavirus rules, including the requirement to show the COVID-19 digital pass to stay at hotels or a negative test to enter nightclubs.

“This is a very important moment,” Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva told a news conference. “This is another a step towards a return to normal life.”

The new measures will come into force in the next few days, Vieira da Silva said, as they need still the final stamp of approval from the president.

Those going to restaurants, hotels or cultural venues will no longer be asked to show the COVID digital certificate – proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID or a negative test. That will still be required to enter Portugal by air, sea or land.

A negative test will also not be requested to attend large events or to enter sports stadiums, bars and nightclubs.