Sweden and Switzerland joined Denmark, Norway, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Italy, Lithuania, France and the UK in announcing they will lift COVID restrictions and open up their countries.
Europe is accelerating steps to roll back COVID restrictions as efforts to control the spread of the virus have failed and countries downgrade the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2.
The policy update will take effect Feb. 6, Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government said, pending approval by a parliamentary committee. Israel’s proof-of-vaccination policy will remain in effect for events such as parties or weddings.
“To continue the green pass in the same way can create false assurances,” said Nadav Davidovitch, an epidemiologist and public health physician advising Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government. “It’s not reducing infections in closed spaces like theatres. It needs to be used mainly for high-risk places like hospitals, elderly care homes, or events when you are eating and singing and dancing.”
Sweden will lift all COVID restrictions by Feb. 9, the Swedish government said today.
According to Politico, the Swedish Public Health Agency said it reassessed COVID as “not being socially critical” due to a better understanding of the Omicron variant, which is milder and associated with fewer hospitalizations.
“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.”
The decision to open Sweden came a day after Switzerland, citing high immunity levels and the milder Omicron variant, announced it will abolish mandatory work-from-home and the quarantine rules beginning today.
The government also will lift health measures at the borders and tourists will no longer need to receive Swiss COVID certificates.
The Swiss government said it planned to phase out other restrictions after consulting with 26 cantons, employers, trade unions and parliamentary committees.
In two weeks, the government will determine the next steps to relax pandemic measures depending on the health situation, according to an official statement.
Options include a staggered exit strategy or an abrupt end to all COVID measures on Feb. 17.