Schools, shops and beaches have reopened in several parts of Europe as the continent breaks free from months of COVID-19 lockdown amid ongoing mass vaccination efforts and declining infection rates.
Enthusiastic ‘freedom’ Spaniards danced the streets as the COVID-19 curfew ended in most countries this weekend, while Greece reopened public beaches – with well-spaced loungers – nursery, elementary and middle schools Monday.
Ireland has lifted restrictions on domestic travel and started a gradual reopening of non-essential retail, and in Germany, a sunny first weekend of summer lifted morale after the Minister of Health , Jens Spahn, declared the third wave of the pandemic finally broken.
Germany will ease restrictions on people who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus disease, lifting curfews and quarantine rules as well as the requirement to provide a negative test result to visit a hairdresser, zoo or shopping.
Cyprus was also due to ease restrictions on Monday and end a third partial lockdown, with a new coronavirus ‘security pass’ system to be deployed to allow people to move freely.
These measures were accompanied by notes of caution, however, with Spahn and Spain’s Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo warning that the coronavirus threat persisted.
“The end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the restrictions. Far from there. The viral threat still exists, ”Campo wrote in an opinion piece in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. He urged the Spaniards to behave “responsibly” as measures began to ease.
Spahn meanwhile warned that the mood in Germany was “better than the reality” the country was facing.
The seven-day national incidence of COVID-19 cases nationwide remains high at 119 per 100,000 people, he said, adding that this made “keeping the speed of the campaign all the more important vaccination ”.
UK wants to make lockdown even easier
With 200 million doses of vaccine administered, the European Union is on track to meet its goal of inoculating 70% of its adult population by summer, Commission President Ursula von der tweeted on Sunday. Leyen.
Across the block, the seven-day COVID-19 incidence rate is 185 per 100,000 people, according to Our World in Data.
This is much higher than in countries like Israel, the UK or the US, which have all made faster progress in their vaccination campaigns.
In the UK, early vaccine orders and approval and the decision to get the first few doses to as many people as possible have resulted in infections and deaths falling much faster than in other European countries.
This success allowed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to continue his multi-step plan to facilitate the lockdown of England.
Johnson was expected to set out on Monday the next phase of his plan, which should give the green light to “cautious hugs” and allow pubs to serve pints to customers inside after months of strict measures.
“The data reflects what we already knew – we are not going to let this virus beat us,” he said ahead of an early official announcement.
Immunization efforts are progressing
Vaccine deliveries were initially slower in the EU as part of its centralized purchasing strategy.
But now, with injections of BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna relatively abundant, vaccinations as a share of the population in Europe are increasing while countries that have made early progress are seeing slowdowns as they encounter hesitation among the unvaccinated. .
Some 31.6% of adults in 30 European countries received a first dose and 12% a full two-dose regimen, the COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control showed.
France plans to give 20 million first injections in mid-May and 30 million in mid-June.
With a drop in infection rates and a drop in the occupancy rate of hospital intensive care units, France plans to start easing its curfew and allowing cafes, bars and restaurants to offer an emergency service. open air from May 19.
Choose and choose
Improved supply has given countries greater freedom to adapt their strategies following reports of very rare, but sometimes fatal, blood clotting in people injected with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
Germany has decided to make both vaccines available to anyone who wants them, provided they have been advised by a doctor – an offer aimed at young adults who would have to wait their turn otherwise.
The Norwegian Vaccine Commission made a similar appeal on Monday, saying AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines should be made available to volunteers. Some Italian regions also offer both photos to people under the age of 60.
As some governments shorten the spreads between doses and plan a European digital ‘green pass’ program in June for travelers to provide proof of vaccination or immunity, people who have locked themselves in for months are finally daring plan their vacation.
“We place our hopes in tourism,” Nikos Venieris, who runs a beach in Alimos, a suburb of Athens, told Reuters news agency.
Tourism accounts for around a fifth of Greece’s economy and jobs, and the country can hardly afford another summer without visitors. Greece lifts restrictions on foreigners vaccinated from May 15.