It appears there may be a shift, an awakening of sorts in some European countries and Israel when it comes to COVID restrictions. Just this week, several announcements have been made that will end the violation of freedoms and restore some levels of normalcy for citizens.
On January 19, 2022, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson made some pretty bold statements in revoking COVID restrictions. The British government will no longer require people to work from home, enforce vaccine passes, although those could be voluntarily required by specific private groups, self-isolation requirements were revoked and masks are optional. In his statement, regarding masks, the Prime Minister stated:
“But, we will trust the judgement of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses no to wear one.”
Sweden has done away with the requirement for travelers to show a negative COVID test to enter the country:
“Travelers are no longer considered to pose a particular risk of affecting the spread of Omicron in Sweden,” the government said in a statement.
The World Health Organization has modified its suggestions to countries regarding international travel bans due to financial and social burdens. The meeting took place on January 13, 2022 with the official statement published on January 19, 2022 stating adjustments to its guidance:
MODIFIED: Lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by States Parties. The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time. Travel measures (e.g. masking, testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination) should be based on risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers in accordance with Article 40 of the IHR. WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant
EXTENDED: Do NOT require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for international travel as the only pathway or condition permitting international travel given limited global access and inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. State Parties should consider a risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate, in accordance with the WHO guidance.
The need to consider natural immunity was also acknowledged as an important shift in research.
Committee stressed the importance of coordinating research on heterologous vaccine combinations, considering also the natural immunity following infection, and the need for manufacturers to produce and share the relevant data.
The neighbors to the north of Great Britain also felt the easing of some restrictions. Nicola Sturgeon shared the news that:
Table service in hospitality will no longer be required. Attendance limits on indoor events will also be lifted, including gatherings limiting to three-households. Restrictions preventing adults from taking part in indoor contact sports will also fall away. While people are still being asked to work from home when possible, the government will encourage business to return to a hybrid approach in February. Vaccine passports will not be extended either.
Ms Sturgeon said:
“Our conclusion today, given the improving situation, is that extending certification would not be proportionate at this stage.”
On Tuesday, Finance Minister, Avigdor Liberman, stated:
“There is no medical and epidemiological logic in the Green Pass as many experts concur,” Liberman wrote on Twitter. “What there is, is a direct damage to the economy, daily functioning and in addition, a significant contribution to panic among the public. I am working with all parties to eliminate the Green Pass and preserve a normal routine for all of us.”
Under the Green Pass outline, only people who are vaccinated, recovered or tested in the previous day – or 72 hours in specific cases – can access certain activities and venues, and in some instances, their workplace.
Where Does the U.S. Stand?
On Thursday, Biden’s Press Secretary, Jen Psaki was asked whether the U.S. would soon see the same type of statements from the White House. In a FOX interview:
Psaki went on to explain the importance of vaccination but admitted that the White House is working toward lessening restrictions.
“At the same time, Dana, I think you make a really important point — we don’t want to live like this. You heard the president say ‘we don’t want to live like this forever.’ We want to get back to a point where we’re not wearing masks, of course. Where we are not worried about our kids being in school places, … That’s where we want to get to, and what we’re trying to do is continue to fight at the height of a pandemic to get to that point,” Psaki said.
Psaki said that she could not make a prediction on when restrictions would ease but stated the White House would be “watching” the data “very closely” to make a determination.