GRAND OPENING: Covid Restrictions Ease Around the World
By Jefferey Jaxen
In mid January, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson abruptly began singing a different tune as he announced the ending of Covid restrictions. The NYT reported the move was “likely to mollify critics in his restive Conservative Party at a time when he is besieged by career-threatening political scandals.” Since Johnson’s about face, scores of countries are following suit like falling dominos.
Scotland announced it would begin easing its restrictions. Trying to save face, the country’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told BBC during an interview that the impact of Scotland’s Covid restrictions on business and hospitality had been “worth it.” Meanwhile, the country’s official public health data told a story of the vaccinated driving the majority of the cases in the country.
Then, despite having the second highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in Europe, Ireland eased its restrictions on January 22.
Having some of Europes toughest restrictions and facing protest, the Netherlands began easing its restrictions. Its Health Minister Ernst Kuipers said that relaxing the curbs was important adding “Living for longer with restrictive measures harms our health and our society.”
Denmank is also now removing nearly all Covid restrictions from next Tuesday. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the nation will go back to ‘life as we knew it before corona’ as she credited the milder Omicron variant as being no longer ‘threatening to society.’
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin echoed the call, albiet more slowly, announcing a rolling opening extending through the month of February.
Reuters is now reporting that Norway will scrap most of its remaining COVID-19 lockdown measures with immediate effect as a spike in coronavirus infections is unlikely to jeopardize health services, the prime minister said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile in France, where citizens are gearing up for their 30th consecutive week protesting President Emmanuel Macron heavy-handed restrictions, overreaching vaccine mandates and digital vaccine passports, the government has announced a timetable for lifting Covid restrictions.
Italy showed a more timid approach as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised to continue moving towards the reopening of his country.
“We want a more open Italy. In the future, the Italian government will announce a planned schedule for lifting the COVID-19 restrictions based on the development of the virus,” Draghi said Thursday.
Exactly one week after Sweden’s health agency decided against recommending COVID vaccines for kids aged 5-11, arguing that the benefits did not outweigh the risks, the country has announced that starting February 9 all coronavirus measures will be lifted.
In India’s capital territory of Delhi, its Delhi Disaster Management Authority is expected to meet tomorrow to discuss further relaxations in restrictions for its nearly 19 million citizens – including the reopening of schools.
The Lithuanian government plans to drop its vaccine passport requirement in public areas, such as restaurants and sporting events and will no longer require unvaccinated workers to undergo mandatory weekly testing.
Even New Zealand’s government, having clung for so long to the unscientific ‘zero Covid’ lockdown strategy, has announced a major shift. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined a five-step plan that would begin a slow trickle extending into August 2022.
The U.S. has yet to hit any type of uniformity in easing its Covid restrictions. The city of Denver is ending requirements with its Mayer Michael Hancock stating “Beginning Friday, people will no longer be required, under a public health order, to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination for entry into a business.”
Governor Kathy Hochul has extended the state of New York’s mask mandate into the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, New Orleans is set to become the nation’s first major district to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 and up.
And finally in Canada, where truckers are amassing in the capital city of Ottawa to protest against the cross-border vaccine passports, Quebec has dropped its ill-advised plan to levy a ‘significant’ tax upon the unvaccinated. Scott Moe, the Premier of Saskatchewan, has also announced he will scrap the proof of vaccination requirement as the standoff continues.
Watching global governments, in unison, ending restrictions not because of the lack of science underpinning them, but because of the Omicron’s mild nature and rapid ability to induce natural immunity among populations is noteworthy. Will these same governments turn such well-oiled restrictions back on like a spigot at the sight of another variant? Or how about to combat ‘climate change‘?
It’s important to also not that Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics recently released a Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality in which they concluded, “
Overall, our meta-analysis fails to confirm that lockdowns have had a large, significant effect on mortality rates.”
The authors continue to expand on the policy implications of lockdowns writing:
“The use of lockdowns is a unique feature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have not been used to such a large extent during any of the pandemics of the past century. However, lockdowns during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic have had devastating effects. They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, and undermining liberal democracy. These costs to society must be compared to the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown are marginal at best.”