No more restrictions: follow the Danish example?

Despite a 7-day incidence rate of more than 5,000 cases per 100,000 residents due to the Omicron variant, almost all Covid-related restrictions were lifted in Denmark on 1 February. Other countries such as England are also easing restrictions. Covid-19 should no longer be classified as a threat to society, it is argued. "We have passed the critical phase," said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Europe's press is divided.

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Sme (SK) /

Virus will soon have died out

Omicron will soon make sure that Slovakia can follow in Denmark's footsteps, Sme is sure:

“The entire pandemic seems to be coming to an end with the Omicron variant. The virus, which neither vaccinations nor global lockdowns were able to fully quash, seems to have reached its own biological limits. ... Massive non-compliance with restrictions is so pervasive that it seems reasonable to assume that stopping them altogether will do nothing to change the disease pattern. ... A world without daily reports on how many people are infected, ventilated or dead, and above all a world without restrictions, would immediately improve the social atmosphere and individual sense of well-being of hundreds of thousands of people.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

On your marks, get set, go!

La Vanguardia is delighted to see life returning to normal:

“The path embarked on by Denmark will be followed by the rest of the European countries in the coming days. Catalonia, for example, will lift the last restrictions that affected one area (nightlife) on 11 February and eliminate the use of Covid passes. ... This return to the normal rhythm of life coincides in Spain with very good data on employment, economic growth and tax receipts. ... The rise in inflation is still affecting private consumption but it's clear that overcoming Covid can have an important psychological impact in terms of boosting spending. ... We're at the starting line: on your marks, get set, go!”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Risk groups victims of poor vaccination strategy

Hürriyet believes that the arguments put forward by many experts against relaxations must be taken seriously:

“In Turkey, both initial and booster vaccinations have still not reached the desired level. Another critical factor is that a significant proportion of risk groups - such as the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions - have been given the inactive vaccine Sinovac, which is now known to provide insufficient protection. Current assessments show that the fact that all preventive measures apart from vaccination - such as tracking, testing, isolation and crowd reduction - are now being scaled back 'raises concerns that severe disease progression and mortality rates will increase'.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Premature all-clear

Commenting in Yetkin Report, physician Nuriye Ortaylı is annoyed that everyone from politics to society as a whole is behaving as if Omicron was harmless and the pandemic was over:

“The coronavirus will still be with us for a while, Omicron won't be the last variant. The new variants will be even more contagious. And we don't know how sick they will make us. We don't know if the vaccines that are currently available will be effective against them. There's this great proclamation 'We will live with the virus'. Contrary to what some people claim, there is no guarantee that this coexistence will be like having a mild cold. ... It could lead to heavy losses. For this reason, we need to take long-term precautions.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Hurry up with easing of restrictions

The measures in France are no longer appropriate in view of the milder symptoms associated with the Omicron variant and the high vaccination rate, Le Figaro criticises:

“Clearly nothing fits in with the current situation: neither the isolation rules nor the mismanagement of the tests (10 billion euros!), nor the use of QR codes, nor masks during school breaks. ... It would be bold today to join Britain and Denmark, who are recovering the charms of life as it was before. But because they confuse 'reason of state' with 'reason of bureaucracy', our technocrats are asking Emmanuel Macron to lift the restrictions at a snail's pace. ... Let's hope he prefers a gallop to freedom.”

Der Nordschleswiger (DK) /

Not the country for alternative thinkers

A considerable number of Germans are moving to Denmark, and a good few of them are so-called alternative thinkers, Der Nordschleswiger notes with surprise:

“Precisely because there is no 'alienation from political institutions', in other words, because there is no particularly widespread movement of alternative thinkers in Denmark, Denmark has manoeuvred its way through and (hopefully) out of the Covid crisis more smoothly than Germany. This fact is overlooked by those who come here looking for self-realisation and self-determination without state interference. They overlook the fact that despite its easing of Covid restrictions and rigid border policies, Denmark is not a playground for alternative and anthroposophical-libertarian Germans who have distanced themselves from the majority society.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Covid policies secure power for the elites

For sociologist Tomaž Mastnak, all state action currently now follows a logic he calls the Covid regime. He writes in Dnevnik:

“The Covid regime is the successor of the 'war on terror' regime. So similarities between the Covid regime and the logic of terror are neither coincidental nor external. ... The logic of terror is the basic logic of maintaining and reproducing the unsustainable political-economic system and its power elites. This system and this power can now only be maintained through a thorough, destructive transformation of society. This transformation is being made possible and carried out today by the terror of the Covid regime.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Experience dictates a more proportionate response

An end to the pandemic is in sight, but the country should already start preparing for the next one, says Berlingske:

“There was another phase of uncertainty at the end of 2021 when the Omicron variant emerged and it was unclear how dangerous it would be. But in general, we need to prepare our society so that we have more proportionate alternatives to the extensive lockdowns that were damaging in both human and economic terms. We have now gathered many experiences and Mette Frederiksen's 'extreme caution principle' should be replaced by common sense, proportionality and thoroughness.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

A risky bet

The move could once again be premature, fears the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“Denmark has done many things right in more than two years of the pandemic. The government's Covid policy was often driven by more common sense than elsewhere. The digitalisation of Danish society, the citizens' trust in government and authorities - all that helped. ... The question, however, is whether their view of the near future is based on the same realism or whether over-optimism and risk-taking does not sometimes cloud this view. Denmark thought it had already said farewell to the pandemic in September - and was then caught by surprise by Omicron. ... It is, once again, a bet that Copenhagen is making here.”

Postimees (EE) /

Omicron is not just a cold for the unvaccinated

Estonia cannot afford to follow the Danish example, Postimees stresses:

“The new reality is that an unprecedented amount of people are carrying the virus. At the same time, more and more people are taking the view that with symptoms that are often no worse than a cold, restrictions are no longer necessary. ... However, we must not ignore the fact that the situation in Estonia is different from that in Denmark. The main difference is that far more people are vaccinated and have had booster shots there than here. ... Hence the spread of Omicron in Estonia could cause far more serious problems. So it's also understandable that the Scientific Advisory Board is in no hurry either to lift restrictions or to abolish vaccination certificates. It's just too early.”

Večer (SI) /

Caution still called for

Večer also warns against premature optimism in Slovenia:

“Of course, with the current number of cases it would be completely inconceivable to apply measures from a year ago. Locking down society on such a scale would probably be too much for the health system, the education system, and the economy, not to mention the mental health of individuals. However, it would also be dangerous to lift the floodgates completely. Widespread flooding could ensue. Worse still, the mechanisms of the already struggling healthcare system could be damaged and a new problem could arise from the simultaneous spread of several variants.”

Népszava (HU) /

Vaccinations are no panacea

Népszava also sees little hope of all countries being able to simply lift all the restrictions:

“The case of Israel shows that even mass third and fourth vaccinations are no miracle cure. It seems that the best way to fight the pandemic is indeed with restrictions.”