Several EU countries have seen a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in the past month, which the WHO’s regional director has directly blamed on the “brutal” lifting of restrictions.
In the UK, Covid-19 infections reached record levels recently due to the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, BA.2, but it appears to have stabilized in recent days.
However, the number of cases remains high, while hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise. The drop in Covid-19 cases may also be due to the fact that free testing was halted on April 1.
In the UK, face masks are no longer necessary in most public places, such as on public transport, although the government is encouraging people to wear face masks in crowded places where they are likely to come into close contact with people they do not know.
Face coverings remain a requirement in healthcare settings such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes.
While it is not mandatory in stores and supermarkets, major retailers such as Tesco and Sainsbury have asked customers to continue to wear face coverings to prevent the spread of the virus that has killed 170,000 people in the UK.
Self-isolation is no longer a legal requirement, but the government is advising people to stay home if possible.
NHS Covid permits, in which people across England can prove their vaccination status, test negative for Covid-19 or recover from infection, are no longer mandatory to get to places but remain a requirement to travel abroad.
So how does the UK compare to Covid restrictions elsewhere in Europe?
As in the UK, people wishing to access bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues in Germany no longer have to provide proof of vaccination, cure or proof. However, they still have to access healthcare facilities.
Face masks have also been phased out, except in healthcare settings, on public transport, and in some common spaces, according to the Schengen Visinfo report.
Germany announced in early April that it would back down from a proposal to end compulsory self-isolation for those who tested positive.
“Coronavirus is not a cold. This is why isolation should continue after infection,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Twitter, adding that he was wrong when he suggested ending mandatory quarantine.
Under current rules, people with Covid-19 must self-isolate for at least seven days. Lauterbach has proposed switching to a five-day voluntary self-isolation period with a Covid-19 test recommended at the end of that time.
France last month abandoned the need to show a Covid-19 passport, which it presented at the end of January, to access various places, which means that those who want to go to bars, restaurants, stadiums, cinemas and exhibitions can do so freely. For non-vaccinated people who wish to access health facilities, access is only granted if a recovery test or a negative Covid-19 test result is provided.
After weeks of a steady decline in infections in March, France also scrapped the requirement to wear face masks, with the exception of hospitals and public transport. While it’s not legally required, many schools have kept requiring teachers and students to wear face masks after cases began to rise again late last month.
Those who have been fully vaccinated and test positive must self-isolate for seven days, a period that can be reduced to five after a negative result and are asymptomatic for 48 hours. For those not fully vaccinated, isolation increases to 10 days with possible departure after 7 with a negative test result.
Until April 30, anyone accessing public transport in Italy must have an FFP2 mask on, including buses, planes and ferries.
FFP2s are also required for any entertainment open to the public, both indoors and outdoors, including cinemas, theaters, and sporting events.
Ordinary face mask can be used in any other area, such as stores.
Italy still requires the use of both the green corridor and the so-called super green corridor.
To access public transport, indoor bars and restaurants, outdoor sports arenas, outdoor theaters and concerts, a green lane must be shown, which is obtained with a Covid-19 vaccination, a negative test result or a recovery test. It is also necessary to reach health centers.
The Super Green Card, which can only be obtained with a Covid vaccination or proof of recovery, is required for indoor sports facilities, including swimming pools, health centers, indoor playgrounds, theatres, cinemas and nightclubs. They are also essential for receptions and other indoor events.
There is still a 10-day self-isolation period for those who contract Covid-19. This can be reduced to seven days with a booster injection and for those who took a second dose less than four months ago.
In Spain, self-isolation for those who test positive but have no symptoms or mild symptoms is no longer mandatory, but authorities still recommend that they stay at home, wear face masks and keep social contact to a minimum for a week.
Masks are mandatory for everyone over the age of six on public transport and at indoor events, as well as crowded outdoor masks where a distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained.
Health Minister Carolina Dryas said she will propose scrapping the requirement to wear face masks indoors during a government meeting on April 19, although it will remain a requirement on public transportation and health centers.
As of March, a Covid permit was not necessary to access places in Spain.
Austria was the first country in the European Union to re-impose its restrictions after a drop in the number of cases led to them being lifted.
FFP2 masks have been reintroduced for all indoor public spaces. This includes public transport, cable cars, elevators, all shops, cultural and entertainment centers, hotels and restaurants when you are not seated.
Bars, clubs and après-ski venues can choose between mandatory FFP2 masks or request proof of vaccination, recovery or testing.
While the Covid Corridor is no longer a national requirement, rules may vary by region. In Vienna, for example, you have to prove vaccination or recovery to get access to restaurants, bars, clubs and gyms. Children 6 to 12 years of age can access a negative result by lateral flow or PCR, while children 12 to 15 years of age can only access PCR.
If the test result is positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days, but the period can be interrupted after five days if the PCR test is negative and if there are no symptoms for 48 hours, according to local reports.
Face masks are mandatory in Portugal at home and abroad as social distancing cannot be maintained until April 22. When in restaurants and cafes, people must wear their masks until they are seated.
The requirement to show a Covid card has been removed, but proof of vaccination, negative test or refund must still be shown at border control. Access to health care facilities is also required, unless you have been using a triple needle for more than two weeks.
If you test positive for Covid-19 or develop symptoms, you must self-isolate for seven days if you have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms, while if you have more severe symptoms, you must self-isolate for ten days.
People in Poland are no longer required to wear face masks when attending many indoor public venues and events, although this does not apply to healthcare settings.
In accordance with the UK government’s advice on travel to Poland, from March 28, self-isolation has been lifted for those who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country.