European Countries Move To End COVID-19 Measures

Europe is leaving the COVID-19 pandemic behind as Germany joins other countries in ending the restrictions that have disrupted daily life for the past two years.

Most of Germany’s pandemic curbs will be ended in three stages by March 20, according to a proposal by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Austria and Switzerland are planning similar steps, and the Netherlands announced earlier this week that it will lift all controls on people and businesses starting on February 18.

Once the global epicenter of the pandemic, Europe is looking to return to normal life. The shift is being helped by relatively high vaccination rates and milder symptoms caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

France, which moved quickly on unwinding restrictions, could go a step further by loosening requirements on masks and showing proof of vaccination starting in mid-March, Health Minister Olivier Veran said earlier this week.

Germany’s COVID-19 outbreak has started to recede and the improving outlook has prompted calls from across the political spectrum for Europe’s largest economy to follow countries such as England, Ireland and Denmark in easing restrictions.

German officials remain cautious. The government’s proposal calls for mask wearing and social distancing to remain mandatory in indoor public spaces and on public transport.

In Switzerland, the government is widely expected to drop most public-health measures put in place to stem COVID-19’s spread. However, masks may still be required on public transport.