Europe is in pandemic ‘endgame’, says WHO chief

“It is time to open Sweden again,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, announcing restrictions would be removed from next week.

Requirements for vaccine certificates and wearing face masks on public transport will also be removed, as well as the recommendation to limit social contacts.

“The pandemic is not over but has entered a totally new phase,” Ms Andersson said.

Sweden joined its neighbour, Denmark, which on Tuesday became the first European Union nation to scrap all coronavirus laws despite high levels of infection. The Danish government no longer deems Covid a “critical threat to society” and has even abandoned the requirement to self isolate if infected. 

The Czech Republic has also announced that it will remove some Covid restrictions next week. 

However, at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, former Sage member Sir Jeremy Farrar warned that although he is supportive of lifting restrictions, the transition out of the acute stage of the pandemic is “going to be really very, very difficult”. 

“I just don’t think you wake up on Tuesday and it’s finished. It’s not going to happen like that,” Sir Jeremy, head of Wellcome, said. “The transition from acute phase of a pandemic to something new…. is really difficult and bumpy. It’s different around the world, different even within a single country.”

He added that while a shift towards an endemic infection, which does not trigger unexpected surges, is most likely, countries should not be complacent.

“I think human nature – and certainly political nature – will be, particularly in countries like the UK with high vaccine uptake: ‘We’ve got to move on, we’ve got to ‘learn to live with it’… and I have a lot of sympathy [for this],” he said. “My concern is that there will be too fast a shift to saying it’s all over.”

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