Europe is starting to view Covid-19 like the flu, ‘you just have to live with it’

(ORDO NEWS) — This idea is gradually gaining momentum and could lead to a reassessment of government strategies to combat the virus. Spain is calling for treating the Covid-19 virus as an endemic disease like the flu, becoming the first major European country to explicitly invite people to live with the virus.

This idea is gradually gaining momentum and could lead to a reassessment of government strategies to combat the virus. UK Education Secretary Nadeem Zahavi told the BBC on Sunday that the UK is “on a transition from pandemic to endemic.”

The lower hospitalization and death rates of the omicron variant, despite record infection rates, prompted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to come up with the tantalizing prospect of Europe moving beyond the pandemic-specific restrictions on normal life.

“We have to evaluate the evolution of Covid from a pandemic to an endemic disease,” Sanchez said in a radio interview on Monday, adding that European governments may have to evaluate the disease according to different parameters than those used so far.

Despite some of the highest Covid rates in Europe, Ireland will maintain a voluntary vaccination system, according to Prime Minister Michel Martin. The Belgian government wants to give the people a “free choice,” Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo said.

Many countries are reducing quarantine periods in an attempt to keep essential services running. The latest was the Czech Republic, which has required Covid-positive people to self-isolate for five days since Tuesday, less than two weeks.

Travel restrictions have also shown their limits. The UK became the first country to ban flights from southern Africa, where omicron was first identified. However, it was the first place in Europe where the omicron wave originated. Similarly, France has overtaken the UK in the number of cases, despite imposing travel restrictions from the UK.

In recent weeks, the Spanish government has been working on a new approach to monitoring, and Health Minister Carolina Darias has raised the issue with her European counterparts, Sanchez said.

The effort comes as almost 692,000 new cases have been reported in Spain in the past seven days, with 13.4% of hospital beds used for Covid patients, according to data from the Ministry of Health. This is up from 13.8% a year earlier, when the number of reported weekly cases was just over 115,000.

If European countries succeed in easing restrictions in the coming weeks, last year’s experience will remain a cautionary tale. Last fall, Denmark lifted all Covid restrictions and the Netherlands lifted all masking requirements. Both countries now have some of the highest infection rates in Europe and have reintroduced restrictions.

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