From no-masking to travelling, how the world is easing COVID-19 restrictions-World News , Technomiz

From no-masking to travelling, how the world is easing COVID-19 restrictions-World News , Technomiz

At a time when India continues to grapple with a spiralling COVID outbreak, hitting a record daily number of deaths, Europe and the US are ready to resume life as usual after months of punishing restrictions.

At a time when India continues to grapple with a spiralling COVID outbreak, hitting a record daily number of deaths, Europe and the US are ready to resume life as usual after months of punishing restrictions.

The French returned to their cafe terraces, while the EU said its borders will be opened to vaccinated travellers.

As health workers administered the world’s 1.5 billionth COVID-19 vaccine dose, there was hope that immunisation campaigns would allow countries to finally emerge from the pandemic.

The EU said Wednesday it would allow fully vaccinated visitors into the bloc and increase the level of new cases that a country can hit before being declared unsafe: which would open up travel into Europe from more places ahead of the summer tourism season.

Visitors from outside the bloc who have received EU-approved vaccines — including those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — will be allowed to enter European Union countries without having to take a test or quarantine upon arrival.

The executive commission also proposed permitting EU member nations to decide individually whether to allow in travellers immunised with vaccines approved by the World Health OrganiSation for emergency use, which include the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. Indians, however, are likely to be excluded from these relaxations until the devastating second wave with worrying new variants (B.1.167 and B.1.167.2) subsides.

It also put in place an “emergency brake” mechanism designed to stop dangerous virus variants from entering EU nations through quickly enacted travel limits if the infection situation deteriorates in a non-EU country.

Once the non-binding measures are approved, EU countries will keep the possibility to impose restrictive measures on tourists such as PCR tests or quarantines.

EU nations have been struggling throughout the pandemic to prop up their vital tourism industries and hope to recover some income over the peak summer season.

It was the latest step towards a return to normal in Europe that in recent days has seen Britain open pubs, gyms and other indoor venues, Italy relax curfews and Portugal welcome returning tourists.

‘Euphoria’

France joined the party on Wednesday, allowing outdoor dining at cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as visits to museums, cinemas and theatres after six months of restrictions and ahead of a full reopening of the economy on 30 June.

“It feels good. There is a sense of euphoria in the city centre,” said Patricia Marchand, a manager of the Cafe des Feuilles in the northwestern city of Rennes.

Tourists waited with excitement and palpable emotion as the cordon around the world’s most visited museum and home of the “Mona Lisa,” the Louvre, was finally lifted.

“I am extremely moved. In fact, just as I entered the Louvre, really just in the gallery, I immediately started crying. Real tears of joy,” said Pauline Lacroix, a psychotherapist.

“It means a lot, you know. It means COVID-19 is starting to finish when it’s the opening of all museums and public areas,” said another visitor, Walid Hneini.

In Paris, demand for tickets to a Renaissance sculpture show was brisk at the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre.

French president Emmanuel Macron took a seat at a café terrace, chatting with customers. Prime Minister Jean Castex, who planned to attend a cinema later Wednesday, projected a mood of measured optimism.

“Let’s get used to try and live together,” Macron told reporters. “If we manage to get well organised collectively and continue vaccinating, have a common discipline as citizens, there’s no reason why we can’t continue moving forward.”

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Eateries in France have been closed since the end of October, the longest time of any European country except Poland, where bars and restaurants reopened Saturday for outdoor service after being closed for seven months.

Still, the French government has put limits on how much fun can be had. Movie theatres can only seat 35 percent capacity, while museums must restrict entries to allow space between visitors. Restaurants can fill only 50 percent of their outdoor seating and have no more than six people at a table.

Starting on 9 June, the French government plans to move the curfew back to 11 pm and to permit indoor dining. Also on that date, France will begin to welcome tourists from non-EU destinations provided they have some sort of coronavirus passport or health pass. The final phase of the three-stage reopening plan is scheduled for 30 June, when the curfew will end and all other restrictions will be lifted, if pandemic conditions allow.

About 40 percent of France’s adult population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose — but that rate is still well behind Britain’s 70 percent and behind several other EU nations.

Austria also relaxed measures Wednesday, reopening restaurants and bars after six months: but only for those who have tested negative, have received at least one vaccine shot or recovered from coronavirus .

Hotels in the Alpine nation were also allowed to receive guests as normal again, provided they can prove they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative.

Digital or paper proof of health status is required for anyone wanting to visit bars, spas, cinemas and other sites too, but children under ten are exempt.

Customers are still required to wear masks, respect a six-foot distancing rule and register their personal details to facilitate contact tracing.

“It feels strange after so many months,” 46-year-old Christoph Neubauer said over coffee in Vienna with a colleague.

Up to 3,000 people can attend outdoor events with designated seating, or 1,500 people if the event is indoors. Events without seating are limited to 50 people.

Authorities also relaxed the strict rules on private meetings, allowing up to four adults and six children to meet indoors. Bars must shut and public events need to end by 10 pm.

To attract foreign visitors, Austria has also eased its quarantine requirements for people arriving from many European countries.

Poland reopened bars with outdoor gardens or dining areas from Saturday. From 29 May, indoor dining will again be allowed.  One of the customers lounging at her bar, Monika Rzezutka, said she had badly missed contact with people during the many months of lockdown and welcomed the resumption of normal life. “What used to be the norm suddenly becomes something unbelievable,” said Rzezutka, a 23-year-old psychology student. “It’s a nice feeling.”

Likewise, coronavirus restrictions were lifted in Britain on Monday, with hugs, indoor drinking and limited foreign travel allowed again, even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to apply a “heavy dose of caution.”

People in England are now allowed to socialize outside in groups of up to 30, meet indoors in groups of six from no more than two households, visit the cinema and hug relatives and friends after more than a year of social distancing restrictions, according to The Washington Post

Croatia has allowed bars and restaurants to operate but customers must be seated outside. The only indoor dining allowed is in hotels. There is a 10 pm curfew for shops, restaurants and other businesses. While beaches, thermal spas, parks, zoos and most museums are open, nightclubs are closed, The New York Times reported. About 31 percent of adults in Croatia have had at least one vaccine dose while nearly 10 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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As per the NYT report, Greece is also among European countries where life is beginning to feel normal again as the government peeled away the various restrictions. Outdoor archaeological sites reopened earlier this spring, while restaurants and cafes once again began offering outdoor service (with a maximum of six people per table) on 3 May. Greece’s museums have been open to all — with masks required and social distancing measures in place — since 14 May. Open-air cinemas will kick off their summer season on 21 May, while spas, wellness centers and outdoor theaters are scheduled to reopen before the end of the month. A pared-down curfew remains in place, from 12:30 am to 5 am Ferry services to the islands are up and running, with limited capacity and mask requirements.

Greece reopened primary schools and junior highs for in-person classes Monday, while Greek courts also restarted many activities, with civil courts reopening to all cases and criminal courts now hearing cases involving defendants in custody and any cases reaching the statute of limitations next year.

Restaurants, bars and cafes opened last week for outdoor service for the first time since November, while retail stores have also reopened on an appointment basis. The gradual reopening comes despite new infections and COVID-19 deaths remaining high, straining Greece’s health system and putting intensive care units near capacity. But the debt-ridden economy is desperate to vie back tourists in the hope of recovery.

And in America’s New York, rules requiring masks and social distancing were also set to ease, although some residents remained cautious.

“I think it is too early,” said Manhattan restaurant manager Juan Rosas, who plans to still require masks, even for vaccinated patrons. “I think they rushed the decision.”

Meanwhile, restaurants, stores, gyms and many other businesses could go back to full capacity if they ascertain that all patrons have been inoculated. Subways resumed running round-the-clock this week. Midnight curfews for bars and restaurants will be gone by month’s end. Broadway tickets are on sale again, though the curtain won’t rise on any shows until September.

There are other signs New York is regaining its bustle. Some 80,000 city employees returned to their offices at least part time this month; others already were working in person.

Subway and commuter rail ridership is averaging about 40 percent of normal after plunging to 10 percent last spring, when the subway system began closing for several hours overnight for the first time in its more than 115-year history.

Las Vegas casinos are returning to 100 percent capacity and no social distancing requirements. Disneyland in California opened up late last month after being shuttered for more than 400 days. Massachusetts this week announced that all virus restrictions will expire Memorial Day weekend, ie 30 May.

Summer music festivals like Lollapalooza are back on, the Indy 500 is bracing for more than 100,000 fans, and the federal government says fully vaccinated adults no longer need to wear masks.

However, Americans still need a mask when traveling, including on buses, subways and planes and at airports. There are other exceptions. Masks are still needed in select settings including hospitals and nursing homes. And if you have a weakened immune system because of a health condition or medications, the agency says to talk to your doctor before shedding your mask, since vaccines generally don’t work as well in people with weak immune systems. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their last required shot.

Mexico allowed the schools in its capital city to reopen allowing around 1.5 million schoolchildren to return to classrooms from 7 June on a voluntary basis.

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In the United States, people are now allowed to move without a mask after complete vaccination, while the coronavirus flareup has forced several Asian and Southeast Asian countries to go back to lockdown-like curbs. Face-to-face classes have been suspended since March 2020 across most of Mexico, which has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in the world

Romania’s Prime Minister Florin Citu says new relaxation measures will start 1 June, regardless of how many people are vaccinated.

During the past month, Citu has repeatedly expressed a goal to vaccinate 5 million people by 1 June, a date earmarked for new relaxations. Reaching that target now looks uncertain, but in recent weeks coronavirus infections have significantly dropped in the Eastern European nation.

“We can reach five million (vaccinated), but the goal, in fact, is not to reach a certain figure,” Citu said after a government meeting Wednesday. “The goal is to overcome the pandemic, and this is only possible through vaccination. I believe Romanians have understood the message and will get vaccinated.”

In fact, restrictions are being eased right up in India’s neighbourhood as the Pakistan government decided to reopen schools will in those districts where positivity rates are less than 5 percent.

The government will allow outdoor marriages and outdoor dining at restaurants, with adherence to social distancing rules. The closure of cinemas, gyms, shrines and a ban on indoor dining will remain in place. Pakistan has reported more than 886,000 infections and 19,856 confirmed deaths but cases have been falling over the past two weeks.

More vaccination means faster return to normalcy

The slow rebirth of communal life in Europe and the US is being fuelled by quickening vaccination programmes, after more than a year of battling a pandemic that is known to have claimed more than 3.4 million deaths worldwide.

According to an AFP tally, more than 1.5 billion vaccine doses have now been administered in 210 countries and territories.

Nearly three-fifths of the total has been given in three countries: China (435.7 million), the United States (275.5 million) and India (185.8 million).

In Israel, nearly six in 10 residents have been completely vaccinated, while 32 percent of Europeans have received a dose. About one in three Austrians have received a first vaccination against COVID-19 .

Only 11 countries have yet to roll out vaccines.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, said Tuesday it hoped to resume exports by the end of the year, reopening a vital supply line to many poorer countries.

Britain’s Boris Johnson meanwhile told parliament that the government was increasingly confident that existing vaccines worked against all variants of the virus, including the B1617.2 strain that has hit India so hard.

Meanwhile, there were encouraging reports about the efficacy of vaccines and the overall result of it in impeding the spread of the infection.

Research from 280 nursing homes in 21 states across the US gives a real-world look at how well COVID-19 vaccines are protecting residents who did and did not get the shots.

About 1 percent of residents tested positive for the virus within two weeks of receiving their second dose, and only 0.3 percent did more than two weeks after being fully vaccinated, researchers from Brown University and the Genesis HealthCare network reported Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Most of the cases did not produce any symptoms.

The shots also seemed to help protect unvaccinated residents: Cases dropped from 4.3 percent within two weeks of the first vaccination clinic to 0.3 percent more than 42 days after the event among folks who had not received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

With inputs from agencies

 

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