Austria is ending its Covid rules for unvaccinated people. England is leaving behind its “war footing” in its approach to the coronavirus. And the Netherlands, which introduced some of Europe’s strictest Covid measures in December, is relaxing restrictions.
But farther east, record coronavirus caseloads are prompting governments to ramp up rules and testing.
As the highly infectious Omicron variant storms its way eastward across Europe, two divergent trends have emerged: Some governments have been moving to ease restrictions despite rising cases or as new daily cases or hospitalizations fall, while others have been clamping down to curb a spike in cases.
In Austria, Wolfgang Mückstein, the health minister, said on Wednesday that Covid rules for unvaccinated people would end next week, based on guidance from health advisers that hospitals and intensive care units in the country are becoming less burdened even as virus cases rise.
“We came to the conclusion that the lockdown for unvaccinated people in Austria is only justifiable in the event of the threat of an imminent overburdening of intensive-care capacity,” Mr. Mückstein said at a news conference.
In the Netherlands, where stringent lockdowns have put a strain on the population, the Dutch government said that it was “taking a risk” in easing restrictions starting Wednesday despite a growing caseload. Businesses like cafes, bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m., although people will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result before entering.
Similar announcements have come this past week from Denmark and France, where restrictions will ease starting next month.
In England, where there has been a decline in cases, most of the remaining pandemic restrictions are being lifted this week. And starting on Feb. 11, people arriving in the country will no longer be required to take coronavirus tests before traveling, as long as they are fully vaccinated.
But in other parts of Europe, governments have scrambled to bring in new rules.
In Germany, which has recorded an average of more than 123,000 cases per day in the last week, lawmakers are discussing a proposal for a Covid vaccine mandate in Parliament.
Poland has stepped up testing and switched to remote learning until the end of February for some older students to curb the spread of the virus, while Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania are reporting daily cases records that are projected to keep rising in the coming days.
But in Russia, which has had more known fatalities from Covid than many European countries and where cases have been steadily rising in recent weeks, the authorities have moved to shorten the isolation period for people infected with the virus to seven days, down from 14.