Governments around the world are beginning to ease or lift COVID restrictions as much of the Western world begins to live with the virus rather than eradicate it.
In the last two years, the fear of a deadly virus has led many to voluntarily adopt different lifestyles and drastically adjust our behavior.
But now, with the Omicron variant spreading fast and furiously around the world, people are suffering from COVID fatigue. Although death rates remain high, some governments are beginning to ease pandemic-era restrictions.
The process for lifting restrictions in the US varied between states and cities, as did the process for implementing those restrictions.
New York state made waves on Wednesday when Gov. Kathy Hochul announced she would drop her strict indoor mask mandate, following in the footsteps of similar announcements of mask requirements from states run by Democrats, including Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware. , Oregon, California and Illinois. , Rhode Island and Massachusetts. All of these states have said they will remove indoor mask requirements in certain public spaces, including schools, by March at the latest.
The decision did not sit well with everyone, as parent and student groups protested the decision to drop school mask mandates in Illinois and Oregon.
In many Republican-led states, including Alabama, Alaska and Arkansas, mask mandates expired last year without being renewed.
And other states have banned any kind of mask requirement altogether. In Kentucky, mask mandates were dropped last September after Republican lawmakers banned statewide mask requirements. Another bill in Idaho permanently banning mask mandates will soon go to state legislatures for approval.
In some states, like Hawaii, masks are still required in all rooms. Washington recently announced it would lift its outdoor mask mandate on February 18, but gave no indication when the indoor requirement would be lifted.
In California, people no longer need to show a negative COVID test to enter hospitals or nursing homes. The state has indicated that it will announce further rollbacks of COVID restrictions next week.
Across the Atlantic, European countries began easing vaccination restrictions weeks ago as the continent began to recover from the emergency phase of the pandemic.
Denmark was the first country to fully lift restrictions in early February. At the time, the country was in the midst of a huge wave of new COVID-19 infections, but the number of deaths and hospitalizations was relatively low.
The Scandinavian country's actions proved to be a harbinger of similar policies across the continent. England, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Italy have followed in Denmark's footsteps and will remove mandates for outdoor masks and long periods of isolation after positive tests by the end of February.
The Czech Republic has already relaxed the rules that require citizens to show vaccination cards when entering places such as bars, restaurants, hairdressers and sports facilities. Estonia will also remove the vaccination card requirement for people attending outdoor events after February 14.