LONDON - Several European countries are lifting Covid regulations, despite the WHO urging governments to "protect their populations by all available means".
Sweden lifted most of its remaining Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday, followed by fellow Nordics Denmark and Norway.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week announced plans to lift self-isolation rules for people who have tested positive for Covid earlier than expected.
In Sweden this week, social distancing requirements, the use of vaccination cards and limits on the number of people gathering in one place were lifted. Free testing in the country also ended on Wednesday, with the government planning to reclassify Covid as a disease that "does not pose a danger to society or a threat to public health" from April 1.
In a press release last week, the Swedish government said it believed the situation was "stable enough to start phasing out infection control measures".
"Vaccination is the most important weapon in the fight against covid-19," he added.
In Sweden, according to Johns Hopkins University, 73% of the population is fully vaccinated.
"Have a little patience"
However, Fredrik Elgh, a professor of virology at Sweden's Umea University, told Reuters the country must "be a bit more patient" and wait at least a few more weeks before lifting restrictions.
"We are rich enough to continue testing," he argued. "The disease remains a huge burden on society."
It comes after Denmark became the first EU country to lift all of its Covid restrictions on February 1, despite rising cases. Just one day later, infections in the country reached record levels.
The Danish government said in a statement in January that it had decided "Covid-19 should no longer be classified as a socially critical disease."
More than 80% of the Danish population is fully vaccinated against the virus, JHU data shows.
Norway also lifted "a large number of Covid-19 measures" on February 1, but kept its recommendation to keep a distance of 1 meter from others and the obligation to wear a mask when this is not possible.
"Although many people are contracting covid-19, fewer people are being hospitalized," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement at the time. "Vaccines offer good protection, this means that we can now remove many measures, even though the infection rate is increasing rapidly."
Norway recorded a record 26,109 new cases on Tuesday, according to JHU data.
In the UK, Johnson told lawmakers in Parliament this week that his government plans to end the legal requirement for people with Covid to self-isolate by the end of this month.
Currently, people who test positive for the virus can end their isolation after five days, as long as they test negative on days five and six. Many of the few remaining restrictions in England, including mask requirements, were lifted in late January.
On Wednesday, Britain recorded 68,214 new cases of covid-19.
But while Sweden, Norway and Denmark recorded 114, 45 and 21 deaths from the virus respectively on Wednesday, the UK recorded 276.
Cases in the UK have fallen sharply since peaking at more than 270,000 in a single day late last year, and deaths have also dropped significantly from their peak of 1,299 in January 2021.
But while Covid cases have decoupled from deaths in the UK since vaccines were introduced, other risk factors remain, such as the prevalence of prolonged Covid. A recent English study found that as many as one in seven children who contracted the virus developed prolonged covid, the name for lingering symptoms.
Around 85% of the UK's eligible population, those aged 12 and over, are fully vaccinated in the UK with two doses, official data shows, while two-thirds have received a booster shot.