'No longer a socially critical disease': Denmark and Norway lift most remaining Covid rules

Masks no longer required as high vaccination rates allay concerns over rising cases

Customers at the fishmarket in Torvehallerne in Copenhagen on Tuesday, as Denmark becomes the first EU country to lift coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

Norway and Denmark have lifted most of their remaining Covid-19 restrictions despite reports of rising coronavirus cases in both countries.

Mask mandates no longer apply, nightclubs can reopen and businesses can decide whether to check customers’ vaccine certificates.

In Norway, working from home will no longer be required, and the cap of 10 visitors in private homes is ending, prime minister Jonas Gahr Store said.

Both countries are dealing with recent spikes in cases because of the Omicron variant. Neither has seen a corresponding rise in hospitalisations.


“Even if many more people are becoming infected, there are fewer who are hospitalised,” Mr Store said. “We’re well protected by vaccines.”

The Danish government said it no longer considers Covid a “socially critical disease” – a political designation that allows officials to enforce broad measures such as business closures and mask mandates – in part because of the country’s high vaccination rate.

A mutated version of the Omicron variant known as BA. 2 has been fuelling a surge in Denmark, the Statens Serum Institut recently reported, and the country has recently averaged about 44,000 new cases a day, about 70 per cent more than two weeks ago.

About 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated and about 60 per cent have had a booster dose, according to Our World in Data, a project at the University of Oxford.

Denmark is among the first European Union members to abandon pandemic restrictions in favour of treating the virus as endemic. Austria ended its Covid-19 rules for unvaccinated people on Monday, and the Netherlands is relaxing the restrictions it adopted in December, which were among the strictest in the EU. – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.