Spain, Portugal, the UK, the Netherlands, and more countries are standing by to give up on COVID restrictions, reopening countries to a new reality and to tourism.
With a hurting tourism industry, with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) having its headquarters in Spain, and with FITUR ongoing in Madrid, it cannot be just a coincidence that Spain is now planning to treat the Omicron COVID-19 pandemic like any other cold.
When the coronavirus pandemic was first declared, Spaniards were ordered to stay home for more than 3 months. For weeks, they were not even allowed outside for exercise. Children were banned from playgrounds, and the economy virtually stopped.
But officials credited the draconian measures with preventing a full collapse of the health system. Lives were saved.
Spain has Europe’s highest vaccination rates, and authorities say no more. Spain is preparing to treat COVID not like an emergency but an illness that is there to stay.
It may be only a matter of time that the rest of Europe will adopt this new approach to deal with COVID. Portugal and Britain are already considering.
The European Union should consider a similar approach, was the message of Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
COVID-19 may be dealt with in the same way as the flu or measles. It means vaccination will help to prevent a serious outcome, and people with high risk simply need to be aware of it and deal with it.
The World Health Organization has said that it’s too early to consider any immediate shift. The organization does not have clearly defined criteria for declaring COVID-19 an endemic disease, but its experts have previously said that it will happen when the virus is more predictable and there are no sustained outbreaks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man in charge of COVID in the United States, spoke at the World Economic Forum panel on Monday. Dr. Fauci said COVID-19 could not be considered endemic until it drops to “a level that doesn’t disrupt society.”
World Tourism Network President Dr. Peter Tarlow, who is a renowned international expert on tourism safety, also said in a statement yesterday and first published on eTurboNews: “It’s time to rebuild travel and tourism now.
“The World Tourism Network and its board wish to inform the world that WTN stands with destinations and the world travel and tourism industry in helping to make travel accessible again to all.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has advised countries to transition to more routine handling of COVID-19 after the acute phase of the pandemic is over. The agency said in a statement that more EU states in addition to Spain will want to adopt “a more long-term, sustainable surveillance approach.”
It’s not clear how an endemic strategy would coexist with the “zero-COVID” approach adopted by China and other Asian countries and how would that affect international travel.
Hospital admissions and deaths in the vaccinated world are proportionally much lower than in previous surges.
In the United Kingdom, mask-wearing in public places and COVID-19 passports will be eliminated on January 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson related.