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GUIDE: Countries Dropping Face Masks, COVID Curbs in Return to Normalcy

When will the Philippines follow?
by Pia Regalado
Feb 16, 2022
Photo/s: Paul Bergen/ANP via Agence France-Presse

Some countries have started or announced plans to remove coronavirus restrictions including face masks and physical distancing, seeking a return to normal life after two years under a pandemic.

Mostly located in Europe, these countries have relatively higher vaccination rates compared to the rest of the world. The World Health Organization said recently that the continent was headed to the "endgame" of COVID.

In the Philippines, authorities are studying implementing for the first time the lowest set of restrictions, Alert Level 1, as the omicron surge subsides.

EXPLAINER: Alert Level 1: What to Expect When We Get There 

Here is a running list of countries that are easing into the new normal as vaccinations blunt the threat of severe COVID and death from the disease:

United Kingdom

Self-isolation rules for COVID-positive people or those with COVID symptoms could end in February, a month before current restrictions are due to expire on March 24, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. 

Continue reading below ↓

In January, England lifted almost all coronavirus restrictions to curb the omicron surge, like wearing of face masks in enclosed places and use of vaccine passports.


It removed mandatory wearing of face masks and health passes on Feb. 1, the first European Union country to lift all of its domestic COVID curbs despite record infections of the mild omicron variant.

It also dropped COVID checks and limited operating hours for bars and restaurants.


It lifted the mandatory use of face masks outdoors on Feb. 10, limiting its use for indoor public spaces.


It will end most government restrictions on March 20, easing contact restrictions and access to establishments without checks on vaccination status.

The Netherlands

It will drop its mandatory physical distancing and face mask protocol starting Feb. 25, with masks required only on public transport and airports. Bars, clubs, and restaurants will also go back to pre-pandemic opening hours and health passes will be scrapped by then.

Continue reading below ↓
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It lifted COVID restrictions on Feb. 9 like physical distancing, limits to public gatherings, and presenting vaccination certificates as requirement for establishment access. Wearing of face masks in public transport is also scrapped.

Its Public Health Agency also plans to declare COVID as a disease that must be reported "but that is not classified as a danger to society or a threat to public health."


It scrapped protocols on physical distancing and face masks in crowded spaces on Feb. 12 so "we can socialize like we did before," said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

Before that, it also lifted other COVID curbs like remote work, limit to crowd sizes and alcohol sales in establishments.


The End is Near? Face Mask Demand to Fall in 2022, Says 3M

Is COVID Becoming Endemic in the Philippines as Surge Subsides?

Omicron Pushing COVID to Endemic From Pandemic: EU Medicine Watchdog

Continue reading below ↓

Pfizer Says Pandemic Could Extend to 2023, COVID Endemic by 2024

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