Covid restrictions are set to remain in Ireland until early next year amid concerns over the recent rise in cases and hospitalisations.
aoiseach Micheál Martin has urged everyone to have a “sense of perspective” after receiving criticism over the decision to delay a full reopening of society.
But how have the countries which lifted all restrictions fared in terms of case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths?
July 19 was declared Britain’s ‘Freedom Day’ after the last remaining Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Nightclubs reopened their doors and pubs and restaurants were allowed to operate at full capacity. The legal requirement to wear a mask in public also ended.
There was initially a steep drop in cases in mid-July and early August, but case numbers have been hovering around the 30,000 mark since September.
On Monday, Britain recorded nearly 50,000 new cases – its highest daily number in three months. While the rest of the UK adopted a more cautious approach to reopening, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have all seen cases rise.
The UK was praised for its speedy roll-out of the vaccine earlier this year, with two-thirds of the adult population now fully vaccinated. However, health experts believe this may also be linked to the recent rise in infections and hospitalisations, with some experiencing waning immunity after six months.
Infections are also rising in children after the return of schools. More than 8pc of children aged between 11 and 16 in England’s secondary schools tested positive for Covid in the week ending October 9.
Hospitalisations and deaths have been steadily rising in recent weeks, but the number of people requiring hospital treatment compared to the last time cases were this high is significantly less.
Between July and October, three million cases were recorded across the UK, with 79,000 people ending up in hospital.
By comparison, 2.7 million cases were recorded between last October and January, with 185,000 people needing hospitalisation.
The UK reported 223 deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since early March.
It has one of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the world, with more than 138,000 people losing their lives to Covid-19.
UK medical professionals are now urging the government to reintroduce some restrictions, such as mandatory mask-wearing, ahead of the winter.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that Covid restrictions would only return as a last resort and that the country must “learn to live with the virus”.
The Danish government lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the country on September 10, saying Covid-19 was no longer “an illness which is a critical threat to society”.
Its health authority credited the high vaccine uptake, with more than 85pc of people over the age of 12 fully jabbed.
However, Covid infections are increasing, with 778 new cases being reported on average each day. The country has a population of just over 5.8 million and overall it has recorded 371,286 cases and nearly 2,700 deaths.
Figures from the Danish Health Authority show there are currently 126 people hospitalised with the virus, with 11 in intensive care, and eight on ventilators.
A total of 20 people have lost their lives to Covid in the last seven days.
Sweden lifted all remaining Covid restrictions at the end of September, with its government insisting the pandemic had been “brought under control”.
The country had adopted a very libertarian approach to Covid, with some of the loosest restrictions in Europe. There were no lockdowns introduced, mask-wearing wasn’t compulsory and the public was largely responsible for taking its own precautions.
A report by the Corona Commission, which examined the government’s Covid-19 strategy, said its attempts to achieve “herd immunity” had failed. The country has recorded more than 1.16 million cases and nearly 15,000 deaths in a population of just over 10 million.
There were 1,087 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the World Health Organisation.
However, on average, new infections are decreasing, with 576 being reported each day.
Sweden’s public health agency said the majority of cases are among the unvaccinated.
The latest data shows that between October 4 and 10, 12 people were admitted to intensive care with Covid-19.
New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to lift all Covid restrictions after being declared virus free in the early days of the pandemic – due to a strict approach involving lockdowns, closing the border and a rigorous contact tracing system.
However, the country has had to adapt after struggling to keep a recent outbreak of the Delta variant under control.
New Zealand’s daily Covid case numbers reached three figures today for the first time since the pandemic began, with 102 new cases recorded.
There are 46 people in hospital, seven of which are in intensive care.
Nearly 66pc of the population is fully vaccinated and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said efforts will now be made to ramp up the roll-out.
New Zealand, with a population of five million, has an extremely low death rate, with 28 deaths recorded in the last 18 months. Just over 5,000 cases have been recorded in total.
Ms Ardern reintroduced restrictions back in August, with Auckland, the city at the centre of the latest outbreak, set to remain in lockdown for another two weeks.
All restrictions were lifted on September 25, and since then the country has witnessed a decrease in case numbers. Around 86pc of the adult population is fully vaccinated and the country’s return to normality was a gradual process.
“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime. Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” former prime minister Erna Solberg said as she announced the end of restrictions.
Norway did see an initial spike in Covid-19 cases in early September after loosening restrictions on travel, group gatherings and alcohol consumption.
However, in recent weeks infections have been falling, with an average of 410 cases being reported each day.
Since the pandemic began, Norway has recorded over 197,000 cases and 893 deaths.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland