Global Easing of COVID Rules Underway
Mask mandates are all but gone.
The mandates, across the United States and around the world, were synonymous with the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. As vaccination rates have increased and hospitalizations decreased, the mask mandates have been ending, too.
In the U.S., with the announcement that Hawaii will end its mask mandates on March 25, all 50 states have now dropped mask mandates. Puerto Rico has, too. So have many countries in Europe. Norway Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere may have said it best when he announced the country was removing virtually all COVID protocols.
“This is the day we have been waiting for,” he said.
That sentiment is being echoed across the United States and around the world with COVID-19 mandates going away or being diminished almost daily, which means travel for business meetings and events as well as leisure will be easier.
There are still exceptions, in particular on most public transportation, including all airlines. The Transportation Security Administration extended the mandate for mask use on public transportation and in transportation hubs through April 18. The mandate had been set to expire on March 18. Face masks are still required in hospitals, senior citizen centers, health care facilities, schools or other locations as determined by local governments and entities. In many locales, private businesses can enforce protocols.
The CDC reported that more than 90 percent of the U.S. population lives in areas where masks are no longer needed and with more than 65% of people in the U.S. vaccinated and more than 57% in Europe, along with declining hospitalizations, mask mandates and other protocols are ending.
While the European Council said it will allow non-essential travel for those who are either vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, some European countries still have mask mandates in place.
In Italy, a mask mandate remains in place for all indoor activities, but the country dropped its pre-arrival testing requirements for vaccinated visitors. One can now enter Italy without having to show proof of a negative test if vaccinated in the last nine months or have received the booster shot.
Unvaccinated travelers are still permitted to enter Italy but must have either recovered from the virus within six months or show proof of a negative PCR within 72 hours of arrival. Rapid tests are acceptable within 48 hours.
Spain dropped its strict outdoor mask wearing rule in February, however, face coverings are still required in crowded outdoor settings and an indoor mask mandate is likely to stay in place until at least the summer.
In France, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that beginning March 14, face masks would only be required on public transport while vaccine health passes would not be needed to enter most venues.
"The situation is improving thanks to our collective efforts, thanks to the measures we have taken," Castex said. “The conditions are right for a new phase of easing measures."