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Some nations are rolling back COVID-19 restrictions

Denmark, the UK and several countries in northern Europe with high vaccination rates have relaxed protocols after seeing hospitalizations fall.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — As evidence of an omicron peak begins to emerge in the U.S. and around the world, some countries have started aggressively rolling back restrictions.

Life in Denmark changed pretty drastically this week. Mask mandates and all other COVID-19 restrictions were lifted across the country, and it wasn't because the virus magically went away.

The country's wave of the omicron variant is still rising. Cases are now more than 12 times Denmark’s previous peak, but the Danish Health Minister, Magnus Heunicke, told CNN that there is still a good explanation for the shift.

"You have to look at what happens at our hospitals, what happens at our ICUs, and, there, we are just seeing each day a decrease,” Heunicke said.

Danish leaders credit the country’s world-leading vaccination rate for the low level of series illness. More than 81% of Denmark is fully vaccinated and 61% is boosted.

And it's not just Denmark that is rolling back restrictions. The UK and several countries in northern Europe with high vaccination rates have relaxed protocols after seeing hospitalizations fall.

Dr. Bill Morice, president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories, says vaccination rates contribute to the strategy, but he says there are other considerations.

"The transmissibility of omicron is part of what's driving this as well,” Dr. Morice said. “It's just much more difficult to stop the spread, so I think countries are looking and saying, 'If they are not having severe illness, it’s now the time to step back.'"

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Dr. Morice says following those footsteps in the U.S. would be more complicated. That’s because just 64% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and only 24% is boosted. He says it’s encouraging to see overall cases and even hospitalizations beginning to finally fall, the use of uniformed military medical teams to help staff local hospitals this week, shows how far we still have to go.

"As anxious as people are to do away with restrictions, I would predict that there's going to be a cautious approach, at least though the spring here in terms of lifting them in the United States,” Dr. Morice said. "As we watch countries have their approach to this and watch how it plays out, it will inform maybe where we can start to have more flexibility or more freedom to be completely honest, of movement and travel and all those sorts of things, but it will take some time."

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