On 21 February, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, announced that all of England’s COVID-19 rules and restrictions would be revoked in the coming weeks. Soon after, countries across the globe began to follow suit.
- In the United Kingdom, mandatory vaccination regulations for employees in England’s health and social care settings, to be implemented on 1 April 2022, will be withdrawn by 15 March 2022.
- In Austria, the country’s universal COVID-19 vaccination mandate will be suspended. The measure was signed into law on February 4, but compliance checks were not scheduled to begin until March 15.
- In France, as of March 14, 2022, individuals will no longer be required to show a COVID-19 vaccine passport to enter most indoor venues. Additionally, masks will no longer be required in indoor environments, except in public transportation and health environments.
- In Germany, bars, restaurants and hotels have been reopened to the unvaccinated population. Most of the vaccination restrictions that are still in place are expected to expire on March 20, 2022. Rules requiring employers to implement mandatory 3G screenings (ie screenings for vaccination, status or medical exemption) to enter at work, is expected to be rolled back later this day. month. Similarly, employers will not be required to allow teleworking.
- In Luxembourg, 3G screenings, which were mandatory for employers allowing employees to enter the workplace, have become voluntary.
- In Italy, outdoor masking requirements have been lifted and the government has announced that it plans to further roll out COVID-19 restrictions back in the spring. So far, however, Italy still requires proof of full vaccination to enter most indoor venues or use public transportation, and indoor masking requirements remain in effect.
- Closer to home, some Canadian provinces have lifted mask and vaccine requirements. On March 1, 2022, Alberta removed its capacity and collection limits and its indoor masking requirements. The Quebec government has begun removing most of its mask mandates, including those in force in academia. Ontario has removed its capacity limits and its mandatory vaccine certificate system. Mask mandates in Ontario will be lifted on March 21, 2022 with the aim of lifting all COVID-19 restrictions by the end of April. British Columbia will remove its low-risk, indoor public space mask requirement from March 11, 2022, and its post-secondary housing vaccine requirements later this month. On April 8, 2022, the vaccine card required to enter restaurants, gyms and similar indoor spaces in British Columbia will be dropped and companies can switch from their COVID-19 safety plans to infectious disease plans.
The limits on international travel are also being lifted, indicating that business travel may soon be resumed more fully. For example, on March 27, 2022, India will lift its two-year ban on international flights. Italy, France and the UK have eliminated pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated people entering the country. Other countries, including Ireland, Iceland and Norway, have repealed all rules regarding testing and vaccination for travelers.
Employers across the globe are feeling some whiplash as comprehensive rules recently implemented in response to the rise in the Omicron variant are being hastily suspended or abolished. With the drastically changing status of public health guidance, employers who have implemented their own policies, including policies requiring the publication of health-related data, may reassess whether the public health risk still justifies such measures. Nevertheless, employers should be aware of and sensitive to the protection afforded to employees whose health remains at risk from coronavirus, including those who are immunocompromised. In addition, employers should be aware that employees may have varying levels of comfort in terms of returning to work on site with roll-back restrictions. When assessing new protocols, policies and practices regarding COVID-19, employers should consider the tools that were so necessary over the last two years – masking, teleworking and video conferencing meetings, for example – as useful ways to address and integrate protected and hesitant employees back in the workplace.