Italy and France became the latest countries to announce easing in mask requirements a day after Spain announced similar measures over a decreasing number of COVID-19 cases.
Italy took another step towards normality Friday with the reopening of nightclubs and the end of a requirement to wear masks outside.
Masks are still required in busy areas, public transport and also in all indoor public places, and many of those out and about in central Rome on Friday were still sporting theirs, whether through habit or fear of infection.
"It's a good thing, if it's good for tourism and we are still careful," Spanish tourist Jose Ignacio Santiago told Agence France-Presse (AFP) near the Trevi Fountain.
He said he would keep his mask handy – "You should always keep it in your pocket in case you approach other people."
The rules on outdoor masks have fluctuated throughout the pandemic, which hit Italy in early 2020 and has so far killed more than 150,000 people. The obligation was reimposed in December following a spike in cases attributed to the omicron variant of COVID-19.
The requirement for masks indoors is due to expire on March 31, although it could be extended.
Nightclubs were also due to reopen Friday after being closed in December, but revelers must show proof of coronavirus vaccine or recent recovery from the virus, and capacity has been reduced.
Only those that survived would resume operations, Maurizio Pasca, president of the Silb business association, which also represents disco owners, told the ANSA news agency on Thursday.
The so-called coronavirus Green Pass is required to access most public spaces, from restaurants to the post office.
Holidaymakers in Italy from EU countries need either a negative coronavirus test, proof of vaccination or a certified recovery from COVID-19 to enter the country, but proof of status is needed at many popular tourist sites such as museums, as well as in restaurants and on public transport.
Italy recorded more than 220,000 daily positive cases in early January, but numbers have since more than halved, according to official health ministry figures.
"In the coming weeks, we will continue to advance on this path of reopening," Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week.
He highlighted "very encouraging" figures on vaccinations, with more than 91% of over-12s having received at least one dose.
French coronavirus rules will no longer require people to wear masks indoors from Feb. 28, the health ministry said Friday, citing an "improvement in the health situation."
The rules apply to public spaces like bars and restaurants, sports and leisure activities which now require proof of vaccination to enter. However, people in France will have to continue wearing masks on public transport even after this date.
"In a context where pressure from the epidemic is falling strongly, the vaccine pass allows us to remove the mask-wearing requirement as we have done in previous waves," Health Minister Olivier Veran told AFP.
France had already dropped its requirement for people to go masked outdoors on Feb. 2. But the rule will continue "on public transport and in indoor spaces not subject to the vaccine pass," the health ministry said.
The change in the rules on Friday also reduces from three to one the number of tests people must take if they come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
With an election approaching in April and growing discontent among parts of the public about infection control restrictions, President Emmanuel Macron's government has promised to ease measures within weeks if cases continue to fall.
That has not dissuaded some protesters from forming so-called "Freedom Convoys" expected to descend on Paris Friday, inspired by a truckers' blockade that has paralyzed Canadian capital Ottawa for two weeks.
Spain had dropped the mandatory use of face masks outdoors on Thursday, though many people kept them on in Madrid, with face coverings now an everyday staple.
Spain first imposed obligatory mask-wearing outdoors in May 2020, but lifted it in June last year. Wearing a face covering was still required for indoor public spaces.
However, the government reimposed the measure just before Christmas as COVID-19 cases exploded due to the highly-contagious omicron variant.
Even as rules eased across the country Thursday, in Madrid, some kept them on out of habit.
"I'm wearing one and I'll keep on doing so even though the law says I can take it off," said Alberto Diaz, a pensioner from the southern Andalusia region who was in the city for a concert.
Face masks have been embraced across Spain in all public spaces, both inside and out, and they have largely become ubiquitous like in many cities in Asia.
Although they will remain compulsory at large open-air gatherings where social distancing is not possible, they will no longer be required in school playgrounds.
Newlyweds Ricardo Alfredo Sanchez and Yvette Candero looked delighted as they had their photo taken in Puerta del Sol Square.
"It's not the same having a souvenir photo taken with your face covered, you can't see the person's expression or how happy they are," said the groom.
In another anticipated move, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, nightlife venues were set to open at the stroke of midnight (11:00 p.m. GMT).
In late December, the Catalan government put in place some of Spain's most restrictive measures to fight omicron, imposing a night curfew from 1:00 a.m., closing nightlife venues and halving the capacity in bars and restaurants.
The bar and restaurant restrictions were eased last month, but nightlife venues had remained closed, until Friday – with most set to open just after midnight.
Despite high vaccination rates, COVID-19 cases exploded in Spain over the Christmas holidays, giving it one of Europe's highest incidence rates, although that has now fallen.
So far, Spain has registered some 10.5 million infections and more than 95,000 deaths.