How likely is a coronavirus outbreak in Denmark?

Health authorities in Denmark are to increase their capacity for testing for new coronavirus and quarantining potential cases.

How likely is a coronavirus outbreak in Denmark?
A room at Hvidovre Hospital prepared for a potential coronavirus patient. No cases have so far been confirmed in Denmark. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

So far, no cases of new coronavirus have been confirmed in Denmark, although a number of people were tested earlier this month and a Danish national tested negative in Belgium after developing symptoms while travelling home from China.

Minister for Health Magnus Heunicke confirmed on Tuesday to newspaper Politiken that healthcare services were stepping up their level of alert and precautions in preventive measures against a potential outbreak in Denmark.

That means a higher number of people in Denmark will be tested for the virus than has been the case up to now.

“We are going to conduct more tests and we are going to use more hospitals [for testing and quarantine, ed.]. There is one hospital in each (administrative) region that we can put into use for this,” Heunicke said. Only two hospitals — Hvidovre near Copenhagen and Skejby in Aarhus — have had this capacity up to now.

“People will be picked up at their homes and brought in – and there is full focus on preventing infection of hospital staff. SSI [infectious disease research centre, Statens Serum Institut, ed.] is ready to provide for testing at locations other than SSI, so that tests and results also become available at other locations in Denmark,” he added.

Heunicke confirmed that the measures to be implemented by Danish health authorities are a direct reaction to the outbreak in northern Italy in recent days, which has caused 7 deaths and a total of 229 cases confirmed by Monday evening.

Although a large number of people will have recently travelled between Denmark and Italy, testing for the virus in Denmark will remain symptom-based. As such, large-scale screening of people without symptoms will not take place, Politiken reports.

The World Health Organization chief said Monday the world should be working harder to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus, and should be preparing for a “potential pandemic”.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that so far, the WHO does not consider the outbreak that has killed more than 2,600 people a pandemic, but said countries should be “doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.”

A sharp increase in cases outside of China increases the possibility of the virus finding its way to Denmark, according to SSI’s head of department and consultant doctor Tyra Grove Krause.

“The probability increases in keeping with the spread of infections we are seeing in more countries than China. It is likely that we could see cases in Denmark and also likely that we could see contagion between individuals in Denmark,” Krause told Ritzau.

“We hope to keep the virus outside the door for some time yet so that we can reach the spring, when respiratory viruses have poorer conditions for spreading,” she added.

The SSI specialist also noted that the severity of the virus may not be as bad as feared for many that become infected.

Most people show mild symptoms, but the elderly or people with already-weakened immune systems are at risk of more serious outcomes.

“In relation to normal seasonal influenza, everyone is susceptible to the virus. That means many can get sick all at once,” Krause said to Ritzau.


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IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.”