How likely is a coronavirus outbreak in Denmark?

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

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.