Updated: Denmark announces first coronavirus case

Denmark reported its first coronavirus case on Thursday, a man who had returned from a skiing holiday in northern Italy which has become a hotspot for the disease.

Updated: Denmark announces first coronavirus case
Anne-Marie Vangsted (L), Søren Brostrøm (C) of the Danish Health Authority and Minister for Health Magnus Heunicke speak to press on Thursday. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

“The man who came back from a skiing trip with his wife and son on February 24th has been suffering since then from a cough and a temperature,” the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen, DHA) said in a statement.

“The man tested positive, but the results of his wife and son are negative,” it said.

The man is relatively well, the agency said. He has returned to his home in Zealand, where he remains in isolation with his family.

“After the developments in Italy over the weekend, we had expected to see cases of Covid-19 [new coronavirus, ed.| in Denmark soon, so we are not surprised, and we must expect to see more cases in the coming days and weeks,” DHA wrote in a statement.

The confirmed Danish does not change the current risk assessment issued by DHA and infectious disease research centre Statens Serum Institut (SSI) earlier this week.

The risk of widespread infection in Denmark is still considered to be low, as is the risk of Denmark's healthcare system struggling to cope with the demands of managing cases.

DHA director Søren Brostrøm and Minister for Health Magnus Heunicke have both warned that more Danish infections are likely to be confirmed in the coming days, but have also urged calm.

“We take the new situation very seriously. Work to contain and trace has now begun. We will do all we can to avoid symptoms spreading in Denmark,” Heunicke sauid.

Brostrøm urged people in Denmark not to panic. He also advised people who have been in outbreak countries who are experiencing symptoms not to present at hospitals or attend doctors’ surgeries, but to contact health authorities by telephone.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say when contacting health authorities in Denmark

“Don’t panic (if you think you have symptoms). You can be assured that our health system is ready – we have not switched to maximum alert yet, but are prepared to do so if necessary,” he said to TV2.

The virus often begins with symptoms resembling a common cold and can develop into respiratory infection. The elderly and people with already-weakened immune systems are most at risk of serious complications.

“With (new coronavirus) it seems that most people have mild symptoms, but the elderly and people who are already sick can get very ill and die,” Brostrøm said.

The first Danish person to have been infected is an employee of the broadcaster TV2, who had been on holiday in the Sondrio region in northern Italy, the area of Europe which has seen the highest number of cases.

In a Facebook post, the man, Jakob Tage Ramlyng, wrote that he and his family were “deeply shocked” that “what we thought was highly unlikely is now reality for us”. He acknowledged his post would be cited by media.

Colleagues of Ramlyng at TV2 may now be contacted by health authorities and some may be placed in quarantine at their homes.

DHA director Anne-Marie Vangsted said the authority was already working to trace people the man may have been in contact with.

“We will contact people who have been in close contact with him, that is, people who sat close to him on the flight and after he came back to Denmark,” Vangsted said.

Brostrøm said that proximity of “within two metres” of the infected man constituted a risk of infection.

The health authority director declined to comment on reports the man was briefly at work at TV2 despite feeling under the weather after his return from Italy, Politiken writes, but stressed general advice that “if you feel sick, go home. Leave your place of work.”

Broadcaster DR reports that 17 people were tested for coronavirus on Wednesday night, with the TV2 employee the only one to return a positive result. Testing is conducted by infectious disease research centre Statens Serum Institut (SSI).

Italy has reported 400 coronavirus cases, mostly in the north, and 12 deaths.

Denmark's Nordic neighbour Norway announced its first case of coronavirus on Wednesday.

Norwegian health authorities confirmed the virus had been detected in someone who returned from China last week, but said the patient was not “in danger”.

READ ALSO: How likely is a coronavirus outbreak in Denmark?

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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.”