Hospital workers in Denmark and Norway test positive for virus

Employees at hospitals in Norway and Denmark have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus, potentially exposing well over a hundred patients to infection.

Hospital workers in Denmark and Norway test positive for virus
The main building at Aarhus hospital in Denmark. Photo: Aarhus University Hospital
Oslo University Hospital announced on Friday afternoon that one of its employees had tested positive, more than a week after coming back from a holiday in northern Italy. 
Then on Saturday, Aarhus University Hospital reported that one of its employees had tested positive for the virus, adding that it had quarantined 30 people with whom the employee had been in contact. 
“We are extremely certain that the employee was not infected at the hospital, but instead brought the infection from Northern Italy,” Bjørn Atle Bjørnbeth, administrative director at Oslo University Hospital told Norwegian broadcaster NRK on Friday. 
The Aarhus hospital worker had returned this week from a medical conference in Munich, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported. 
“We are currently investigating where the person has been in recent days to find out who he has been in contact with, and that work is continuing this morning,” Anne Hempel-Jørgensen, from the Danish Patient Safety Authority told the newspaper. 
The main administrative building at Oslo University Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Norwegian health worker is believed to have been in contact with over 100 co-workers and patients at the hospital's eye clinic, who tend to be elderly, making them especially vulnerable. 
The employee tested negative to the virus after first reporting symptoms on Tuesday. Four other employees in the clinic, are now being tested for the virus, after experiencing difficulties breathing. 
According to Lars Østergaard, Aarhus University Hospital's head doctor, the Danish health worker had been around patients for three days before he tested positive. 
Allan Randrup Thomsen, a professor specialising in viral infections at Copenhagen University, told the Berlingske newspaper that it was “unfortunate from an infection perspective”, that the person had interacted with others for so long before his illness was detected. 
“This is significant and there is a risk of sickness among those he has met,” he said. 
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has so far confirmed six cases of the virus. While the Danish Health Authority has confirmed three. 

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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.”