Denmark shuts down schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic

Denmark's Prime Minister has announced that the country will close all kindergartens, schools and universities for two weeks to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Denmark shuts down schools and universities to fight coronavirus pandemic
Danish PM Mette Frederiksen announced the dramatic new measures at a press conference on Wednesday evening. Photo:Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix
All public sector employees who do not perform critical functions will also be sent home on paid leave. 
“This will have huge consequences, but the alternative would be far worse,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference announcing the tough new measures on Wednesday evening, according to the Ekstra Bladet newspaper. 
“Under normal circumstances, a government would not present such far-reaching measures without having all the solutions ready for the many Danes concerned, but we are in an extraordinary situation.”  
The dramatic decision came after the Danish Patient Safety Authority reported 442 new cases of coronavirus on on Wednesday evening, bringing the number of people in quarantine to 1,303. 
Frederiksen said that measures to help soften the blow would be announced in due course.  
“We will not get through this as a country without a cost. Businesses will close. Some will lose their jobs. We will do what we can to mitigate the consequences for employees,” she said. 
At the press conference Frederiksen advised everyone in Denmark who is in a position to work from home to do so. The government has also banned all indoor events with 100 or more participants. 
Søren Brostrøm, director of the The Danish Health Authority, said that he expected the number of cases to increase rapidly in the coming days and weeks. 
“It is not only a threat for Denmark, but for the whole world. That is why the WHO has today declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic,” he said, according a report from public broadcaster DR
“We will see more and more people being infected in the coming time,” he said. “An epidemic normally extends to between twelve and sixteen weeks”. 
Here is a list of the main measures announced: 
  • All non-essential public sector employees will be sent home from Friday, 13 March. If possible, they should work from home. If this is not possible, they will given paid leave. 
  • Employees in the health sector, the elderly care sector and the police must, however, stay at their posts.  
  • All public schools and daycare services will be closed from Monday, March 16 for a fortnight. All those who are able are encouraged to keep children home from Thursday. 
  • All students in higher education are expected to return home as early as Thursday and no later than Friday, March 13, and remain home for two weeks. 
  • Companies are encouraged to ensure that as many people as possible work from home or take leave. Physical meetings should only be held if absolutely necessary. 
  • All indoor cultural institutions, libraries and leisure facilities will close from Friday 13 March and remain closed for two weeks. At the same time, the government encourages churches, mosques and other religious institutions and associations to stay closed. 
  • All gatherings involving more than 100 people indoors will soon be banned. 
  • Bars and discos are encouraged to stay closed. 
  • Denmark's 'treatment guarantee' for various healthcare procedures has been temporarily put on hold, so that hospitals can focus on treating coronavirus, which may mean planned operations are postponed.

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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.”