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.