Denmark acts to protect economy from coronavirus impact

Denmark on Thursday took dramatic action to keep its economy going through the coronavirus pandemic, making an extra 200bn Danish kroner ($30bn) available for banks to lend to companies.

Denmark acts to protect economy from coronavirus impact
Finance Minister Nicolai Wamman (left) announces the financial package. Photo: Scanpix
The raft of four measures also included a guarantee scheme to back some 7.5bn Danish kroner in loans to help businesses survive drops in revenues due the crisis, according to a press release issued with the announcement. 
“The government will do everything in our power to ensure that the health crisis does not develop into a larger economic crisis than is necessary,” Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen said at a press conference on Thursday. 
In an interview with state broadcaster DR, he said that he hoped the measures would mean fewer people lost their jobs. 
“This is an important contribution to propping up Danish workplaces so that fewer people end up losing their jobs,” he said.
The good economic situation of the past few years, he added, had allowed the government to build up a financial surplus, which would hopefully give it enough firepower to prevent a serious economic crisis. 
“We can now afford to implement these relief packages and we will do what it takes,” he told DR. “We don't know how much more to put on the table, but we are prepared to do whatever is needed.”
Wammen said the government was currently in negotiations with business groups and with the unions to see if further regulatory interventions might be necessary. 
Here are the four measures announced on Thursday: 
  • The release of the so-called 'countercyclical capital buffer' banks have been required to keep on their books since the 2007 financial crisis. This will provide them an extra 200bn Danish kroner in liquidity, which they can either use to lend to businesses or to withstand losses on existing loans. 
  • Two new loan guarantee schemes, one for large companies and one for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The government will guarantee 70 percent of the value of any new bank loans given to SMEs who have seen operating profits fall by more than 50 percent. This could back up to 4.8bn kroner in new loans. It will guarantee 70 percent of the value of new loans to large companies who can demonstrate a fall in turnover over more than 50 percent. This could back 2.7bn kroner in new loans. 
  • Employers from now on be completely reimbursed by the government from the first day that an employee becomes ill or enters quarantine due to coronavirus, rather than having to themselves absorb the bill for the few days. 
  • Employment legislation is being relaxed to allow companies to reduce employees hours temporarily, with the employees incomes then supplemented by unemployment benefit. The Ministry of Employment hopes that this will prevent employees from being laid off.
Here is a fact sheet from the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs (Here's a Google Translation). 

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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.”