Does Denmark need to force people to keep their distance?

Despite the Danish government's bold measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, readers of The Local complain that many people, especially young people, are treating the lockdown as a holiday. Is it time to enforce social distancing?

Does Denmark need to force people to keep their distance?
“I went out to buy food and I’m shocked to see people getting close to each other when walking in the street, stopping at traffic lights, and inside shops,” complained Fernando Nicolella. 
“It’s looks like they are not aware of 1.5m to 2m social distance. Do we need to get into a situation like Italy or Spain for people to wake up?” 
Anne Hauge, Secretary General of the pro-European movement Europabevægelsen, tweeted her anger after passing a packed park in Frederiksberg on Saturday. 
“I was taking a walk, alone, keeping my distance, and I saw people gathering in Frederiksberg in large groups and some of them were having a picnic,” she told The Local. “To me it looked as if people were having a vacation.” 
“Is it more important to drink your cafe latté with your friends than people losing them job, or losing their life because of this?”
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke warned on Monday that people were “taking it too easy”. 
Stickers and signs have since begun to appear in Danish supermarkets and other institutions reminding people to keep their distance from one another, which may be starting to have an effect. 
Stickers imposed at the Super Brugsen supermarket on Tuesday. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix
There seemed to be fewer people out on the streets and in parks on Monday and Tuesday. 
Professor Michael Bang Petersen, a researcher in infectious psychology at the University of Aarhus told Danish state broadcaster DR that it was unsurprising that young people took the restrictions less seriously.  
“When you are young, the risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus is not very high. Therefore, the benefits of following the guidelines are small while the costs are very high,” he explained. 
“As a young person, you want to be with your friends and kiss, hug, party and go to town. There are probably not too many elderly people who want to go to a disco anyway.” 
He said the government couldn't expect young people to watch ministerial press conferences, or check for information on government websites, and commended them for using influencers like 23-year-old Alexander Husum, who made a joint post to his 383,000 followers with the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. 
“There has to be moral condemnation where it becomes the common belief that you are a dirty person if you are helping spread the infection, and it is clearly most effective if young people moralize to young people,” he said. 
Tommy Holst, a youth worker in Odense, told DR he expected it to be difficult to convince young people to continue to adhering to the restrictions as the weeks go on. 
“When the kids start getting bored, there will be a natural need to see others,” he said. 

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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.”