Denmark calls on doctors to save on face masks as supplies run short

The Danish Medicines Agency on Sunday warned that the country's hospitals were running short of essential protective equipment, such as hand sanitiser, face masks, and protective visors.

Denmark calls on doctors to save on face masks as supplies run short
Face masks are running short across Europe. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix
Thomas Senderovitz, the agency's Director General, called on doctors and nurses in the country to use soap and water instead of hand sanitiser, whenever possible, and to prioritise the use of face masks and visors for the most crucial cases.
“We need to conserve our protective equipment as much as we can at all without compromising safety,” he said in a press release on Sunday. 
“Otherwise, we risk undermining all the efforts doctors, nurses and others are making on the front line. It is critically important that we do everything we can to prevent it from happening,” he said. 
Joachim Hoffmann-Petersen, Chairman of the Union of Emergency Care Doctors, said that the shortage risked seriously hampering the fight against coronavirus. 
“If too many of us get sick, then we won't be able to handle the patients in the hospitals,” he told Danish state broadcaster DR. 
He pointed out that in Hong Kong, where there was sufficient protective equipment, not one of the 4,00 healthcare workers working with corona patients had been infected, whereas in Italy, 17 doctors had died, and in Spain, one in four was infected. 
Hoffmann-Petersen said he worried that if as many health professionals as in Spain got infected, their own infections could start worsening the problem they are trying to treat. 
“We may end up accelerating the epidemic, so that we start forming our own chains of infection,” he said. “Working in the health sector is not much fun, if you know that you can infect family and friends.” 
Senderovitz said in the press release that his agency was taking the issue “very seriously” and working “non-stop all week to procure protective equipment for the Danish healthcare system”. 

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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.”