Denmark close to rolling out coronavirus immunity tests: SSI

The Danish health agency SSI hopes to soon approve coronavirus antibody tests which will show whether those who suspect they've had the disease are immune and can rejoin the workforce.

Denmark close to rolling out coronavirus immunity tests: SSI
An antibody test developed by the Dutch company Sensitest. Photo: Robin Utrecht/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix
“We're not there right now, but we're close,” Anders Fomsgaard, the agency's head doctor, told the Politiken newspaper. “I dare not set a date for when the first antibody tests can come out, but my clear expectation is that it will happen before the epidemic culminates.”
Karen Angeliki Krogfelt, professor of medical microbiology at Roskilde University, is working with Statens Serum Institute (SSI) to check the accuracy of the Chinese-made finger-prick blood tests, to determine if they can be used by the Danish authorities. 
These so-called 'serologic tests' check for the antibodies produced by the body to defend against the coronavirus virus, rather than testing whether someone is currently infected. 
“When people have a high antibody level, they have a very hard time getting infected again for a period of up to two years,” Krogfelt told the newspaper. “They can then be sent back to work without much risk of them becoming infected or spreading the infection to others, as they are now more resilient.” 
Knut Borch-Johnsen, Deputy Director at Holbæk hospital, said that such tests would be invaluable. 
“Today, I have to send staff home even if they have very mild symptoms because it might be coronavirus. If we knew they were immune, then some of them could stay at work,” he told the newspaper. 
The SSI project is being mirrored by governments across the world.
On Monday, Deborah Birx from the White House Coronavirus Task Force said the the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hoped to approve a test within weeks, while the UK has already purchased 3.5m tests, and hopes to send them out to people's homes within weeks. 

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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.”