Danish PM announces ‘gradual’ and ‘controlled’ reopening after Easter

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said that the country could begin a "gradual, quiet and controlled opening" after Easter, in the first sign of an end to the country's strict lockdown.

Danish PM announces 'gradual' and 'controlled' reopening after Easter
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announces the plans to reopen. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix
“If we Danes for the next two weeks – over Easter – continue to stand together at a distance, and if the numbers remain stable and reasonable, then the government will begin a gradual, quiet and controlled opening of our society again on the other side of Easter,” Frederiksen said at a press conference on Monday afternoon. 
But the Social Democrat leader, whose handling of the crisis has been widely praised by Danes, warned that if people started to relax their efforts too early, there was a risk of a renewed rise in infections which would instead require a shift to even stricter policies. 
“If the numbers start to rise again too sharply, or if we start gathering again, inside or outside. Do not keep our distance. Then we won't be able to start to open: perhaps we would have to tighten up even more instead,” she said. 
Frederiksen said that health professionals were starting to see evidence that the decision to close schools, kindergartens, restaurants, bars and cultural centres and other gathering places across the country had succeeded in slowing the spread of coronavirus. It had also, she said, effectively eliminated ordinary influenza. 
“Over the past week, the number of admissions has risen slightly more slowly than the week before, and without the explosion in the numbers that we have seen in other countries,” she said. 
But she warned that the pandemic had not yet peaked, meaning that even as society began taking steps to reopen, the number of cases in hospital could continue to slowly climb. 
“Healthcare professionals are going to work even harder. It's going to be a strange time,” she said. 
Frederiksen suggested that schools and offices would probably reopen first, with borders continuing to be partially closed for much longer. 
Initially, the government might have to control when people go to work and school in order to prevent people getting too close to one another on public transport, she said. 
There may also need to be changes to the way people work to prevent too many people ever gathering together in one place at the same time.
“The virus will be among us for a long time to come. More will be infected. More will be admitted to hospital. Unfortunately, many will die,” she 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.”