Denmark to reopen schools and kindergartens next week

Denmark's government has announced plans to reopen kindergartens and schools for children up until the age of 11, as it takes the first steps in a gradual lifting of the country's coronavirus lockdown.

Denmark to reopen schools and kindergartens next week

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that the government was opening schools for students up until class five first, because the requirement to care for them represented a greater burden on society .

The opening of schools and services for the youngest means that some parents will have peace undisturbed. We need that, because many tasks are left undone,” she said during a press conference

“I understand that there will be both parents and teachers who will be concerned about becoming infected. That is why children and adults should be outside as much as possible. There should also be more distance between the children when inside. There needs to be more cleanliness. And if you are the least ill, then you have to stay home.” 

The government said that adults, who on March 12 were asked to work from home if at all possible, could now start to return to their workplaces more often if they took care to “follow the general guidelines on appropriate behaviour” .

“The authorities will enter into dialogue with the relevant business and employee organisations,” the government said in a document published alongside the video of the press conference. 

“Workplaces should continue to focus on flexibility in relation to, for example, working from home, the use of digital meeting solutions, and staggered work and meeting times.”

Older children from class six (11-12) until class ten (15-16) will be able to return to school at the earliest on May 10, Frederiksen said, as will pupils in upper secondary school. As a result, all end of term exams for pupils will be cancelled. 

Churches, libraries, and club premises for sports and other activities will also be closed until at least May 10, as will shopping centres. 
Denmark will keep border controls in place until at least May 10, and will also keep in place its ban on gatherings of more than ten people until May 10. 
Restaurants, bars, cafés and hairdressers will remain closed until “the next phase”.
The ban on major events will remain in place until at least August, meaning Denmark's summer music festivals will all have to be cancelled. 
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announcing the reopening of kindergartens and schools on Monday. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix 
Kåre Mølbak, from Denmark's infectious diseases agency SSI, said that the modelling that had justified the decision to gradually reopen was based on the agency's confidence that citizens would continue to uphold hygiene and social distancing rules. 
“We know that the health system is not going to fall apart. But this rests on an important assumption. That people continue to comply with the recommendation to sneeze into your sleeve and wash your hands,” he said. “We have to keep looking after one another. Otherwise we risk getting into the red curve.” 
Mølbak denied that the gradual reopening implied a slow move to a herd immunity strategy. 
“It's a strategy to make sure the curve of the infection is broken,” he said. “It is as such not a strategy to reach immunity. It's a strategy to make sure that people don't get infected.” 
But Allan Randrup Thomsen, Professor in the Department of Immunology at Copenhagen University, said that the decision to reopen was risky.
“We do not know how big the infection pressure is among smaller children,” he told Danish state broadcaster DR. They are holding the binoculars to their blind eye. It may be that the epidemic starts to take off again.” 
Mølbak said his mathematical model had found that only 1.8 percent of children had probably been infected with coronavirus, while his institute believed between 10 and 11 percent of adults had been. 
“That's why we do not have such a big concern about children,” 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.”