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 to.work 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.