How schools and day care centres in Denmark are gearing up for reopening

All day care institutions and the first five forms of primary school can reopen from Wednesday 15th April. But only around half will be ready by this date and many institutions are preparing pupils and parents for a different way of childcare life.

How schools and day care centres in Denmark are gearing up for reopening
Pedel Finn Madsen is getting ready for pupils at the Lemtorp school in Lemvig to start school after Easter. April 11, 2020: Morten Stricker / Ritzau Scanpix

Around half of Denmark’s municipalities are ready to reopen schools and day care institutions from Wednesday 15th April, according to the National Association of Local Authorities (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL).

In a survey, Kommunernes Landsforening asked the country’s 98 municipalities when they expect to reopen the first day care institutions and schools.

83 municipalities answered the survey. 52 of them expect to reopen day care institutions and 46 expect to reopen schools, on the planned day of Wednesday 15th April. The rest of the municipalities expect to be able to reopen by Monday 20th April.

“We must meet all the requirements of the health authorities before we open the doors. That's why it's going to take some time.

“I hope for the citizens' understanding and support that this must be done right and that it will therefore also be done differently around the municipalities”, said Thomas Gyldal Petersen, chairman of KL's children's and education committee.

The decision to reopen the country’s day care institutions and schools was announced by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a press conference last Monday.

Since then, the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelse) has given instructions on how schools and day care institutions should operate to reduce the risk of infections spreading.

The Local has seen the instructions sent to daycare institutions. They include:

  • A recommended floor area of 6m2 per child for vuggestue (nursery) and 4m2 per child for børnehave (kindergarten), meaning some institutions may not be able to accept all children back at first.
  • Children to play with the same small groups of 3-5, mainly outside.
  • Children to sit two metres apart at tables.
  • Food not to be shared.
  • Staff to supervise the children washing their hands at least every two hours, including after coughing or sneezing, before and after food.
  • Regular cleaning, including cleaning toys twice a day, disinfecting surfaces such as taps, toilet flushes, tables, door handles, handrails, light switches twice a day.
  • Staff meetings to be held outside or via telephone/video call.
  • Those that travel on buses provided by day care, to sit two metres apart. More buses will be provided.
  • Drop off and collection to be done at intervals and if possible outside.

In Copenhagen, schools and day care centres will use other locations like museums and playgrounds to provide more space.

Copenhagen’s mayor of children and youth administration Jesper Christensen, said this would help keep children at the required safe distances. 

The National Association of Local Authorities (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL) points out that there will be differences locally and around the country as to how institutions open.

Each school and day care institution will contact parents with details of how and when they will reopen.

Ellen Trane Nørby, the children’s and education mayor for the opposition party Venstre commended the municipalities for getting ready to open but said there had been confusion in many places and that more clarity was needed about the reopening.

A Danish kindergarten (børnehave). Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Yesterday the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) apologised for any confusion about whether children should stay home from school if they, or people close to them, are particularly vulnerable.

“The uncertainty is partly due to the fact that there have been different announcements from different authorities. Of course, this is confusing and unfortunate”, said the health authority.

The health authority has now made it clear that parents should talk to the child's doctor if they have any doubts about whether the child should stay at home.

Parents can also talk to management at the school or day care institution. The management can then assess whether they can pay special attention to the child.

If the child lives with someone who is at risk of being severely affected by the coronavirus, the healthy authority says to also contact your doctor or school and day care management.

If there are people in the at-risk group in the household, such as pregnant or with a compromised immune system, it will not prevent the child from going to school or day care. But there must always be a special focus on the hygiene of these homes, added the health authority. 


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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.”