Three toys per child and a teddy bear ban: New rules for Denmark’s kindergartens

Some kindergartens have removed all teddy bears, others are limiting each child to just three toys, and there's a total ban on bringing toys from home. When Denmark's youngest children returned yesterday, a lot had changed.

Three toys per child and a teddy bear ban: New rules for Denmark's kindergartens
A mother after oicking up her child from Lillerød Børnehus. Søren Bidstrup/Ritzau Scanpix
At one kindergarten, or børnehave, in Vesterbro, Copenhagen, all the soft toys and teddy bears the children usually play with have been removed. “We are leaving only the toys we can wash, not toys we can't clean,” Nina, one of the staff, told The Local. 
Even those toys that are left have been radically reduced in number, with each group of five children assigned its own selection, which will be washed every two hours and cannot be used by children outside the group. 
Other børnehave have told parents not to let their children bring their beloved teddy bears or any other toy from home. Others are limiting each child to just three toys. 
“We have to follow the guidelines from the health care authorities and the municipality. But how we do it in practice is up to us,” explains Louise van der Watt, who works at Gentofte Børnehave outside Copenhagen. 
Like many børnehave-age children in Denmark, those she looks after bring their own lunchboxes from home. But they have now been banned from sharing any food with their playmates. 

Each child at Gentofte has been assigned to one of the børnehave's six toilets, which are then cleaned after every use. 
Parents are not allowed to enter the premises, and are instead instructed to deliver the children outside. They need inform the kindergarten in advance of the exact time they plan to drop off or pick up their children, so that they can be met by staff. 
“We receive the children outside and then we put them into small groups, and those groups are together for the whole day with the same adults,” van der Watt explained. The idea is that each child is in close contact with only four or five other children and two adults each day. 
Michael Roche, whose child attends a kindergarten in Copenhagen, said that even his child's spare clothes had to be left outside the building, one of the new strict rules he found “very strange and a bit over-kill”. 
The recommendation from the Danish Health Authority that children sit at least two metres apart at tables is causing problems, as for many børnehave it in practice means that each child needs to have an entire table to themselves, despite there not being enough tables to go around. 
Other workers at børnehave complained that they lacked the staff needed to dress each child themselves at the end of pick-up time, when here is often only one kindergarten teacher left. 
The Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelse) has issued instructions on how schools and day care institutions should operate to reduce the risk of infections spreading. These 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.

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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.”