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NOVO NORDISK

New Danish agency will test up to 20,000 people a day for coronavirus

Denmark has launched a new national testing organisation which it hopes will soon be able to test up to 20,000 people a day for coronavirus infections across the country's five regions.

New Danish agency will test up to 20,000 people a day for coronavirus
One of the white tents outside Vejlby-Risskov Hallen in Aarhus. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix
“We have worked hard to increase the test capacity since the coronavirus began to spread in Denmark. Now we have built up capacity, and we must fully utilize it,” said Health Minister Magnus Heunicke in a press statement announcing the new organisation. 
 
TestCenter Danmark — a joint venture between the national government, regional governments, and the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo-Nordisk — will test both those with symptoms for active Covid-19 infections and those without for the antibodies which indicate that someone has already had the virus. 
 
The testing will take place in the five large white tents already erected in each of Denmark's five regions, which the government said would increase in number as the program is built out. 
 
 
“In this way we can ensure timely treatment of citizens infected with COVID-19. And we can follow the development of the infection in the community, and use that knowledge actively when we gradually reopen Denmark,” Heunicke added. 
 
As well as the tests carried out by TestCenter Danmark, the coutnry's health authorities also plan to massively increase testing so that they can carry out up to 12,000 tests a day on citizens with even mild coronavirus symptoms, all patients admitted to hospitals for any reason, and later on to all employees working in the health and elderly care sectors. 
 
According to the press release, Denmark's infectious diseases agency SSI will operate the tents, that have been built with the help of a 250 million Danish kroner ($36) grant from the Novo-Nordisk Foundation, which has already funded a range of coronavirus initiatives
 
Novo Nordisk has also contributed staff and technology for establishing and conducting the tests.
 
Lars Rebien Sørensen, the chairman of the foundation, said the centres would “create greater security and security for the individual and the people with whom they are socializing, and it can support the gradual reopening of society.”
 

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COVID-19 TESTS

What is Denmark’s Covid-19 testing strategy for the winter?

Danish health authorities on Wednesday presented the country’s plan for testing for Covid-19 during the next autumn and winter, when a new wave of the coronavirus is expected.

What is Denmark’s Covid-19 testing strategy for the winter?

The testing strategy for the latter months of 2022 will rely more on PCR testing than rapid antigen or “quick test” centres, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said at a briefing on Wednesday.

At the briefing, Denmark’s strategy for responding to an expected resurgence of the coronavirus during the colder months was presented.

READ ALSO: Denmark to offer all over-50s autumn Covid-19 vaccine

In 2020 and 2021, Denmark administered huge quantities of Covid-19 tests to its residents through a combination of municipal PCR test centres and rapid antigen testing at separate centres, which were run by private companies awarded contacts by the state.

The rapid test centres were eventually phased out in favour of home antigen tests.

Since March this year, health authorities have advised that Covid-19 testing is only recommended if there is a “special medical reason” for doing so.

This winter will see capacity at PCR test centres upscaled in response to rising case numbers, with rapid test centres not expected to be used, Heunicke said on Wednesday.

“We be able to quickly upscale to 200,000 daily PCR tests if this becomes necessary,” Heunicke said.

Testing will remain an important part of the national Covid-19 strategy because it will speed up treatment for vulnerable and elderly people who contract Covid-19, the minister said.

Denmark will also be able to genome sequence 4,000 Covid-19 tests weekly, which will enable new variants or subvariants of the coronavirus to be detected.

A new subvariant of the Omicron variant, BA. 5, is currently spreading in Denmark and recently became the dominant form. It currently comprises 59 percent of positive tests, according to Heunicke.

READ ALSO: Omicron subvariant now dominant in Denmark

Current infection numbers remain at a relatively low level, the health minister stressed at Wednesday’s briefing.

Health authorities envisage three possible scenarios for future waves of Covid-19, he said.

In the first of these, a new subvariant of the Omicron variant spreads but is not expected to have a greater effect on the health services than the variant did last winter.

The early months of 2022 saw Covid-related ICU admissions remain limited and social restrictions were lifted despite high case numbers with the transmissible Omicron variant.

In a second scenario, a new variant comparable to the Delta variant, which caused more severe illness, emerges. In that scenario, protection of elderly and vulnerable people would be more important, Heunicke said.

In the third scenario, a new variant that escapes community immunity breaks out.

Which of the three scenarios will become reality in Denmark in coming months is uncertain, Heunicke said.

The three situations are very different but all considered by the government strategy which aims to respond “quickly and effectively” with the objective of avoiding lockdowns and restrictions, he said.

READ ALSO: Danish PM expects coming winter without Covid-19 lockdowns

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