Danish agency: pandemic to ‘die out’ even with more opening

Denmark's infectious diseases agency has said the country can safely open up shops, restaurants, upper secondary schools, and workplaces -- so long as people continue to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Danish agency: pandemic to 'die out' even with more opening
People will be able to return to Copenhagen Zoo as long as they keep their distance. Photo. Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
In  an expert report published on Wednesday ahead of a parliamentary debate on the next stage of reopening, Statens Serum Institute (SSI) reports that its models predict that the epidemic will gradually fade away on its own — even with some further loosening of restrictions. 
“The models show that if the current level of restrictions continue, the burden on hospitals will be low and the epidemic can be expected to slowly die out,” the report reads. 
It continues: “The epidemic is also expected to die out in the reopening scenario corresponding to the 'foundation block', provided physical distance and hygiene measures are maintained.” 
This so-called 'foundation block' of measures includes the opening up clothes shops, shopping malls, libraries, zoos and botanical gardens, relaunching professional sports competitions without spectators, and allowing critical areas of the public sector to return to work. 
If Denmark's political parties go further, it adds, and decide to open up schools or pupils up to the age of 18, reopen restaurants and cafés, and let everyone else return to work, it does not expect a second wave of cases. 
Instead, in this scenario, the number in hospital with coronavirus will stay below 500, meaning the health service is unlikely to be overwhelmed. 
“If social distancing and hygiene measures are maintained, the model shows that the number of total inpatients hospitalised with Covid-19 will continue to be lower than 500 up until the end of the simulated time interval, on July 1, 2020,” the report reads. 
“In addition, our model shows that the number in intensive care in that scenario will continue to stay under 100 until the end of the simulated time interval.” 
The new report opens the way for Denmark's political parties to agree on a significant relaxation of restrictions.
But doing so will mean trusting the population to follow social distancing guidelines. 
“If social distancing and hygiene measures are reduced by 50 percent or 100 percent, the number of hospitalised rises significantly towards the end of the simulated time interval. The same applies to the number in intensive care,” it warns. 
In this scenario, the graphs in the modelling, show the number hospitalised hitting 1,500, with at least 200 people in intensive care. 
“It is of crucial importance for the spread of infection the extent to which the population maintains physical distance and follows hygiene recommendations,” the agency writes. 
“It's hard to predict, the extent to which this will continue to be the case,” it added. “It can be expected that the behaviour of the population will to some extent follow the evolution of the epidemic in such a way that physical distance will decrease after a period of low transmission.” 

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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.”