Denmark says easing lockdown has not caused increase in Covid-19 infections

Denmark, the first country in Europe to relax its coronavirus lockdown said on Wednesday that the spread of Covid-19 has not accelerated since it eased restrictions and began the second phase of reopening society last month.

Denmark says easing lockdown has not caused increase in Covid-19 infections
Pupils take their seats in the stands, keeping the social distances, before an open-air-class held at the Telia Parken stadium due to the new coronavirus pandemic on May 15, 2020 in Copenhagen. AFP

“The level of contagion in society is still very low,” the Danish health authority said in a report in Wednesday, according to Reuters news agency.

It added that the number of confirmed new infections had continued to fall despite more tests being carried out.

In April Denmark became the first country to reopen its schools and daycare centres and the following month bars and restaurants and shopping centres were allowed to resume business.

“There is no sign yet of noticeable changes in the extent of contagion despite the gradual reopening of society in April and early May,” the report said.

In its report, the agency calculated that Denmark's 'R number' for the coronavirus pandemic had risen to 1.0 over the last week from a low of 0.7 estimated on May 18. 

But Jens Lundgren, a  professor of infectious medicine at Copenhagen's leading hospital Rigshospitalet, said that the rise in the R number, which describes the number of people each infected person on average goes on to infect, was less significant when the level of overall infection in society was so low. 

“There's nothing dangerous about this. It is an indication that the infection is very low,” he told the Ritzau newswire. “I think you have to stop using concepts like reproduction number for the present. Right now, it's fine to have a reproduction number of 1.0 ” 

On Monday the Danish government raised the maximum limit on pubic gatherings to 50 from 10 and allowed gyms and swimming pools to reopen.

READ ALSO: How did Denmark get its schools reopen so soon after lockdown?

Denmark's political parties also struck a deal to increase the maximum allowed gathering to 100 in July month and then 200 in August.
Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup warned that the staged increases on July 8 and August 8 would only go ahead “if everything continues to go well” and the level of infection in Denmark remains at the current low level. 
“Because we have to remember that this all hangs completely on us all together following the health authorities' guidelines: Keeping distance; washing hands often; looking out for one another,” he said in a statement released after the deal was struck. 
“If we see that the epidemic is starting to blow up again, the increased size of gathering is the first thing we'll look at.”

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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.”