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LIFE IN DENMARK

I became a dad at the start of the coronavirus crisis in Denmark. Now my daughter can finally meet her grandparents

People who live abroad have shared the difficulty of not being able to travel home to visit family during the coronavirus crisis. Resultant emotions are amplified when you’ve just become a parent, writes The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett.

I became a dad at the start of the coronavirus crisis in Denmark. Now my daughter can finally meet her grandparents
Photo: Michael Barrett

On a brisk day in early March, I became a dad. My partner went into labour late in the afternoon, we took a taxi to Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen and our beautiful little daughter was born as the sun went down.

I spent the subsequent four months on extended parental leave, returning to work on Monday this week.

The above is neither an unusual story nor a remarkable one, apart perhaps from the high standard of Danish parental leave provisions. But it did coincide with major upheaval in Denmark and throughout the world caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the days following the birth, we as new parents – as I’m sure all parents do – felt like we were going through profound changes in how we saw the world and our place within it as guardians of a new life.

At the same time, it seemed like the world was going through its own irreversible alteration, as cascading emergency public health measures – from the cancellation of major events to the closure of borders to a broad-ranging social lockdown – followed on a near-daily basis.

The border closure was significant for me on a personal level, as it ruled out for the foreseeable future any visits from my family, who live in the UK.

It’s fair to say we felt a bit adrift as we entered a period of near-isolation, a combination of the lockdown and a precautionary measure to protect the baby.

 

We remained isolated throughout March, going outside with the baby just twice during her first week, both for hospital check-ups which, despite being routine, were more than a little unnerving.

Apart from that, my partner and the baby never left our small apartment. I went out for daily exercise – always alone – and otherwise never left the flat either. We had our groceries delivered, never had takeaway and didn't see anyone. We went for our first walk with our daughter in her stroller on April 17th, when she was five weeks old.

It was an intense experience and hard not to be able to lean on our own parents for support in the way we – and many other new mums and dads – usually would.

We have a photo on the wall at home of my dad as a 23-year-old new father holding me, aged three days. I sometimes found it hard to shift my sense of loss over the fact I couldn’t take the same photo of him with his granddaughter.

As time went on, and the situation in Denmark slowly but steadily improved, we realised there were a lot of positives for us. We were all healthy, and for weeks it was just the three of us together. We couldn’t help but form a strong bond. There were ups and downs but we got through it and I think we’ll look back on it and be proud of ourselves.

We have since spent time with my Danish partner’s parents and siblings. Our daughter meeting them for the first time was no less beautiful for the wait. “This is my baby”, my girlfriend said as her mother came into our flat, an incredibly obvious statement but one so laden with raw emotion that I’ll remember it for the rest of my days.

 

Denmark has now opened its borders to tourists from most of Europe and close family members of Danish residents can also enter. Our wait for our little girl to meet all of her grandparents is almost at an end.

There are many others who have found themselves in similar situations to ours and no doubt had similar feelings, including people in long-distance relationships. Depending on where you live, separation from loved ones may still not have a set expiry date.

For those in such circumstances, I hope that you won’t have to wait much longer but I also hope that, like me, the experience will bring you closer to both the family you are with and the family from which you are kept apart.

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COVID-19

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.” 

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