Could face masks become compulsory in Denmark?

Denmark is yet to follow the growing list of countries requiring public use of face masks.

Could face masks become compulsory in Denmark?
People wearing face masks at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Aalborg on June 9th. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

European countries including France and the United Kingdom have increased regulation requiring face masks to be worn in public spaces, while Australian city Melbourne has responded to a local spike in coronavirus cases by making in compulsory for masks to be worn outside of homes.

Denmark has a total of 20 people currently admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and registered 49 new cases in the 24 hours prior to the most recent update from national infectious disease centre SSI, published Friday afternoon.

No laws have yet been introduced in Denmark making the use of masks compulsory, but that may change in the coming months, according to one expert.

“When the spread of infection begins to increase in Denmark, as is expected, I think we will also begin to see recommendations on the use of face masks here. That is my expectation,” professor of infectious disease at Copenhagen’s Rigshospitalet Jens Lundgren told national broadcaster DR.


Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has recently been photographed using a face mask in public and the Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) recently changed its recommendations on the use of face masks, advising them for travelling home from areas considered high-risk or on the way to being tested for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen arrives for the EU summit on a coronavirus recovery package at the European Council building in Brussels on July 19th. Photo: John Thys/AFP/Ritzau ScanpixInfection rates are currently low in Denmark, but a second wave of the virus could hit the country after the summer.


Lundgren told DR that researchers now know more about the effectiveness of face mask use against coronavirus spread than they did at the beginning of the outbreak.

As such, the use of the item in places such as on public transport or in shops in Denmark is a viable option for later in the year, he told the broadcaster.

“Generally, there is no reason to use a mask, but it makes sense in places where many people are gathered inside,” he said.

The World Health Organization last month changed its official recommendations on the use of face masks last month and now advises their use in places where it is difficult to maintain a distance from others.

Although Danish health authorities are yet to replicate those guidelines, new Danish Health Authority advice published earlier this month does take a more open position on using face masks than previously seen in Denmark.

Major Danish research into the effects of wearing face mask is expected to be published in the near future, DR reports.

One reason the country has been reticent over the protective item up to now is concern that it could detract from an emphasis on keeping distance and good hand hygiene.

“If people move closer together and forget the rules for good hygiene, we’ll be no better off,” DR quotes University of Copenhagen professor of immunology Jan Pravsgaard Christensen, in earlier comments.

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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.”