Denmark changes face mask guidelines: now advised on busy public transport

The Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen, DHA) has changed its recommendations for the use of face masks to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Denmark changes face mask guidelines: now advised on busy public transport
Ringsted Station on July 23rd. Face masks are set to become a more common sight on Danish public transport.Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In a statement released on Friday, the authority said it was “extending its recommendations for the use of face masks in certain situations”.

“It is advantageous to use a face mask when using public transport at times when it is difficult to keep a distance from other passengers,” the health agency wrote on its website.

Coronavirus infection rates remain at a low level in Denmark at the current time, despite a relative uptick since the beginning of July.

91 new cases of coronavirus were registered by national infectious disease institute SSI on Thursday, the highest daily infections figure in the country since May 18th. But Friday’s figure was down on that number, with 64 new infections registered.

57 new cases were registered on Wednesday and 30 on Tuesday.

Average daily new Covid-19 infections in Denmark have crept up throughout the last month. The week commencing July 5th saw an average of 18 new cases per day. That had increased to 41 by last week.


In its announcement expanding face mask recommendations, the national health authority noted that “there are no clear signs of specific geographical areas with many cases of infection over a longer period.”

“But more smaller outbreaks may occur in the near future, and we will perhaps see a rapid increase,” the statement continues.

People returning from holiday and the re-opening of workplaces and return to schools are all possible factors in this, DHA said.

“If we are to keep the epidemic under control, good distance and clean hands are still important,” director of the Danish Health Authority Søren Brostrøm said.

“In the time to come, we will move more closely together as we return to work and school and as colder weather approaches. That can make it harder to keep your distance in many situations, even if you want to,” Brostrøm continued.

“This is relevant on public transport during rush hour or on tightly packed buses, trains and ferries. That is why we are now recommending that you bring a face mask with you in your bag in those situations, and put it on if it is difficult to keep your distance,” he said.

Brostrøm said the primary purpose of wearing a face mask is to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus if that person is infected but symptom-free. It can also provide extra protection for people in risk groups who may have difficulty keeping a distance of two metres.


Danish health authorities will also monitor infection data with a view to extending face mask recommendations to more situations, such as at shopping malls and other gathering places, according to the DHA statement.

After not advocating their general use at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, Danish health officials began cautiously recommending using masks in early July, advising them in certain circumstances, including when travelling home from areas considered high-risk or on the way to being tested for coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Brostrøm said that current infection levels in Denmark did not indicate the use of face masks, but that their use “could make sense in the longer term”.

In June, The World Health Organisation updated its recommendations over face masks, recommending governments ask health members of the public wear non-medical face masks in areas where the virus is being transmitted to the community, if it is difficult to keep social distance, or in crowded areas such as on public transport. 

READ ALSO: Denmark opens to travel from all of Sweden



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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.”