Danish party calls for free face masks for low-income groups

The left-wing Red Green Alliance wants face masks to be offered for free to people on lower incomes.

Danish party calls for free face masks for low-income groups
Health authorities in Denmark advise the use of face masks on busy public transport. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The party, part of the parliamentary alliance propping up the Social Democrat minority government, suggested the measure after health authorities in Denmark last week changed official advice to recommend the use of the protective item on busy public transport.

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

Given the high cost of buying face masks, people with lower incomes should be given them for free, the Red Green Alliance said.

“We think that face masks should be made available for low income groups. It must be possible more them to afford to take public transport too,” the party’s transport spokesperson Peder Hvelplund said to DR.

Senior citizens, people on disability pensions, students and people who receive universal credit are amongst those the party would like to benefit from the measure.


“We envisage they would be given a one-off credit which would enable them to collect face masks for free at pharmacies,” Hvelplund said.

The party is not alone in considering the issue of ensuring face masks are accessible or affordable for everyone.

The price of the masks varies between retailers. Pharmacy chain Matas currently lists a pack of four disposable Type II face masks at 49,95 kroner (around €6.70 or £6.00). Given that this type of mask should only be used once before being discarded, the cost for someone who uses public transport to go to work could be significant.

“If you use public transport a lot, the cost of masks could become a huge economic burden,” said health spokesperson Kirsten Normann Andersen of the Socialist People’s Party.

“We have already said to the minister [Minister for Health and the Elderly Magnus Heunicke, ed.] that we need to find a solution for residents who don’t have money to buy face masks,” Andersen said, adding that this could take the form of an “allowance or subsidy”.

Heunicke’s party colleague Rasmus Horn Langhoff, who is spokesperson for health with the ruling Social Democrats, played down the issue.

“We cannot see that this will hit people hard in terms of costs,” Langhoff told DR.

But the government would monitor developments including rising prices, he added.

“This must not become a situation like the one we saw with hand sanitizer, where it was sold out at supermarkets and sold for an excessive price,” he said

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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.”