Why coronavirus spike in Aarhus was not caused by a single event

Denmark’s second city Aarhus is emerging as an outbreak area as coronavirus cases in the country begin to creep upwards. But no particular event – or group – can be blamed for the outbreak, according to an expert.

Why coronavirus spike in Aarhus was not caused by a single event
People queue at a mobile Covid-19 test centre in Aarhus on August 6th. Photo: Michael Drost-Hansen/Ritzau Scanpix

Aarhus registered 34 new Covid-19 cases between Wednesday and Thursday, continuing an upward trend in virus spread in the city which outstrips anything seen since the early stages of the epidemic.

That follows 104 new cases of coronavirus registered in Aarhus Municipality in the week prior to Wednesday, according to DR.

A closer look at data published by national infectious disease institute SSI shows that, between June 1st and July 28th, 61 infections were registered in the municipality, an average of a little over 1 infection per day.

The city’s lord mayor Jacob Bundsgaard called for the city’s residents to contribute in the effort to slow down the spread, in a press briefing given on Thursday.

“There is not least a need for all of us Aarhus residents – in reality all of Denmark – to step up and find the alertness and attention that we had at the beginning of the crisis,” Bundsgaard said.

Various causes are behind the spike in cases in Aarhus, according to Charlotte Hjort, head of department and senior doctor with the Danish Patient Safety Authority.


These include a funeral, a golden wedding party, and a number social care students who have been infected.

Meanwhile, the Somali community in the city has been disproportionately hit by the outbreak. Three quarters of the infections registered in Aarhus Municipality last week were in people with Somali heritage, according to news agency Ritzau.

The city has responded by setting up a mobile testing centre in the Gellerup neighbourhood, which is home to a large number of people from this community. The centre will be in place on Thursday and Friday. Visitors at hospitals across the city will be restricted from Friday, in another measure in response to the outbreak. Restrictions have also been put in place at care homes.

High infections amongst people with Somali heritage in Aarhus has resulted in finger-pointing by populist politicians, notably Pia Kjærsgaard, the former leader of the Danish People’s Party and former speaker of parliament, who called for a curfew in areas termed “ghettos” if they have high infection rates.

“It’s not being taken seriously (by people with minority heritage),” Kjærsgaard claimed in comments to DR. No evidence for the claim is included in DR’s report.

“You can’t orient yourself via the media, because you may not understand what is being said. It won’t do enough to sit and watch foreign TV when you be should finding out what is happening in the country you live in,” Kjærsgaard also said.

Aarhus mayor Bundsgaard stressed that no one part of the city or specific event could be singled out over the outbreak.

“It is important to underline that the virus is present in all of Aarhus and is not limited to any groups of residents,” he said.

“Many different people are infected, even though there are some patterns which we are alert to,” he added.

In comments previously given to DR, Hjort said that no one event could be connected to rising Covid-19 cases in Aarhus.

“We ask infected people whether they have participated in larger events or family occasions but it is not the case that we can say there has been one big event which everyone was at,” she said.


“Some people were at parties and some at university introduction events, but it’s spread out in Aarhus,” the senior medic added.

Hjort also rejected speculation that a large crowd celebrating at the end of July, when local football club AGF secured third place in the Danish Superliga, could be to blame.

“We have not been able to see that in any case. One person informed us they were at the celebration, but we are not placing much significance on that right now because there’s not an accumulation,” she said.

With regard to high infections amongst the Somali community, Hjort said that “there have been various reports about a large funeral, but we don’t know if that’s the reason”.

Several other factors may account for the Somali infections, a city council representative said.

“Firstly, a lot of people live close to each other and can’t avoid coming into contact with each other, and additionally a lot of people [from the community, ed.] work in high-risk jobs in supermarkets or as bus or taxi drivers and thereby come into contact with a lot of people,” Mahad Yussuf, a Social Democrat, told DR.

READ ALSO: Warm Danish weather is here: these are the overcrowded areas to avoid

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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.”