Danish PM warns to maintain social distancing rules as coronavirus infection rates rise in Denmark

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wrote a lengthy message on her Facebook Page on Friday evening, warning people about the rise in coronavirus infections in the country and hinting that face masks could become mandatory if needed.

Danish PM warns to maintain social distancing rules as coronavirus infection rates rise in Denmark
Svanemøllen Strand in Copenhagen, Saturday 8 August 2020. As temperatures rise, both the Danish PM and National Police Chief have warned people to keep a distance. Photo: Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix

In the post she said: “Like many others, I have followed the increase in the number of infections with increasing seriousness – and concern. We know from the authorities that much of the increase is due to the outbreaks in Ringsted and Aarhus. 

“But there is also a more widespread increase. And we face the fact that on top of the summer, there will be a lot of activity again in our society. Many have returned from vacation, started work, and on Monday schools will start again.

“It is now – in these weeks – that each of us are part of deciding how to enter the autumn. Whether we can stabilise the increase in the infection figures. And keep the coronavirus down.”

The Prime Minister also gave an interview on Saturday to a Danish newspaper where she suggested that face masks could be made compulsory in certain circumstances, to avoid further lockdowns. She also referred to this in the Facebook message:

“As a government, we will go a really long way to avoid a shutdown to the extent we decided in March. Not least for our economy.

“First and last it's still about breaking the chain of infection….distance is so incredibly important. Hand wash or hand sanitiser. Staying home from school or work if you have symptoms.

“Now also a face mask on public transport. I know this is new to the vast majority of us. This is not something we have been used to here in Scandinavia….as a government we cannot deny that it may be necessary to introduce it as a requirement in several parts of society.”

Face masks were last week made a mandatory requirement on public transport in Aarhus, following a spike in coronavirus cases in the city.

A National warehouse has had to supply five million face masks to Aarhus to cover the private market supply gap, after pharmacies and Matas stores sold out. The health service has sufficient stock, according to Martin Magelund Rasmussen, national coordinator for the stock of protective equipment.

From a very low number of new infections at the beginning of the summer holidays, the number of coronavirus infections has been steadily increasing in Denmark since week 29.

The current heatwave Denmark is experiencing is also causing concern. National Police Chief Thorkild Fogde has warned against going to popular areas during the heat but to keep at a distance.

“When we have as good weather as we have at the moment, you especially have to think about when you want to go out and enjoy the sun. One should not go where everyone else wants to go. One should try to find some other places,” Thorkild Fogde told Ritzau. 

“Assemblies of up to 100 people are allowed. Due to the development of the infection, the planned increase to 200 people has been postponed, and in the summer heat, many small groups can quickly turn into several hundred people,” he warns. 

On Saturday, 128 confirmed cases of the coronavirus were recorded in Denmark. On Friday there were 169 confirmed cases, the highest figure for a single day since 25 April. This is according to figures sent by health authorities to the parliamentary parties, DR said.  

Mette Frederiksen also suggested in her Facebook message and newspaper interview that the reopening of nightlife would most likely be postponed. Parliamentary parties meet on Wednesday to discuss the final stage four of reopening.


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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.”