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Norway set to add Copenhagen region to list of ‘red’ quarantine countries

Health authorities in Norway have recommended the government advises against travel to Denmark’s Capital region, which includes Copenhagen.

Norway set to add Copenhagen region to list of 'red' quarantine countries
The Copenhagen-Oslo ferry. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Ireland, the United Kingdom, Austria and Greece are also set to be added to the list of ‘red’ countries.

Once a country or region is ‘red', the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against travel that is not strictly necessary to that country, and self-quarantine is required for travellers returning or arriving from it. 

Two of Denmark’s five Regions – Central Jutland and Zealand — are already on the Norwegian ‘red’ list.

Should the Capital region be added as expected, only two Regions – North Jutland and Southern Denmark – will remain free of Norwegian travel restrictions.

Denmark’s foreign ministry in currently advising Danes who are travelling to Norway to “exercise caution”. The advice is also applicable to foreign citizens who live in Denmark.

In its travel guidelines, the Danish ministry writes that when travelling to Norway “you should bring documentation for where in Denmark you live, for example the yellow health insurance card. Changes in (Norwegian) quarantine rules mean you must be able to document where you live in Denmark”.

The Norwegian Institute for Public Health (NIPH) regularly updates its list of EEA and Schengen area countries which meet and do not meet the country's criteria for safe travel (the rate of new coronavirus infections must be less than 20 cases per 100,000 people for the last two weeks). For fellow Nordic countries, Norway's health authorities judge on a regional basis, which means parts of Denmark can be made ‘red’ without the restrictions applying to the country as a whole.

NIPH makes recommendations to the foreign ministry based on this list and new travel guidelines usually come into effect at the end of each week.

According to an NIPH statement on Tuesday, the UK (20.7 infections per 100,000 residents), Ireland (22.3), Greece (22.5), Austria (23.3) and Region Hovedstaden/Capital in Denmark (24) are now over the threshold.

The Hovedstaden Region consists of a total of 29 municipalities in the northern and eastern parts of Zealand, including Copenhagen and Frederiksberg municipalities in the capital city.

According to figures published by DR on Tuesday and taken from national agency State Serum Institute (SSI), both Copenhagen (17.2) and Frederiksberg (15.3) municipalities were under the Norwegian limit for number of infections per 100,000 residents between August 10th-17th (note this is one week – the Norwegian figure is taken over two weeks).

But other municipalities in the Region, including Høje-Taastrup (43.3), Brøndby (39.9), Ishøj (30.4), Gentofte (26.7) and Albertslund (25.2) are significantly above it.

In Norway, 'home quarantine' including for people arriving from 'red' countries means that person is asked to stay home from school or work, not have visitors, not use public transport and only visit shops or pharmacies if strictly necessary, and not at all if it is not possible to maintain social distance. You may have normal contact with people you live with, who are not in quarantine. You are also allowed to go outside for a walk if you maintain a one-metre distance from others at all times.

If you later suspect you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must isolate yourself completely and get tested for the virus. More details can be found on the health authority website.

Norway is now operating with a ‘red' and ‘yellow' categorisation regarding travel advice instead of the ‘red' and ‘green' labelling previously used.

The Norwegian foreign ministry also advises against non-essential travel to 'yellow' countries, but these countries do not have quarantine requirements for arrivals in Norway. If a European country is ‘green’ (none currently are) that means the foreign ministry does not advise against travel there.

Sweden’s region Norrbotten (19.2) is likely to go from ‘red’ to the lower advisory level of ‘yellow’ following an improvement in infection numbers.

The NIPH bases its recommendations on figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EU agency monitoring the data, as well as national health authorities.

READ ALSO: Here's what you need to know about Denmark's 'phase four' reopening

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COVID-19

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.” 

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