Aarhus schools partially reopen as local Danish coronavirus restrictions eased

Some upper secondary school (gymnasium) students in Aarhus are able to physically attend classes again from Tuesday.

Aarhus schools partially reopen as local Danish coronavirus restrictions eased
Students in Aarhus on Monday protested against ongoing closures of upper secondary schools. The measure has since been partially lifted. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

A temporary closure of upper secondary schools, which are attended by 16-19 year-olds, was partially lifted along with local restrictions in the town of Silkeborg, the Ministry for Health and the Elderly said in a statement late on Monday.

Half of students at upper secondary schools in Aarhus will be allowed to return initially, with the remaining limitation set to stay in place until September 4th.

Both Aarhus and Silkeborg municipalities had been the subject of measures aimed at slowing localised increases in new Covid-19 infections.

A potential easing of Silkeborg’s restrictions was notified last week by the Danish Patient Safety Authority provided that a “positive trend” in reducing new cases continued.

As such, face masks will no longer be required in supermarkets and shopping centres in the town and restaurant closing times will be brought back into line with the rest of the country.

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

Some of the restrictions in Aarhus will remain in place. That includes the obligation for cafes and restaurants to close by midnight, although this may be reviewed before the current September 4th expiry date.

Half of upper secondary school students in the city will now return to class, however.

“Management at educational institutions will be responsible for ensuring that, before physical attendance at educational institutions commences, a plan is in place for conducting classes in accordance with health authority recommendations,” the ministry statement said.

No further information was given on which students would initially return to classes.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke, in a social media post, praised Aarhus, saying the city had “done well” to enable measures to be eased.

On of the upper secondary schools in the city, Marselisborg Gymnasium, said it would wait until Wednesday before reopening.

“I’m just so happy about this. And I’m happy they’ve listened to us. But that’s precisely why we want to reopen responsibly with distancing and so on,” school director Kirsten Skov told Ritzau.

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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.”