How did Denmark reverse its summer Covid-19 spike?

How did Denmark reverse its summer Covid-19 spike?
A screen at an Aarhus Letbane stop asking passengers to maintain social distance. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
After a concerning increase in new coronavirus infections at the end of July and beginning of August, Denmark appears to have controlled the outbreak.

Daily new cases of Covid-19 have been under 100 for the last four consecutive days, while yesterday’s total of 57 was the lowest since July 29th.

The reproduction number for Covid-19 in Denmark now stands at 0.8, meaning that every infected person infects an average of 0.8 more people. The number reached 1.5 people earlier in the month and was last week reported to be at 1.0.

Hospitalisations with the virus also remain low. 19 people are currently admitted to hospitals in Denmark with the virus. Three are in intensive care with two of these receiving ventilator treatment at the time of writing.

Following health authority guidelines, testing and tracking remain crucial in preventing outbreaks, experts have said in reaction to the positive recent trend.

“This is very good news and exactly what we wanted to see. Corona levels are very low in Denmark compared to other countries. At the moment around 0.3-0.4 percent of people tested are positive. If you look at some areas of the United States, it’s at 5-10 percent,” Lone Simonsen, a professor specialising in epidemics at Roskilde University, told broadcaster DR.

Another expert cited public willingness to follow guidelines as a major factor in Denmark’s low infection numbers.

“This looks very good. We are extremely smart in Denmark and we generally have a public which listens to good advice, and we have a system with regard to monitoring and tracing which, although it could be refined, ultimately functions well,” Lars Østergaard, a professor at Aarhus University Hospital, said to DR.

Hospitalisation and fatality numbers are in fact so low at the current time that there is “no actual basis for keeping many things closed in Denmark,” a third professor said to the broadcaster.

“The primary parameters we should look at if you ask me is the number of hospitalisations. On that point, things are going very well. The only reason to be a tiny bit worried is that we know what this virus is capable of if we don’t do anything,” said Søren Riis Paludan, a professor of virology and immunology at Aarhus University.

“But the measures are actually working so well that maybe we should dare to do a little more. We have such strong resources, so we could actually have something close to a normally-functioning society,” he added.

Better testing and tracing capabilities along with public awareness of the virus and guidelines have been key in returning figures to lower levels, according to Simonsen.

“But there is always a potential for an exponential increase if we begin to relax completely. That’s why it’s important to keep going and maintain respect for the epidemic,” she told DR.

Increasing infections in Denmark in the first half of August were linked to an outbreak at an abattoir in Ringsted and a significant spark in cases in Aarhus, the country’s second-largest city. There were also a number of other smaller local outbreaks, notably in Central Jutland town Silkeborg.

“But we can now see that infections are on the way down again. I am impressed by how well it has gone. The measures that were put in place seem to have worked. It could have gone badly, as we have seen with other cities around the world,” Østergaard said to DR.

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