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COVID-19

Danes approve of government response to coronavirus crisis

Public approval ratings for the government's management of the coronavirus crisis were higher in Denmark than any other country included in a new survey.

Danes approve of government response to coronavirus crisis
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during a Covid-19 briefing in March. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The approach to dealing with the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has differed in almost every country and continues to do so, and a new wide-ranging survey from the Pew Research Centre has revealed that public approval ratings towards government's handling of the crisis also vary widely.

According to the survey, 95 percent of people in Denmark believed their government did a good job in handling the crisis. That is the highest rating for any country in the analysis, which encompassed 14 advanced economies.

Denmark was one of the first countries in Europe to emerge from lockdown and re-open its schools. After a summer spike of infections that promoted fears of a second wave the spread of infections was once again rapidly brought under control.

Second to Denmark in the survey was Australia, where 94 percent approved of the government's response.

“In Denmark, currently led by the center-left Social Democrats, and in Australia, whose leader Scott Morrison belongs to the center-right Liberal Party of Australia, at least nine-in-ten adults on both the political left and political right believe their country has done well against the coronavirus,” Pew Research Center research associate Kat Devlin, one of the report authors, told US media CNN.

People in Britain were the least impressed with their country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak with only 46 percent of the British population believing that their country has done a good job in handling the crisis. That was the lowest score out of 14 countries around the world.   

Approval ratings were low in the United States, at 47 percent. 

In Nordic neighbour Sweden, where the government has followed a different and more controversial strategy by opting to avoid lockdowns and rely more on the public to enforce social distancing themselves, some 71 percent of the public believed authorities had done a good job.

Have lives changed?

Members of the public were also asked whether their lives had changed as a result of the outbreak and it was Denmark where the pandemic appeared to have had the least impact on people's lives.

Some 73 percent of Danes say their lives have hardly changed as a result of the outbreak. At the other end of the scale 71 percent of Swedes believed their lives had changed substantially.

Could European and international cooperation have helped?

Interestingly, although most populations around Europe agreed that “more international cooperation would have potentially reduced coronavirus fatalities”, this wasn’t the case for Denmark.

“As confirmed cases of the coronavirus top 20 million globally, many in the countries surveyed say that count could have been minimised through stronger international cooperation. 

“Missed opportunities for cooperation to reduce coronavirus cases are felt especially strongly in Europe, where failure to coordinate the initial response led to sudden and severe outbreaks in Northern Italy and Spain.

“More than half of the people surveyed in seven of the nine European countries studied say that more cooperation would have reduced coronavirus cases,” the study said.

But this wasn't the view of Danes, who seem to believe their country was better off handling the crisis independently. 

“78 percent of Danes think the number of coronavirus cases would not have been reduced by international cooperation. A majority in Germany also say that cooperation would not have reduced case numbers,” the Pew report notes.

Are countries more divided?

People across each country were also asked whether the pandemic had led to more division. In most places the results were not conclusive, but Denmark was again an outlier, with 72  percent of the population feeling the country was more united than before.

A majority of Swedes (58 percent) also held the that view, but respondents in other countries were more undecided – apart from the US, where 77 percent felt their country was divided.

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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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