Is Denmark right to target its new restrictions on nightlife?

The Local Denmark
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Is Denmark right to target its new restrictions on nightlife?
The dancing masses at Copenhagen's Distortion festival back in 2017. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Restaurant owners estimate the measures will cost them 200 million kroner over the next two weeks alone, and the youth might just party privately. So is Denmark right to clamp down?


A poll put out by The Local Denmark's Twitter account indicated strong support for the decision to force pubs and restaurants to close by 10pm, and to ask waiting staff and customers to wear masks, with 84 percent of respondents saying that they supported the move.

Restaurant industry frustrated

Restaurant and bar owners in the Greater Copenhagen area -- where the measures will be in place from Thursday -- were predictably unhappy, however. 

"I ran ten kilometers because I was so angry, angry, burnt out and frustrated. Then I wrote to my wife, my lawyer and my partner that I wanted to shut down the whole shit, I simply don't care anymore," Copenhagen restaurateur Mads Rye Magnusson told state broadcaster DR on Tuesday. 
He complained that the government had in the summer allowed graduating students to carry out their tradition drunken truck processions. 
"It's a joke, and they're piss on us. I'm pissed off about it," he said. "I must not be bitter or upset, because it does not help. I have to get back up on the horse again. But it is super frustrating, because it is always us who have the fingers pointed at us."


Denmark's bar and restaurant trade body Horesta estimates that the early closing times will cost its members between 100m kroner and 200m kroner over the next two weeks. 
Magnusson said that he felt that bars and restaurants were being targeted for hidden moral reasons. 
"We're just the easy victim because we're involved with alcohol. That's why it's us they point fingers at," he said.
"I do not think they could clarify at the press conference where the spread of infection came from. They say that it is primarily the 20-29-year-olds, but they are not the ones who primarily go to restaurants. Our guests are between their late 20s and about 65 years old." 
Research indicates that nightlife is the engine of Covid-19 spread
Lone Simonsen, a pandemic researcher at Roskilde University argued, however, that nightlife -- and particularly big social events -- was precisely the right thing to restrict.
Denmark's big mistake, she suggested, had been to lift the size of allowed gathering from 50 to 100 in July.  
“The miracle was that we could keep reopening without being punished. It did not make sense - but with the super-spreader model, it makes deep sense," she said. 
“Big events had been shut down, but then the limit was raised to 100 people for events and that, we think, has led to too many contacts in the public space. That was probably the reason for the outbreak." 


Simonsen and her colleague Kim Sneppen from the Niels Bohr Institute, in June published an analysis of the pandemic in Sweden and Denmark that argued that the development they saw only made sense if virus was spread by a small number of superspreaders, and primarily through superspreader events. 
They suggest about 10 percent of those infected are responsible for about 80 percent of new infections. 
This means that if societies avoid big events such as big weddings, rock concerts, choral singing and church services, it may be possible to keep almost everything else as normal. 
"The big social events just have to wait until there is a vaccine or better treatment options," Simonsen said. 


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