Researchers at Aarhus University, led by political science professor Michael Bang Petersen, have been studying public behaviour in a group of countries during the global health crisis.
Compared to Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, people in Denmark stood out on both the hand sanitisation and social contact fronts.
“The status is that we Danes are very good at hand hygiene. Both compared to our own behaviour in the spring and compared to other countries,” Petersen said.
“On the other hand, we are less good at keeping (social) distance and limiting contact with others. We have significantly more contacts than we had in the spring. And also many more contacts than the countries we normally compare ourselves with,” he continued.
This puts into context government measures and recommendations aimed at keeping the virus under control in Denmark, according to the researcher.
“The Danish Health Authority said in connections with re-opening [the gradual easing of Denmark’s lockdown beginning in April, ed.] that the most important thing is good hand hygiene, with social distance coming in second place. As such, you can see that Danes are willing to do as they are asked,” he said.
“But this also underlines how important it is to have clear communication from the authorities in relation to ensuring we do what is appropriate regarding prevention of infection spread,” he added.
Another conclusion of the study was that Danes’ adherence to guidelines increases as infection numbers also increase.
“The big question is therefore whether the increase in infections we are now seeing is enough for us, under our own power, to return to the awareness there was in the spring over keeping a (social) distance,” Petersen said.
Authorities recently encouraged people in Denmark to limit their contact with others during the autumn, including by introducing the concept of ‘social bubbles’ to the country. But Petersen said he thought the advice lacked specific instructions.
“Responsibility has been placed on individual members of the public. We were able to keep our distance in a locked-down society, so the question now is whether we can do this in a more open society,” he said.