Why people in Denmark are wearing ‘social distance badges’

The Danish Health Authority last week introduced new badges offering reminders of the need to maintain a social distance in public.

Why people in Denmark are wearing 'social distance badges'
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The badge is primarily designed to be worn by people who are in at-risk groups for serious illness should they become infected with Covid-19.

Relatives and others close to people in vulnerable groups can also make use of the badges, which can be collected for free from pharmacies while supplies last.

It is also possible to order the badges via patient support organisations.

“I had a heart operation last year and me father-in-law also has a need to tell others they should keep a (social) distance,” a member of the public wearing the badge told DR.

The round, blue pin badge is designed to be clearly visible in situations in which the wearer wants to ask those around them to maintain a distance – for example on buses or in supermarkets.

Others told the broadcaster that they wanted to wear the badge because of a general tendency amongst the public to take a loos approach to distancing guidelines.

“I’ve had the shopping cart behind me in the queue for the cash register to make sure there’s enough distance between us,” one person, reported by DR to have a chronic lung condition, said.

There is good reason to believe wearers of the badge will experience the desired effect of maintaining social distance, Aarhus University political science professor Michael Bang Petersen, who has researched public perception of coronavirus guidelines in Denmark, told DR.

“We have carried out a fair amount of research which shows that a very effective way to get people to keep a distance is through empathy with vulnerable groups. Not least by putting a face to who we are protecting by doing this. That’s what these badges can help with,” Petersen said to DR.

The badges signal the importance of remembering distancing guidelines, the professor said.

“They signal: remember to keep a distance. That can lead to vulnerable people maybe feeling more comfortable with going out in public,” he said.

READ ALSO: Denmark has lowest deaths in population for six years despite coronavirus

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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.”