Denmark announces partial Covid-19 lockdown until 2021

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Monday announced a significant tightening of Covid-19 restrictions in 38 municipalities across Denmark, including the country’s three largest cities. The restrictions will stay in place until 2021.

Denmark announces partial Covid-19 lockdown until 2021
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announces a partial Danish Covid-19 lockdown which will stay in place until January. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

A partial lockdown in 38 different municipalities, including Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and parts of Zealand is to take effect in Denmark from Wednesday this week.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, sports centres and swimming pools are to be closed in the affected municipalities. Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to operate takeaway services. Professional sport is exempted from the restrictions.

Indoor areas at amusement parks, zoos, aquariums and similar types of attractions, as well as at museums, theatres, cinemas and libraries, will also all be closed to the public.

School children from 5th grade upwards in the affected municipalities are to be sent home, with classes to take place online. The same restriction will be applied to all adult and further education, including upper secondary schools (gymnasier) and universities. Exams will take place, but will be moved online wherever possible.

Public sector workers not in critical functions will work from home in the affected municipalities.

The restrictions will take effect from Wednesday December 9th and remain in place until January 3rd 2021, Frederiksen confirmed at a press briefing on Monday.

The municipalities in question include all of those in the Capital Region (Hovedstaden) health authority, excluding Baltic Sea island Bornholm; a large number of Zealand municipalities; and Aarhus and Odense, Denmark’s second and third-largest cities.

Specifically, that is the following municipalities: Albertslund, Allerød, Ballerup, Brøndby, Dragør, Egedal, Faxe, Fredensborg, Frederiksberg, Frederikssund, Furesø, Gentofte, Helsingør, Herlev, Hillerød, Hvidovre, Høje-Taastrup, Halsnæs, Gribskov, Greve, Glostrup, Gladsaxe, Hørsholm, Ishøj, Copenhagen, Køge, Lejre, Lyngby-Tårbæk, Odense, Roskilde, Rudersdal, Rødovre, Slagelse, Solrød, Tårnby, Vallensbæk, Vordingborg, Aarhus.

National restrictions which have been in place since the end of October, which include assembly limits, restrictions on alcohol sales and face mask requirements, are also to be extended through to the end of February, Frederiksen confirmed.

The October restrictions had been scheduled to expire at the beginning of January, but Frederiksen warned of a worsening situation with the virus in Denmark in the early months of 2021.

That means the current public assembly limit of 10 people is to stay in place over Christmas, while private events are still encouraged not to exceed 10 people, including during Christmas celebrations.

“We can soon put 2020 behind us. The vaccine is coming, and we hope that it will be in 2021 that we put restrictions behind us. But we are facing some hard months in January and February,” Frederiksen said.

The restrictions come after the virus situation in Denmark appeared to be moving towards a more serious level over the weekend. 1,745 cases of infection were recorded in a 24-hour period, the highest ever recorded in the country. It should be noted that testing was less widespread during the spring wave of Covid-19.

At Monday’s briefing, health minister Magnus Heunicke warned that the epidemic situation in Denmark appears to be “entering a new phase” and also stated that the latest daily infections total would be even higher, exceeding 2,000 in 24 hours for the first time.

Denmark’s national infectious diseases agency, State Serum Institute (SSI) estimated earlier on Monday that daily new cases of Covid-19 could reach 4,000 by Christmas if authorities did not make further intervention to slow the current spread, Ritzau reported. The estimate should be considered uncertain and based on the assumption that the current rate of increase was to continue unchanged.

Copenhagen restrictions announced last week take force in full today, but the new restrictions overtake these and will take effect on Wednesday.

328 people are currently admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in Denmark, of which half are over 70 years old, Heunicke said at Monday’s briefing. The hospitalisation total is expected to reach 400 within the next week, the minister said.

READ ALSO: Nine out of ten Danish Christmas parties cancelled



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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.