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COVID-19

These new restrictions apply to people living in Denmark’s 38 lockdown municipalities

People living in large parts of Denmark, including its three largest cities, begin life under a partial lockdown from Wednesday and will also be affected by the new measures if they travel to other areas of the country.

These new restrictions apply to people living in Denmark’s 38 lockdown municipalities
File photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Monday announced a significant tightening of Covid-19 restrictions in 38 municipalities across the country. The restrictions will stay in place until 2021.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, sports centres and swimming pools are to be closed in the affected municipalities, while 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.

That is in addition to the closure of schools from 5th grade upwards, as well as further education and universities, with more people also being asked to work from home.

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. The specific municipalities are listed here.

READ ALSO: LATEST: Denmark announces partial Covid-19 lockdown until 2021

In addition to the closure of businesses and activities in their own areas, people who live in the affected municipalities are also expected to restrict their social activity in other parts of Denmark, according to information provided by Frederiksen and health officials at Monday’s briefing.

There are no restrictions on movement between municipalities, meaning it will be possible to travel, for example, to Copenhagen Airport from Aarhus, if you are a foreign resident able to travel home for Christmas.

It should be noted here that restrictions introduced in October, including the mandatory use of face masks on public transport, were today extended until the end of February.

READ ALSO: UK lifts travel ban on Denmark but quarantine rule stays in place

But people in lockdown areas have been told not to go to use equivalent services in non-lockdown areas if they are closed in the municipalities in which they live.

That was exemplified by an answer given to a question at the briefing by Frederiksen, who lives and works in Copenhagen but hails originally from North Jutland, which is not encompassed by the partial lockdown. The PM normally spends Christmas in the latter region.

“I would be able to go to the family summer house or to another place in North Jutland, but this would be without a visit to the cinema in Aalborg or going to a restaurant in Hadsund or going out to a concert, if such a thing takes place, between Christmas and New Year,” Frederiksen said.

The comments demonstrate a request (rather than requirement) issued by Danish authorities on Monday that people living in municipalities affected by the lockdown do not travel to neighbouring municipalities to do things which are currently closed to them locally.

Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm, prior to Frederiksen’s answer, outlined the recommendation.

“If you live in Copenhagen, you can go to your summer house in Odsherred [municipality in northwest Zealand outside of lockdown, ed.]. But you should not go to the cinema in Odsherred,” Brostrøm said.

Brostrøm’s comments were also made in relation to people travelling to be with family for Christmas.

The current recommendation to limit private gatherings to 10 people will remain in place over Christmas and New Year, authorities confirmed on Monday.

“It won’t be the same Christmas Eve as we are used to. But it’s okay to see our loved ones on Christmas Eve, even if we haven’t seen them for a long time. But we should remember to keep a social distance,” he said.

“It’s okay to do this. But be cautious,” he added.

The new restrictions could reduce current infection rates by up to 30 percent, according to Henrik Ullum, the technical director at infectious disease agency State Serum Institute.

“We have looked at both the big European lockdowns and the one in North Jutland [now lifted, ed.]. The numbers show that you can slow down the epidemic by around 30 percent per week,” Ullum said at the briefing.

Monday saw Denmark register over 2,000 new cases of coronavirus nationally for the first time over a 24-hour period.

A total of 2,046 positive cases were returned from 78,626 tests, a positivity rate of 2.6 percent. The country’s reproduction rate is currently 1.2, indicative that the virus is spreading. It should be noted that testing was less widespread during the spring wave of Covid-19.

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.

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COVID-19 ALERT

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.

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