Denmark announces national Covid-19 lockdown from Christmas Day

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen has announced that the country will be “practically closed down” from December 25th, with some measures to take effect as early as Thursday.

Denmark announces national Covid-19 lockdown from Christmas Day
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

All shopping centres and shopping arcades will close from Thursday December 17th, while businesses such as hairdressers, physiotherapists and driving schools will close from Monday December 21st.

All retail businesses, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and other stores which sell daily essentials, will be closed from December 25th until January 3rd.

In announcing the restrictions, Frederiksen said that Denmark would be “practically closed down” from December 25th until January 3rd. Further compensation packages will be negotiated for businesses, Frederiksen said.

“We are doing this because an epidemic that runs out of control would have great consequences and bigger consequences than closing down now will have,” she said.

All school children will be sent home from December 21st, the prime minister also confirmed. Under the current partial lockdown, schools are still open for children up to fourth grade.

“We have reached risk level four in the entire country, the second-highest level. That means authorities believe there is widespread outbreak in society,” Frederiksen said.

Denmark uses a scale level of 1-5 to appraise the seriousness of the current Covid-19 situation in each of its five administrative healthcare regions. Each of those five reasons is now at level four.

The highest level, level five, reflects uncontrolled infection spread and a risk that hospital capacity will be exceeded.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke said at the briefing that 1,808 health sector personnel had contracted the coronavirus during the last week. That is an increase of 70 percent, according to Heunicke.

“The infection is now everywhere in society and it is at our hospitals. But it is important to say that the health service is still open,” the minister said.

The Danish Health Authority has no plans at the current time to recommend travel restrictions within Denmark, the authority’s director Søren Brostrøm said.

“That is not because we are not worried, but because we have very clear and precise recommendations with regard to social contact,” Brostrøm said.

Those recommendations are to see a maximum of 10 people socially at any one time, and not to have any form of social contact with more than 10 people.

Frederiksen called the current coronavirus situation “very serious”, adding that just under half of Denmark's Covid-19 hospital beds are now in use.

3,692 positive tests for Covid-19 were registered by the State Serum Institute on Wednesday, the highest number recorded during the pandemic. The number of hospitalisations increased significantly by 54, taking the total number to 493.

During the spring wave of the virus, the number of Covid-19 inpatients peaked at 535 on April 1st.

14 deaths with Covid-19 were also registered on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since May.

READ ALSO: WHO warns Europe of Covid-19 'resurgence' and urges families to wear face masks at Christmas

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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.”