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Denmark bans flights from UK over new Covid-19 strain

All passenger flights from the United Kingdom to Denmark have been temporarily suspended due to the discovery of a faster-spreading variant of Covid-19.

Denmark bans flights from UK over new Covid-19 strain
A passenger at Heathrow Airport. File photo: Toby Melville/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark is to ban incoming flights from the UK for an initial 48 hours, effective at 10am on Monday.

The decision was made to prevent a new strain of Covid-19 found in the UK from spreading, health minister Magnus Heunicke stated on Twitter.

Several European countries have taken the step to ban UK arrivals over the weekend.

In a statement, the Danish transport ministry said the decision had been made at the advice of health authorities.

“The mutated coronavirus which has quickly spread in London and other parts of England can make it harder to control infections, according to health authorities,” transport minister Benny Engelbrecht wrote in a statement.

“The government has therefore decided to close flights from the United Kingdom for 48 hours so there is time to assess what measures should be taken,” Engelbrecht added.

Denmark’s infectious disease agency SSI said earlier last week that it has discovered nine cases of the new variant in Denmark.

The new variant of the coronavirus is believed to have first appeared in the London and Kent areas of the UK in September, and is reported to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other strains. But based on what scientists know so far, the variant does not appear to cause more serious illness than other kinds of coronavirus.

The variant was cited by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the reason behind last-minute changes to health restrictions in London and South East England, announced on Saturday, which have seen thousands of people unable to travel as planned over Christmas.

Following the UK's announcement on Saturday, the Dutch government announced on Sunday morning that it was banning all flights from the UK until January 1st.

The Belgian, Bulgarian and Italian governments followed suit, with Italy banning all flights from the UK and the entry of anyone who had been in the UK in the last 14 days. France, Germany, Sweden and Ireland have also announced they will suspend UK flights.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Why has the number of Covid-19 cases in Denmark increased so quickly?

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COVID-19

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.” 

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