Coronavirus: Denmark data point towards slowdown in virus transmission

Covid-19 infections in Denmark remain high, but data point to a possible turn in recent trends.

Coronavirus: Denmark data point towards slowdown in virus transmission
People in Roskilde on December 23rd. Photo: Claus Bech/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark is to enter a full national lockdown on Christmas Day, but some restrictions have already been in effect for a while. And there are signs that they are working, according to the national infectious disease agency, State Serum Institute (SSI).

“Since December 16th, test positivity of both PCR and antigen testing has shown that the restrictions are working,” SSI's director Henrik Ullum wrote on Twitter.

The test positivity rate – the percentage of tests that return positive results – has fallen from 3.5 percent on December 14th to 1.87 percent on Tuesday.

Under restrictions already imposed this month, restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms, sports centres and swimming pools are closed. Indoor areas at amusement parks, zoos, aquariums and similar types of attractions, as well as at museums, theatres, cinemas and libraries, are also closed to the public.

Shopping centres closed on December 17th, while businesses such as hairdressers, physiotherapists and driving schools were shut on 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.

Assembly restrictions of a maximum of 10 people are also in place.

Another measure of infection spread, the R-number or reproduction rate, was reported on Tuesday to have fallen to 0.9, down from 1.2 last week.

If the R-number is above 1.0, the number of infected in a society will grow because each infected person will pass on the virus to an average of more than one other person. If the R-number is below 1.0, the number will decline. 

Wednesday’s daily update from infectious disease agency SSI showed a slight fall in the number of Covid-19 inpatients in Denmark. The figure has risen sharply over the last week and now stands at 720, three fewer than yesterday.

3,297 new infections were registered by SSI in the 27 hours encompassed by the most recent update. 169,434 tests were conducted. The period extended beyond the usual 24 hours due to server issues at SSI.

26 people lost their lives with Covid-19 in Denmark during that time. The country’s death toll to the pandemic is now 1,096.

Infection figures from recent days point to a 20 percent per week reduction in infections, according to mathematical epidemiology professor Viggo Andreasen of Roskilde University.

“That is also what has been seen in many other countries that have introduced similar restriction,” Andreasen said.

“It means that, if you want to halve the number of new infections per day compared to the peak, the current restrictions must be maintained for another three weeks,” he added.

Thursday’s slight reduction in hospitalisations is not likely to mean these have peaked, according to the epidemiologist.

“We cannot expect the total number of hospitalisations to fall until a week from now,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I think that hospitals, especially in greater Copenhagen, must expect an increase of 20-30 percent in the total of new hospitalisations before we see the peak,” he added.

READ ALSO: Danish hospitals challenged as number of Covid-19 patients quadruples

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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.”