Danish national debt reaches highest level since 2013

Denmark’s national debt has piled up during the coronavirus crisis, due in part to spending on compensation for shuttered businesses and wages for furloughed workers.

Danish national debt reaches highest level since 2013
File photo: Kristian Djurhuus/Ritzau Scanpix

The country’s debt measured in kroner is now at its highest for 20 years. As a proportion of the national GDP, it is at an eight-year peak.

At the beginning of 2021, the national debt reached 536 billion kroner, an increase of 115 billion kroner compared to the beginning of 2019.

That is evidence that the country has been hard-hit by the economic ramifications of the coronavirus, but government spending during the pandemic had been a necessary decision, an expert said.

“It has been necessary to avoid a massive economic downturn, a huge amount of unemployment and bankruptcies,” said Tore Stramer, senior economist with the Danish Chamber of Commerce.

A wage compensation scheme was initially introduced last spring as lockdown measures took effect during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent measures have sought to assist businesses and individuals impacted by lockdowns and restrictions.

READ ALSO: Denmark to offer further compensation for corona-hit businesses

Current compensation rules enable businesses closed due to the lockdown to send staff home with 75-90 percent of their wages paid by the state, up to a limit of 30,000 kroner per month.

The state debt is lower than a prognosis issued by the finance ministry in December, meanwhile. According to the forecast, Denmark’s debt would have been 87 billion kroner higher than the current amount of 536 billion kroner.

Stramer said there was no cause for undue concern over the current national debt.

“It is clear that an increase of 115 billion kroner sounds like a lot. But it’s certain not something that can’t be managed overall,” he said.

“Interest is very low and there is also an expectation of recovery during the spring,” he added.

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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.”