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Denmark detains third man over burning of prime minister effigy

A 32-year-old man has become the third person to be remanded in custody after an effigy of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was hung up and burned during protests against coronavirus restrictions.

Denmark detains third man over burning of prime minister effigy
An effigy of PM Mette Frederiksen -- with the words 'she can and must be culled' -- burns in Copenhagen on Saturday. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The man will remain in police custody until February 19th along with two others, aged 34 and 30, who were detained over the case on Sunday.

The 32-year-old admitted to hanging the effigy from a lamppost during Saturday night’s disturbances in Copenhagen but denied setting it alight.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine this would cause as much trouble as it has,” he said in court.

The effigy, on which a picture of Frederiksen’s face was affixed along with a sign bearing the words “she can and must be culled”, was hung from a lamp post and set on fire during protests in which around 1,000 people took part.

According to the 32-year-old, he brought the effigy to the protests with the two other suspects before being apprehended by police.

“We were stopped by some officers. They thought it was a woman who had fallen down. They asked of she was okay and we explained that it was just a doll,” he said.

“We ask them if it’s okay and they looked for a while. They then went away,” he added.

According to prosecution documents, the police officers in their account said they were called to the demonstration at the nearby Åboulevard street, and therefore left the three men with the effigy. The men then proceeded to Julius Thomsens Plads, the location where they fastened it to the lamp post.

They then claim to have left the scene but witnessed the effigy being set alight from a distance.

All three could face charges under Danish law’s paragraph 113, which protects against attacks on the government and can give up to 16 years in prison.

But the judge, Christian Wenzel, has already said he does not believe there is cause to imprison them in accordance with what would be a serious conviction.

“The paragraph on high treason is probably an overreach,” he said in a judgement on Monday.

The men have been remanded in custody under two other paragraphs, 115 and 266, which relate to crimes against the government and threatening behaviour, respectively. All three deny the charges.

READ ASLO: Five arrested after anti-lockdown demo in Danish capital

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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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