First Danish Covid-19 lockdown decision ‘was taken by government’

First Danish Covid-19 lockdown decision 'was taken by government'
Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
An expert group has concluded that the government, rather than health authorities, was the main driver in the decision to implement a lockdown in Denmark at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The independent expert group was appointed by parliament to analyse the course of events leading to the March 11th, 2020 announcement by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen that Denmark was to go into lockdown.

At that time, the coronavirus had hundreds of confirmed cases in the country, and concerns were prevalent over a widespread outbreak.

Frederiksen has maintained that the lockdown decision was based on health authority recommendations.

“This chapter finds it is probable that the fundamental outline for the broad model for lockdown was not developed by (medical advisory groups) or the Danish Health Authority,” the report summary states.

“There is also much to suggest that it was not developed by the (national infectious disease agency) State Serum Institute,” it continues.

“In combination with close management and control of the Covid-19 response exercised by the prime minister’s office from February 27th onwards, the absence of an alternative source for the lockdown plan suggests that the lockdown plan presented at the press briefing on March 11th was essentially conceived at the prime minister’s office,” the summary outlines.

The report also points to a lack of agreement between the government and health authorities in the period leading up to the March 2020 lockdown, when the coronavirus was spreading out of China.

“Internally in the prime minister’s office, there was an awareness as early as January 2020 that a potentially very perilous sequence of events was underway, and the ministry, with its departmental chief at the forefront, challenged health authorities’ more optimistic assessment of the situation,” the report states.

According to the report, the view of health authorities in the first phase was that “the risk of the infection spreading to Denmark is low and the expectation on this background is that Covid-19 will have few or less serious consequences for Denmark.”

On January 29th, 2020, Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm told broadcaster DR that, according to an overall risk assessment, there was “very little likelihood of new coronavirus spreading in Denmark”.

Weeks later, on February 25th – two days before the country’s first confirmed case, which was imported from northern Italy — SSI head of department Tyra Grove Krause told news wire Ritzau that “it is likely that we could see cases in Denmark and also likely that we could see contagion between individuals in Denmark”. By that time, hundreds of cases had been recorded in Europe.

“Parliament was in this (early) phase not involved in the Covid-19 response aside from the health minster’s orientations of (political party) health spokespersons),” it adds.

READ ALSO: Denmark holds on to hope of vaccinating population against Covid-19 by summer


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