Danish prime minister rejects criticism over first lockdown announcement

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has denied she gave the impression that the decision to enter lockdown in March 2020 was based purely on health authorities' advice.

Danish prime minister rejects criticism over first lockdown announcement
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The government maintained from the outset that the decision was taken by politicians, the PM argued in parliament on Wednesday.

“I do not agree that the government may have left the impression that the government’s decision was based one-to-one on recommendations from health authorities or other authorities,” she said.

An expert group last week concluded that the government, rather than health authorities, was the main driver in the decision to implement the lockdown in Denmark at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Critics have accused Frederiksen of being dishonest with the public by characterising the March 11th, 2020 announcement that Denmark was to go into lockdown as being based on the advice of medical authorities.

READ ALSO: First Danish Covid-19 lockdown decision 'was taken by government'

At the March 11th briefing, Frederiksen said it was “the recommendation of health authorities that we close down all unnecessary activity in (societal) areas for a period of time. We are applying a principle of caution.”

But that quote does not conform with the overall context given during the briefing, at which the lockdown was announced and explained, she said on Wednesday.

“That was in no way what was meant by the sentence in question, that was not the message at that press briefing or the many following press briefings,” she said.

“It is harsh to take individual lines out of all the communication coming from the government in a crisis like this,” she added.

The prime minister made the comments in response to a question submitted by the Danish People’s Party, which has called for her to respond over the report.

Denmark’s response to the original wave of Covid-19 was generally praised for keeping the strain on hospitals within overall capacity and for limiting the number of deaths.

The country has registered 2,170 death due to the coronavirus since the outset of the pandemic. More than half of these have occurred since late November 2020, when the country was hit by a severe second wave of infections.

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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.”