What effect could Denmark’s recommended Covid-19 reopening have on hospitals?

Should the government follow recommendations submitted by an expert group to the Ministry of Health and announce a partial lifting of coronavirus restrictions, infection levels with the virus will increase.

What effect could Denmark’s recommended Covid-19 reopening have on hospitals?
Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

According to the expert group report, which draws on mathematical modelling, around 870 people will be hospitalised with the virus by mid-April should its recommendations for reopening be followed.

READ ALSO: In brief: The recommendations for lifting Denmark’s lockdown

That number is close to the number of hospitalisations during the winter surge of the virus in late December and early January. Denmark had 964 Covid-19 inpatients on January 4th and hospitals in some regions struggled to provide adequate capacity.

That threatened to impact other areas of acute and planned hospital care, according to a Danish Health Authority document reported by news wire Ritzau.

Additionally, high levels of strain on hospitals – which were periodically reached during the weeks in questions — can result in exhausted and burnt-out healthcare staff, according to the document.

“There is no doubt that reopening has a price. We will see more hospitalisations and more deaths [compared to retaining current restrictions],” said Christian Wejse, professor and senior medical consultant at Aarhus University’s Department of Clinical Medicine.

The Danish Health Authority has said that, based on the previous experiences of health services at hospitals in the east of Denmark, it would be “medically inappropriate to in relation to the overall health condition of the public if the strain due to admissions of patients with SARS-CoV-2 again reaches the level of the long peak during the second wave”.

The authority has said that hospitalisations should not exceed 300-400 for an extended period if “approximately normal operations” are to be maintained in the health service, meaning normal investigation and treatment services for non-Covid-19 patients.

Denmark has a total of 247 Covid-19 inpatients nationally at the time of writing. The figure has decreased gradually since early January.

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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.”