Which Covid-19 restrictions will stay in place in Denmark beyond March 1st?

Denmark has announced that some of the current national Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted from Monday, March 1st. Several others will remain in place.

Which Covid-19 restrictions will stay in place in Denmark beyond March 1st?

A partial lifting of the national coronavirus lockdown in Denmark will allow some school classes to return and certain shops to reopen from March 1st.

There is also some easing of rules allowing groups of up to 25 to take part in outdoor sports activities, and outdoor cultural facilities can allow in people with recent negative Covid-19 tests.

Details of the new rules were released via a justice ministry statement and government briefing.

READ ALSO: Denmark announces easing of Covid-19 restrictions: Limited opening of schools and shops

Schools in other regions of the country may be allowed to reopen on March 15th, subject to a review of infection trends, the government said. All other restrictions have been extended until at least April 5th, meanwhile.

These include:

Assembly limit of five people

Under current rules, no more than five people are allowed to gather in public places. That rule stays in place with a couple of exceptions. Up to 25 people are allowed to gather for outdoor sports or other association activities under the auspices of an organisation.

One area of the country, Baltic Sea island Bornholm, will also see the general assembly restriction raised from 5 to 10 people.

The hospitality sector

Restaurants, bars, cafes, nightclubs and similar businesses within the hospitality sector will remain restricted under the rules which currently apply: they are allowed to sell takeaway but are otherwise closed.

Hair salons, gyms and other services to remain closed

The sector referred to in Denmark as liberale erhverv (liberal businesses) will, unlike shops, be required to stay closed in March. This type of customer-facing business includes hair salons, gyms, massage parlours and cosmetic clinics.

Remaining school classes

Final-year students at elementary and upper secondary schools in specified regions (North Jutland and West Jutland, as well as Bornholm where a general opening has been permitted) now join younger children in grades 0-4 in returning to class.

But school pupils in grades 5-9 will still be required to study from home, as will university and higher education students and students in youth education who are not in their final year.

Shopping malls

Shops in malls and other shopping centres are not allowed to reopen under the new rules. Stores with an area of more than 5,000 square metres can open by appointment with a limited amount of customers.

Indoor sports and culture facilities

All indoor sports and culture facilities will stay closed in March. This means no imminent return for cinemas, theatres, swimming pools, gyms or sports halls.

Face mask requirements 

Face masks are currently required in all indoor public places, including on public transport and in supermarkets and other stores. No change to these rules was announced on Wednesday.

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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.