Danish study could test risk of Covid-19 infection with 30,000 football fans

30,000 football fans could be given the chance to participate in an experiment with rapid Covid-19 tests at Danish league matches this spring, according to a media report.

Danish study could test risk of Covid-19 infection with 30,000 football fans
Fans at a Danish football stadium in December 2020. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The experiment would test whether or not fans can gather safely to watch football matches outdoors with rapid coronavirus testing in place. 

The experiment, which will be conducted in partnership with Aarhus University Hospital, is awaiting final approval from health authorities, broadcaster DR reports. 

Fans will take the rapid tests prior to entering stadiums. During the match, some will sit close to one another while others will keep a two-metre social distance.

The fans will be tested again six to ten days later in order to see the effect of the event on infection transmission, according to Claus Thomsen, the director of Divisionsforeningen, the association for Danish professional football clubs.

“We will be able to see whether quick tests bring the infection risk down below the general level in society and whether they will make it responsible to attend football matches,” Thomsen told DR.

Under current restrictions, no more than five people are allowed to gather in public places, although up to 25 people are allowed to gather for outdoor sports or other activities under the auspices of an organisation.

Current guidelines from the Danish Ministry of Culture state that professional and national team athletes are exempted from the assembly ban and are allowed to continue training and competing. Those exceptions do not currently apply to gathering to watch a sports match outdoors, however.

An earlier exemption to coronavirus rules allowed for a maximum of 500 attendees at cultural events or sports competitions if spectators have permanent seats facing the field or stage, but that rule is not currently in effect.

As such, the general assembly ban of five people currently applies to sports fans.

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

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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.”