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Denmark could force residents in outbreak area to take Covid-19 tests 

The Danish government could force people in the Vollsmose neighbourhood in third city Odense to take a test for Covid-19, according to newspaper reports.

Denmark could force residents in outbreak area to take Covid-19 tests 
Vollsmose in Odense. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix

The government could enforce mass testing in the area in order to control a recent local outbreak of the coronavirus, according to newspapers BT and Politiken.

If a person tests positive for the virus, they would required to self-isolate. Non-compliance can be legally penalised by issuing a fine.

Reports of the possible decision emerged on Monday after Politiken reported it had seen a note from the government to the parliamentary epidemic committee. The committee is required to see the government proposal under the recently-passed epidemic law.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s new epidemic law comes into effect

Additionally, BT writes that the public assembly limit in the area could be reduced from the current national restriction of five people down to two people; and that face mask rules could also be tightened.

According to the epidemic law, a health minister can decide to force people to take medical tests and isolate during an epidemic if they have been in a specified area – for example one with “spread of infection with a health-threatening or societally critical” disease.

A number of parties in parliament were reported to have been critical of this clause in the law at the time it was passed. A parliamentary majority would be able to block the proposal and the minority government’s 7 seats on the 21-person epidemic committee is not enough to secure it a majority.

It is unclear how other parties view the proposal with regard to Vollsmose, but the opposition Liberal party leader, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, has expressed opposition to it in a general context.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen last week suggested she could back forced testing during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“For example, if there is an area where not everyone will take a test, to then ensure that the ones who won’t take a test get tested anyway. I’d gladly support that,” she said last week without explicitly stating she would use forced testing.

Vollsmose, located in Denmark’s third-largest city Odense, is one of the most underprivileged areas in the country. It is classed as a “hard ghetto” by the government, which annually defines areas as such based on criteria including the ethnic background, employment status and income of residents.

Broadcaster DR reported earlier on Monday that the number of Covid-19 tests taken in the neighbourhood trebled last week, from 500 in one day on March 1st to 1,519 on Sunday.

The infection rate in the area is now 951.5 per 100,000 residents, according to DR. That puts it some distance ahead of the highest infection rate for any single municipality in the country. The highest municipal infection rate is currently that of Ishøj near Copenhagen, which has 201.2 infections per 100,000 residents for the last week, according to official data.

Vollsmose is part of Odense Municipality, which has an overall incidence rate of 103.3 cases per 100,000 residents for the last 7 days.

Ritzau contributed to this report

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COVID-19

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.” 

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