Danish government’s call for forced local Covid-19 testing rejected

Danish government’s call for forced local Covid-19 testing rejected
A mobile test unit in Vollsmose on Thursday. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix
A proposal to force residents in Odense neighbourhood Vollsmose to take a Covid-19 test has been rejected by parliament, but people in the area could be required to comply with self-isolation if they test positive for the coronavirus.

The government could enforce self-isolation for people in Odense neighbourhood Vollsmose if they test positive for Covid-19.

That comes after reports yesterday that mandatory testing could be enforced in the area, which currently has a high incidence rate with the virus.

A majority in parliament’s epidemic committee has rejected forced testing but backed the government’s proposal for enforcing quarantine, broadcaster DR reported.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke confirmed the decision after a lengthy meeting on Monday evening.

“I can confirm that a majority in parliament is not prepared to do what our health authorities say is necessary to break the infections curve in Vollmose,” Heunicke said.

The minister said that the government’s epidemic commission had recommended mandatory tests as an element in the response to the area’s current high infection rate.

The health spokesperson for the Conservative party, one of the parties which opposed the measure, said a mandatory requirement for testing was too far-reaching for the current situation.

“We’ve gone through a whole year without giving out fines to people (for not taking tests). Why should we do it now when we are in a more solid position than we have been for a long time,” Per Larsen told DR.

The left-wing Red Green Alliance also rejected the proposal. The party’s spokesperson Peder Hvelplund wrote on Twitter that coercion should be the “last option” and called the government’s reasoning for using it to test in Vollsmose “thin”.

Peter Skaarup, health spokesperson with the populist Danish people’s party, tweeted he was “disappointed” with the outcome and called enforced testing “the only way forward” in “immigrant-dominated” Vollsmose.

The largest opposition party, the Liberals, rejected the proposal, as did the far-right Nye Borgerlige (New Right).

People who test positive for Covid-19 in the area could see legal enforcement of the quarantine requirement, however, with this measure receiving majority backing.

That means non-compliance with quarantine can be legally penalised by issuing a fine.

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.

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.

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. 12 new infections were detected in the area on Monday according to DR.

Local media TV2 Fyn reported that 7,000-8,000 people were tested in the neighbourhood during the week up to March 7th. The population of the area is around 9,100.

Odense mayor Peter Rahbæk Juel told TV2 Fyn that “we cannot now find any neighbourhood in Denmark that has been tested more than Vollsmose”.

The Odense Municipality has asked everyone over the age of 12 in the suburb to take two tests a week until the local incidence rate comes under control.

A professor in medical law told DR that he did not believe the situation with Covid-19 infections in Vollsmose called for the intervention of forced testing.

“Covid-19 is not so deadly that forced testing would be proportional with the problem. And also not given the high voluntary test rate in Vollsmose,” Kent Kristensen of the University of Southern Denmark told the broadcaster.


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