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What isn’t covered in Denmark’s plan for lifting of Covid-19 restrictions?

Denmark has announced a plan to lift many of its current coronavirus restrictions by the end of May, but the future of some of the current rules remains unclear.

What isn’t covered in Denmark’s plan for lifting of Covid-19 restrictions?
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

In an announcement late Monday, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen unveiled the plan for a return to normal which will see schools and universities, shops, restaurants and bars, libraries, museums and cinemas gradually reopen over a period of two months. 

“With a few exceptions, Danish society should be open when everyone over the age of 50 has been vaccinated,” set to be done by the end of May, she said.

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Some areas are still awaiting clarification following the past day’s announcements.

Travel

Few hints are given in the agreement text as to when travel in and out of Denmark may begin to return to something resembling pre-Covid conditions.

The agreement text sets out a fixed point for ending restrictions “when the oldest and vulnerable citizens and citizens over 50 years old have been vaccinated with the first dose, if they want it”.

That point will signal the end of most restrictions, although some will remain including those “in relation to events which carry a risk of superspreading, including large events and nightlife, travel restrictions and general measures to reduce infections,” the agreement states.

It also states that the government will look for a way to ease restrictions on foreign travel after May 21st, the final date in the plan for lifting restrictions.

The government will “work towards allowing travel with corona vaccines and anti-infection measures – provided that authorities consider data from the countries in question to be valid and trustworthy”.

Public assembly limit

The limit on the number of people who are allowed to gather in public places was increased from 5 to 10 effective Monday, and from 25 to 50 for organised sports activities. But no definite outline was given in the new plan for further increases to that limit.

A plan will be offered in mid-April for the phasing-out of the public assembly limit, according to the text of the agreement announced on Monday night.

“The government will call negotiations such that the phasing-out of the assembly ban is integrated into the gradual reopening,” the agreement states.

The plan will be based on recommendations made by the government’s expert Epidemic Commission, Ritzau writes.

Events

The government has remained vague on when major sporting and cultural events could see audiences return, including the Roskilde Festival and football matches in the European Championship scheduled to be hosted in Copenhagen in late June.

The plan does however provide for an expert group, which the government has called “fast-working” (hurtigtarbejdende), which will provide recommendations for large-scale, corona-safe events. The recommendations will be ready by mid-April, according to the plan, which was agreed between the minority government and a broad section of parliament.

The director of the Roskilde Festival, Signe Lopdrup, told news wire Ritzau that she remained positive over the event’s prospects for taking place this year.

“If not, I assume we’d have been informed that it wouldn’t be possible,” she said.

“So our planning continues with renewed intensity – otherwise, we’ll run out of time,” she added in a written comment.

The director of the event, which is Scandinavia’s largest music festival and was cancelled in 2020, also said she’d have preferred a definite answer now rather than later in the spring. The 2021 event is scheduled to open on June 26th.

READ ALSO: Danish festival organisers can ‘carefully’ plan events with support package agreed

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COVID-19 ALERT

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.

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