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Denmark enters new phase of reopening plan: Here’s what changes on Wednesday

The Danish government has announced a new political agreement which accelerated the plan to lift the country’s coronavirus restrictions. These are the rule changes which come into effect on Wednesday, April 21st.

Denmark enters new phase of reopening plan: Here’s what changes on Wednesday
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum is to return today with a new exhibition opened by Queen Margrethe. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Changes to the current rules will come into force on Wednesday, April 21st, superceding a previous plan for reopening and making rules more lenient.

“Because of the good situation we are in in Denmark, we are in a privileged situation in which it is possible to open more,” justice minister Nick Hækkerup said last week following talks with leaders from other parties.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke previously said that Denmark was “succeeding in keeping the epidemic at a stable, low level and that gives us the basis to consider whether there is space for further reopening.” 

Requirements for the use of a corona passport to access services in a range of instances also take effect.

Corona passport: What you need to know about Danish Covid-19 vaccine and test documentation

The changes to the reopening plan, published on April 15th by the Ministry of Justice, are summarised below.

Assembly limit

The next stage of earlier plan for reopening was scheduled to take effect on April 21st. That remains the case, but today’s date will now additionally herald the first in a number of steps to speed up the eventual full lifting of limits on public assembly.

The public assembly limit indoors is raised from 5 to 10 persons as of Wednesday April 21st.

It will further increase on May 6th, to 25 people. The following phase of reopening on May 21st sees the limit go up again, to 50, before reaching 100 on June 11th.

For outdoors gatherings the assembly limit is now 50 people.

It will increase in the coming weeks as follows: 75 on May 6th; 100 on May 21st; completely revoked on June 11th.

August 11th will see the end of any form of assembly limit, indoors or outdoors, according to the plan.

Restaurants, bars and cafes

It is now possible to dine indoors at a restaurant with up to nine other people, provided you reserve a table and everyone has a valid corona passport. The earlier plan would not have allowed this until May 6th.

The rules for corona passports themselves have also been adjusted. People without corona passports can still be served at cafes and restaurants, providing they sit outdoors.

Serving must stop at 10pm and establishments must be closed from 11pm until 5am.

Children and education 

Schools have already been partially reopened, with the number of year groups and the amount of time spent physically at school gradually increasing.

Grades 5 to 8, previously only allowed to go to school part-time, are now able to meet with their classes in the weeks when they are not in classrooms for outside lessons.

Final year students and vocational college students can physically go to classes at 80 percent and 100 percent of normal attendance, respectively.

Universities, which have remained more restricted than other levels of education, will be allowed to attend at 30 percent of normal contact time for outdoor lessons.

Shopping

The era of supermarkets and pharmacies being the only open stores is now behind us, as other stores have gradually been allowed to open. As of today, department stores and larger shopping malls can open. 

Sports and culture

The so-called ‘Superliga model’ used last year to allow football fans to attend matches returns. That means up to 500 spectators can attend restricted, separated sections within stadiums as of April 21st. Corona passports will be required and all professional football is encompassed.

Museums, libraries and art galleries reopen on Wednesday, as was the plan under the earlier reopening schedule. Corona passports are required.

Children and young people under 18 can now take part indoors sports, and adults may accompany them without having to show a corona passport. Coaches aged over 18 may also participate. A limit of 25 people may gather at once.

People over the age of 70 may also take part in indoors sports again as of today. Here, the assembly limit is 10 and corona passports apply.

Travel

The foreign ministry eases its national travel guidelines on Wednesday, but advice remains against most trips outside of the country.

Travel to and from some countries will become easier under the relaxed recommendations, but many restrictions will remain tight.

You can read about the updated guidelines in detail in our separate report.

A number of rules relating to travel into the country, primarily with regard to entry quarantine and ‘valid reasons’ for visiting, are also updated today. You can read more about that in this article, but in short: 

  • People who travel from “yellow” countries or regions not required to isolate on arrival in Denmark.
  • Business travellers no longer required to isolate.
  • Danes who own remote holiday homes termed ødegård in other Nordic countries no longer required to isolate.
  • List of ‘worthy’ reasons which enable non-tourist travel into the country to be extended: people attending certain types of Danish residential schools (højskoler and efterskoler), international students, spouses or partners and children of Danes who live abroad now allowed to enter Denmark (in the latter case they must be travelling together with the Danish family member).

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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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