’One metre, but two when possible’: Denmark changes social distance recommendation

The Danish Health Authority has updated its recommendations on how to maintain an effective social distance as a measure to protect against the spread of coronavirus.

’One metre, but two when possible’: Denmark changes social distance recommendation
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The authority on Friday updated its guidelines to the public to help prevent spreading the coronavirus, thereby helping to keep the Covid-19 pandemic under control in Denmark.

For social distancing, the guidelines now more closely resemble those used in the earlier stages of the pandemic in Denmark: keep a one-metre distance from others when outside of your home bubble.

When there is a heightened risk of infection, the distance should still be two metres, the authority also advises.

Other new advice relates to frequently airing indoor spaces.

“We now have better knowledge that droplet infection has more significance from person to person than contact infection from surfaces and things touched by many people,” Danish Health Authority deputy director Helene Bilsted Probst said in a statement.

“Focus should therefore be on not being together with too many people, keeping a distance and keeping air fresh. The various recommendations naturally supplement each other, and it is advice we should stick to,” Probst added.

Good control of the pandemic nevertheless enables recommendations to revert to the less-strict minimum one-metre social distancing, the authority says in its statement. Two metres is still advised “when possible”, however.

Singing, shouting, exercise, and other physically strenuous activities are among those in which the two-metre distance should be retained.

People at risk of more serious disease outcomes should they be infected with the virus should also follow the two-metre guideline for distance from others.

The updated recommendations are based on new knowledge about Covid-19 based on Danish and international experience with infection prevention, current risk assessments and revision of international recommendations.

The six recommendations published by the Danish Health Authority on Friday follow below. Many have remained unchanged throughout the pandemic.

  • Keep a two-metre social distance where possible and one metre at all times. Avoid handshakes, kissing and hugging
  • If you experience Covid-19 symptoms, stay home and get tested for the coronavirus
  • Allow air flow through indoor spaces and avoid gathering in large numbers at home
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow
  • Wash hands often or use disinfectant
  • Clean regularly, particularly surfaces many people touch.

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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.”