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Will summer 2021 events go ahead in Denmark?

An expert group appointed by the government published late last week its recommendations on for corona-safe, large-scale events. Music festivals, concerts and sports are among the sectors keen for a final decision over restrictions.

Will summer 2021 events go ahead in Denmark?
The most recent edition of the Roskilde Festival in 2019. The event looks unlikely to go ahead in 2021. Photo: Celina Dahl/Ritzau Scanpix

Although the expert recommendations have now been published, they must still be negotiated and agreed on politically before restrictions are finalised.

Organisers of events must then adapt their programmes and plans to fit with those guidelines before they can apply – and be approved for – police and authority permission to go ahead with the events.

The Roskilde Festival has already said it is unlikely to take place in light of the recommendations, and the Copenhagen Marathon, scheduled for May 16th, was cancelled on Monday. The Copenhagen Jazz Festival has said it hopes to go ahead in streamlined form that will fit with guidelines.

According to the recommendations, rules for large scale events will be split into two phases: 1 and 2.

The summer will begin in the first phase before switching to the second at a later stage, when the restrictions will be a little less stringent. Phase 2 will begin when everyone over the age of 50 (apart from those who decline it) have received the coronavirus vaccine, the recommendations state.

Here’s an outline of the events that can go ahead – and those less likely to.

Festivals

Festivals are unlikely to take place as we know them should the eventual government guidelines broadly follow the expert recommendations.

A crowd of 10,000 will be the maximum allowed at festivals even in the milder, second phase of restrictions. Overnight camping at festivals is not advised.

Most of the largest Danish summer festivals, including the Roskilde Festival, have already said they doubt they will be able to take place this year. Street festival Distortion has already been cancelled, but the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, which like Distortion normally takes place in city spaces, has said it hopes to go ahead in some form.

Euro 2020

Copenhagen is a host city for the Euro 2020 football tournament (which has retained its original name after being postponed from last year), and matches will go ahead in the Danish capital.

Almost 16,000 spectators could be allowed into Parken stadium to watch the matches if vaccination and infection rates move forward optimally.

Guidelines allow spectators at professional football matches if they are separated into sections and have permanent seating, amongst other guidelines. The government has previously confirmed that at least 11,000 people will be allowed to attend the fixtures in Copenhagen.

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

Concerts

Venues which are indoors, such as concert halls and arenas, will likely face more difficult obstacles than outside events given recommendations.

The expert report advises a maximum of 300 people standing in indoor sections with a total of 3,000 people in attendance in the final phase. The sections are to be separate before, during and after the event, with separate entrances and exits and service outlets.

Marathons and other running races

Outdoors running events can go ahead with a maximum of 3,000 participants in phase 1 and 5,000 in phase 2.

Contact tracing will be required using timing chips which are commonly used in such races. Other guidelines include distance between runners and avoiding repeated use of the same route.

The Copenhagen Marathon, which was scheduled for May 16th, was cancelled on Monday. The event’s organisers said they had been left with too little time to be able to go ahead with the event, with political talks outstanding and guidelines still yet to be finalised.

Should the recommendations become the actual guidelines, more 2021 running events in Denmark could follow the marathon into a second successive cancellation, according to Dorte Vibjerg, CEO of organiser Sparta Atletik & Løb.

Vibjerg said that the DHL Relay, Copenhagen Half Marathon and Aarhus City Half Marathon would all struggle to follow the recommendations in their current form.

“All the big running events are under threat,” she told news wire Ritzau.

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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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