Denmark reassured over country’s risk from Covid-19 variant detected in India

A new variant of Covid-19 detected in India is not likely to be more infectious than forms of the virus already established in Denmark, according to the national infectious disease agency State Serum Institute (SSI).

Denmark reassured over country’s risk from Covid-19 variant detected in India
State Serum Institute medical director Tyra Grove Krause.Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish agency commented on the variant, B1617, in a statement after 29 cases were detected in Denmark.

India has seen a devastating recent explosion in cases with the variant highly prevalent in the Asian country. Monday saw 2,812 coronavirus-related deaths in India, where over 300,000 new cases have now been recorded in each of the last five days. India’s population is around 1.4 billion.

SSI’s medical director Tyra Grove Krause said in the statement that the B1617 variant does not appear to be more of a threat to the virus situation in Denmark than B117, the already-dominant, more infectious variant originally identified in the United Kingdom.

“We do not have data that suggests that B1617 is more infectious than, for example, B117 and our assessment is also that vaccines will be effective against it,” Krause said.

B1617 is most prevalent in India and in parts of North America as well as in Europe.

Amongst the 29 cases detected in Denmark, only three were found in Danish nationals. 20 were in people from India, with five from Iran and one from Lithuania.

Four different clusters are responsible for the 29 infections, according to SSI. Of these, three have been linked to foreign travel. None of the infected individuals have died.

READ ALSO: Danish PM wants domestic Covid-19 vaccine production in 2022

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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.”