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Denmark’s new reopening plan: Here’s what changes on May 21st

A parliamentary majority has agreed to allow all indoor businesses in Denmark, with the exception of nightclubs, to open from this Friday.

Denmark's new reopening plan: Here's what changes on May 21st
The vast majority of business and education will be open in Denmark as of May 21st. Filephoto:Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

That means all sports and cultural facilities yet to open under the previous plan to lift restrictions will be allowed to return to business this week. These include the likes of saunas and baths. Education including universities will also fully reopen.

As such, businesses and education will essentially open fully from this Friday, with the exception of nightclubs and discotheques.

A plan has meanwhile been presented to phase out working from home, face masks and corona passports in the longer term. We’ll have more on this in a separate article.

A text outlining the agreement was published by the Ministry of Justice.

READ ALSO: Denmark to fully reopen almost all schools and businesses this week

Here’s a closer look at what is set to change.

Leisure

A number of sports and leisure activities still currently under some form of restriction will find themselves able to open from Friday, including those which take place under the auspices of clubs and associations.

All of these have been given permission to reopen in the latest plan, although corona passport rules will still apply.

Some examples of leisure activities which can now look forward to an imminent return are saunas and baths, community centres and activity centres.

Music schools can also now return to normal activity.

Universities and higher education

Higher education can now return at 100 percent capacity on May 21st. The previous version of the reopening plan only allowed universities to open for 50 percent of students on that date.

All other adult education institutions, which have been allowed to reopen to varying extents, can now also return to normal capacity. Corona passports remain a requirement for students.

Part-time courses at institutions such as the Folkeuniversitet (People’s University) can also return to normal (with corona passports).

Inside areas at theme parks and zoos

Attractions such as Copenhagen Zoo or the Tivoli amusement park were allowed to open their outdoors sections earlier in the year, but have had to keep indoor areas shut off. That will change on Friday, provided guests have a corona passport.

This also means that aquariums, children’s play centres and all other primarily indoor attractions can open.

Working from home to be phased out

Many people who work in the public and private centres have spent what seems like endless months working from home, with the government mandating employers provide for this wherever possible since earlier in the pandemic.

A return to offices and shared workspaces is to occur in three steps, according to Monday night’s agreement.

In the first phase, which begins on Friday, 20 percent capacity will be allowed while remaining staff must continue to work from home where possible. The proportion will increase to 50 percent on June 14th and 100 percent on August 1st.

Public assembly

The public assembly limit is scheduled to increase on Friday from 25 to 50 persons indoors and from 75 to 100 persons outdoors. That is in keeping with the existing plan for reopening.

What doesn’t change?

Nightclubs and discotheques are alone as businesses not allowed to reopen by the updated plan, while the schedule for lifting assembly limits remains unchanged. Recently-released rules for large-scale events are not covered by the agreement. Travel restrictions are also separate.

Under current rules, cafes, bars and restaurants must stop service at 10pm and establishments must be closed from 11pm until 5am.

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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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