Denmark opens up for border shopping trips to northern Germany

Danes will from Saturday afternoon be able to stock up on cheap booze, tobacco, sweets and soft drinks at shopping centres on the German border, after the province of Schleswig-Holstein was ranked "yellow" in a new travel update.

Denmark opens up for border shopping trips to northern Germany
A shopper loads up on cheap soft drinks on the day borders were closed on March 14th last year. Photo: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix

In a press release issued on Friday evening, the Danish foreign ministry said that the provinces of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Molise, and Sardinia in Italy, Burgenland in Austria, and Podkarpackie in Poland would all be ranked “yellow” from 4pm on Saturday.

This means that Danes who travel there will no longer need to self-isolate on their return to Denmark.

“As Germany allows cross-border travel and stays lasting less than 24 hours without special restrictions, this means shopping across the border will be possible again,” the ministry noted. “There will no longer be a requirement for isolation after entry back into Denmark from Schleswig-Holstein.”

It noted, however, that anyone staying longer than 24 hours in Germany would need to follow Germany restrictions, which in Schleswig-Holstein means showing a rapid coronavirus test no more than 48 hours old, or a PCR test no more than 72 hours old. 

Under Danish restrictions, those returning to Denmark from “yellow countries” should get tested after their return. 

Residents of Schleswig-Holstein (together with those from Skåne in Sweden) are already excused the requirement to self-isolate after arrival in Denmark. 

Sardinia is the latest in a long list of Mediterranean holiday islands which the ministry has classified as “yellow”, opening the way for isolation-free foreign holidays for Danish residents in the Balearics, Canaries, Azores, and in Malta. Portugal has also qualified for isolation-free travel. 


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Why Danish government is considering more scope for epidemic restrictions

The Danish government must currently receive the backing of parliament before implementing major interventions in response to a public health threat such as the Covid-19 pandemic. But an evaluation by two ministries suggests they favour more flexibility on the area.

Why Danish government is considering more scope for epidemic restrictions

Under current laws, parliament must vote to approve the categorisation of a disease as a ‘critical threat’ to society (samfundskritisk).

Only when a disease or an epidemic has been categorised in this way by parliament can all  of the interventions available to the government under the epidemic law be brought into play.

In other words, the government must face parliamentary checks and controls before implementing restrictions.

Those interventions range from the most invasive, such as lockdowns and assembly limits, to less invasive, but still significant, measures such as face mask mandates and health pass requirements like those seen with the coronapas (Covid-19 health pass) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: Denmark decommissions country’s Covid-19 health pass

The Ministry of Health now wants to change the existing structure within the Epidemic Law, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Monday.

In an evaluation, the ministry proposes a change to the rules such that requirements for things like face masks and the coronapas can be introduced for diseases that are not only in the ‘critical threat’ category, but also for those rated an almen farlig sygdom, ‘dangerous to public health’.

This would put some of the restrictions in the lower category which is not subject to parliamentary control.

The evaluation was sent by the health and justice ministries to parliament in October but has escaped wider attention until now, Jyllands-Posten writes.

In its evaluation of the epidemic law, the Justice Ministry states that there is a “large jump” between the small pool of restrictions that can be introduced against ‘dangerous to public health diseases’ and the major societal interventions the government – with parliamentary backing – can use once a disease is classed as a ‘critical threat’.

“This jump does not quite seem to correspond with the actual demand for potential restrictions against diseases dangerous to public health, which can spread while not being critical to society,” the ministry writes.

The health ministry said in the evaluation the “consideration” should be made as to whether less invasive measures should continue to pass through parliament, as is the case under the current rules.

The national organisation for municipalities, KL, has told parliament that it backs the thinking of the ministries over the issue but that parliamentary control must be retained.

The Danish Council on Ethics (Det Etiske Råd) told Jyllands-Posten that it was “very sceptical” regarding the recommendation.

“The council therefore points out that a slippery slope could result if the restrictions, interventions and options that can be brought into use with diseases that present a critical threat to society, can also be used with dangerous diseases like normal influenza,” the council said.

The minority government’s allied political parties all stated scepticism towards the proposal, in comments reported by Jyllands-Posten.

In a written comment, the health ministry told the newspaper that Health Minister Magnus Heunicke would discuss committee stage responses with the other partied before deciding on “the need for initiatives”.