Why you might struggle to find childcare in Danish suburbs

During the 2020 lockdowns, people left the world's major cities in droves in search of space, fresh air, and cheaper accommodation while teleworking. In Denmark, an exodus of families with young children are straining childcare infrastructure in the suburbs communities they've moved to.

Why you might struggle to find childcare in Danish suburbs
Young families from Denmark's major metropolitan areas are increasingly moving to the suburbs. But will there be a cubby ready for them? Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix.

Bedroom communities that have struggled to attract new residents from major Danish cities such as Copenhagen, Aarhus and Frederiksberg find themselves in the uncomfortable position of telling young families they can’t accommodate their children, Danish public broadcaster DR reports in its analysis of Statistics Denmark data and interviews with municipal governments. 

Silkeborg Municipality, with its seat town Silkeborg about 45 kilometres west of Aarhus, finds itself short more than 100 nursery and kindergarten places ahead of the autumn. 

READ MORE: How Denmark got its children back to school so soon after lockdown

“The relocation has been really strong in the last few years,” Hans Okholm, a city council member and chairman of the planning and roads committee in Silkeborg, told DR. 

“In fact, 50 percent more people have moved in than we expected, and since many of them are families with young children, it creates some challenges in obtaining enough institutional places,” Okholm said.

While the municipality has arranged to have 105 new nursery places available by August 1st, the situation is so dire that 25 children in Silkeborg currently go to kindergarten in a bus fitted with a toilet and washroom, DR reports in a profile of “bus teacher” Christina Kornum.

READ MORE: Denmark’s ‘corona babies’ struggle to adapt to kindergartens  

Using data from Statistics Denmark, DR determined ten Danish municipalities had standout numbers of children aged 0-5 during 2020. 

  • Allerød Municipality (total population est. 25,893 in 2021 Q1): 163

  • Rudersdal Municipality (57,024): 340 

  • Skanderborg Municipality (63,390): 334

  • Furesø Municipality (41,001): 194

  • Egedal Municipality (43,696): 198

  • Silkeborg Municipality (95,488): 313

  • Høje-Taastrup Municipality (51,729): 145

  • Svendborg Municipality (58,588): 160

  • Køge Municipality (61,475): 162

  • Lejre Municipality (88,889): 181

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Explained: What are Denmark’s Covid-19 guidelines for the new school year?

The Danish Health Authority has issued new coronavirus guidelines for the start of the new school year on Monday. We explain what has changed and what restrictions remain?

Explained: What are Denmark's Covid-19 guidelines for the new school year?
Pupils at Amager Fælled Skole on their return to the classroom in March this year. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Isn’t there a risk that infections will spike after children return? 

Absolutely. After the new guidelines were released, Søren Brostsrøm, the authority’s director, said that he expected a resurgence in infections after pupils return to school. 

“There’s no doubt that infection will increase in Danish society, partly because we are opening up institutions and workplaces and partly because we are changing our contact patterns when we come home from holiday,” he told the broadcaster TV2

But he said that the high number of vaccinated people meant that higher levels of infection could be tolerated. 

“We are doing this first and foremost because we have a massively high vaccine coverage in Denmark, especially among the elderly and vulnerable, who are the ones at risk of becoming seriously ill.” 

“We are raising the threshold without letting go of the reins, so hopefully we will have a relatively normal school year.” 

What’s the big change? 

The biggest change is that classes will no longer be sent home, or their schools closed, if one of their classmates tests positive for coronavirus.

Pupils will now only be sent home if there are “major outbreaks or other special situations”.

This will be the case, for example, if more than 30 to 40 people at the school are infected, if there is a super-spreading event at the school, or if there are new and particularly worrying coronavirus variants among those infected.

Schools must contact the Danish Agency for Patient Safety for advice before sending a class or school home. 

“We would very much like to help get schooling back to normal as it was before the coronavirus epidemic,” said Andreas Rudkjøbing, a doctor at the authority in a press release announcing the new guidelines. “Therefore, our priority is to ensure that the schools remain open as far as possible.” 

In addition, pupils will no longer be considered to have been “in close contact” with an infected person simply because they are in the same class. They will need to have been less than one metre away for more than 15 minutes. 

What restrictions are still in place? 

On June 11th, Denmark removed most of the restrictions which had been placed on schools since they returned after the first lockdown in April 2020. 

But schools and kindergartens are still encouraged to follow the authority’s general infection prevention recommendations. These are: 
  • Get vaccinated
  • Stay home and get tested if you get symptom
  • Keep distance
  • Ventilate and create draft
  • Wash your hands often or use rubbing alcohol
  • Clean, especially surfaces that many people touch
Students and school staff are also advised to be tested for coronavirus twice a week if they are over the age of 12 and have yet to be fully vaccinated. 
What counts as “contact” with an infected person?
Pupils will count as having been in “close contact” and will need to stay home if they have been less than one metre away from someone who tests positive for more than 15 minutes. 
This is extended to two metres if the pupils have been engaged in activities with strong exhalation such as singing, loud speech or shouting, activities that involve physical exertion, or have been together in enclosed places with poor ventilation. 
In kindergartens, children who share a room will all be considered close contacts. 
Pupils will also need to stay home if someone they live with tests positive. 
Close contacts of infected people should go into self-isolation and get tested on day four and day six after they have been contact. They can leave self-isolation ten days after the onset of symptoms, after two fever-free days, or after a positive test. 
It will be up to the leadership of schools and kindergartens to decide if anyone counts as an “other contact”, who has not been in close contact, but should still get tested, even if vaccinated. “Other contacts” do not need to self-isolate.  
What happens if a pupil or member of staff develops coronavirus symptoms while at school? 
According to the new guidelines, they should be kept separate from other pupils or staff members until they can be picked up and taken home, with everything they touch cleaned afterwards. 
Under Danish law pupils under the age of 15 cannot be tested for coronavirus without parental consent, so if a test is to be caried out by the school, pupils’ parents must be asked first. 
If parents do not want A child to be tested, they child should go into self-isolation until 48 hours after their symptoms cease
What should schools do if one or more pupils or members of staff test positive? 
Schools and kindergartens are advised to contact their local municipal health service for advice, and to then detgermine whether the infected person has been present at the institution during their “infection period”. 
The Danish Agency for Patient Safety may then contact the institution with information on infection tracking and measures to prevent further outbreaks. 
If the infected person has been present, everything they have touched should be cleaned, areas they have been in should be ventilated. 
Pupils and staff should be reminded of basic hygiene recommendations.