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Why rising covid infections won’t lead to tougher national restrictions in Denmark

Why rising covid infections won't lead to tougher national restrictions in Denmark
Even if children get infected at school they are now unlikely to make their grandparents seriously ill. Photo: Imagebank Sweden/Susanne Susanne Walström
The number of daily infections in Denmark remains far above the levels seen at the time of reopening in June. But this week, offices returned to 100 percent attendance, and next week children are will return to school as normal. And most of Denmark's top epidemiologists seem to agree.

Søren Brostrøm, director of the Danish Health Authority, on Monday warned that infection rates are likely to rise significantly in the coming weeks and months as people return to work and school and the autumn weather means more time spent inside. 

“It will not hit as hard as it did last winter, but it will certainly hit us,” he told the Berlingske newspaper. “All other things being equal, we must expect that now that the Danes are returning from our summer holidays to work and school, and the last restrictions are phased out, there will be a higher rate of infection in our society.”

The question is whether this should be met with the return of face masks, coronapas requirements, home working and school closures. 

According to Søren Riis Paludan, a professor in virology and immunology at Aarhus University, it is time for people in Denmark to make a “mental shift”, taking into account the fact that the most vulnerable citizens have all been vaccinated, so as not to overreact to the headline infection numbers. 

Over 90 percent of the vulnerable have been vaccinated, so it is not a disaster if school children get infected, because they can no longer infect their immune grandparents so that they become seriously ill,” he told the Politiken newspaper.

“We need to get away from sending the whole class home whenever a single student in 4.b is infected. It is out of proportion, because there are very few people left who can become critically ill from Covid-19.” 

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In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Wednesday, 927 new infections were registered in Denmark, the fifth day in a row that the number of new infections has been below 1,000. 

It remains however, far above the numbers seen at the start of August last year, or before the loosening of restrictions this May and June. 

But Joachim Hoffmann-Petersen, a doctor specialising in emergency care at Odense University Hospital, said the number of infections was less important than the number of people being treated in hospital, which fell by three on Wednesday to 59.

“What’s interesting is the number in hospital, and that’s positive,” he told Ritzau. 

Jan Pravsgaard Christensen, an epidemiologist at Copenhagen University, is certain that the return of children to school next week will lead to a series out outbreaks across the country.  

“I expect that we will see small outbreaks, where children have to go home and get tested before they can go to school again,” he told Politiken. 

He doesn’t, however, think that outbreaks should lead to school closures as they did in the spring. 

“I expect that as we approach 80 percent coverage with the vaccine, we will stop sending anyone home apart from the infected child. Just like we do with the flu,” he said. 

Denmark’s schools ministry has yet to publish new guidelines on what schools should do to minimise the risk of outbreaks, but Claus Hjortdal, head of Denmark’s association of head teachers, said that he thought sending pupils home should be an absolute last resort. 

We won’t be able to handle that,” he told Politiken. “The children have been home enough and need a normal school year without being sent home. None of the teachers feel like an autumn where they spend two days at school, and then two days of working from home, and so on. It is so exhausting and makes it difficult for the teachers to arrange the teaching.” 

Lone Simonsen, an epidemiologist at Roskilde University, said that in her view, it no longer made sense to slow the spread of the virus with restrictions. 

“I’m in favour of us in Denmark being able to let the epidemic run now,” she said. “The question is whether we can tolerate an epidemic in terms of health, and I believe that we can because with effective vaccines we have protected those who are at high risk.”


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