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How will Denmark’s full reopening affect children?

Denmark's coronapas program will end earlier than scheduled and testing centers are being closed. Here's what experts are saying about how the reopening will affect unvaccinated children.

How will Denmark's full reopening affect children?
Children at a kindergarten in Kalundborg outside Copenhagen back in June. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Seventy-five percent of the population in Denmark has received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Danish infectious disease agency the Statens Serum Insitut.

Lone Simonsen, a professor of epidemiology and pandemic research at Roskilde University, told Danish public broadcasting agency DR that she agrees with walking back restrictions. “From a health point of view, it is very reasonable, because we’ve pulled the teeth out of this pandemic by vaccinating all those who were at risk of hospitalization and death,” she said. 

READ MORE: How Covid vaccination rules for children differ around Europe 

Increasing infection rates among children

With summer holidays over, Covid-19 cases among children have risen sharply from 354 infections among those below the age of 19 in the last week of June, 1,714 infections in the last week of July, and 3,230 in the final week of August. 

Allan Randrup Thomsen, professor of experimental virology at the University of Copenhagen, told DR that rising infection rates in children and young people weren’t necessarily a problem. “In a society with so few restrictions, the infection will spread among those who are not vaccinated,” he said, adding that children rarely become sick enough to be hospitalised. 

READ MORE: Denmark to scrap Covid-19 restrictions 

“It is quite natural for infection to occur among children,” said Søren Brostrøm, director of the National Board of Health. “We don’t have a strategy that the infection should spread through the children, but we accept infection because children don’t get so sick.” 

Nils Strandberg, former director of the Statens Serum Instut, said people will have to “get over” infections in children. “Restrictions among children serve no purpose. The Delta variant is so contagious that most children will still be infected before we reach 2022,” Strandberg told TV2. 

But professor Hans Jørn Kolmos, microbiology professor at the University of Southern Denmark, warned that there might be a ripple effect when children are ill. “Whether the parents are vaccinated or have to be quarantined, the children need to be looked after,” he said. “It goes like wildfire once it gets a hold.” 

READ MORE: What does the ‘end of Covid-19 restrictions in Denmark’ actually mean? 

Viggo Andreasen, associate professor of mathematical epidemiology at Roskilde Univeristy, told Berlinske that it was important to maintain some restrictions in order to slow the pace of infections. 

“According to my calculations, we will reach around 20,000 corona-related hospital admissions in total in the coming season, if we remove all infection brakes, especially among the children, Andreasen said. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States says there’s still not enough data to determine whether the Delta variant causes more severe infection among children. But in the US, the Delta variant’s contagiousness has been enough to lead to a surge in hospitalised children across the country – both with and without pre-existing conditions.

In August, a major children’s hospital in New Orleans became so overwhelmed with pediatric Covid patients a federal “surge team” was deployed to help. The New York Times described the situation in pediatric ICUs across the country as “gut wrenching.

At the beginning of the pandemic, “we all thought, ‘Well, thankfully it’s not happening to the kids; none of us would be able to stomach that,’” Mark Melancon, a New Orleans nurse told the Times. “Fast forward to now, and it’s happening with the kids.”

Hospital admissions and deaths in Danish children 

According to the SSI, 289 children under the age of nine, and 279 children ages 10-19 have been admitted to hospitals in Denmark with Covid-19 over the course of the pandemic. Of those, 15 children aged nine and under received intensive care, compared to 21 children ages 10-19. 

Two children under the age of 19 have died from Covid-19 in Denmark, both boys under the age of nine. 

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Denmark’s infectious disease agency does not recommend Covid tests for China arrivals

Travellers from China should not need a negative Covid-19 test when arriving in Denmark, the national infectious disease control agency State Serum Institute recommended on Saturday, in an assessment sent to the Ministry of Health.

Denmark's infectious disease agency does not recommend Covid tests for China arrivals

In the assessment by the State Serum Institute (SSI), it was noted that there aren’t expected to be a large number of arrivals coming directly from China and that any tests would have a marginal affect on Danish epidemic control.

However SSI wrote that it was still important to keep an eye on new variants of Covid-19 and suggested that a sample of voluntary-based PCR tests could be introduced for travellers from China.

The assessment was requested by Denmark’s health minister Sophie Løhde, following a recommendation on Wednesday by European Union experts to tighten travel rules.

Infection rates in China are high after it abolished its ‘zero Covid’ policy in late 2022, although no precise numbers are available.

Several European countries, including France, Spain, Italy and the UK, had already introduced testing requirements, while Sweden on Thursday announced a similar step, as did Germany, with an added announcement on Saturday to discourage non-essential travel from Germany to China.

The United States, Canada, India, South Korea and Taiwan have also put testing rules in place.

Health minister Sophie Løhde also asked SSI to assess testing waste water from aircraft landed from China. SSI responded that there is limited experience in this.

SSI currently analyses samples from shared toilet tanks at four airports twice a week – Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aalborg and Billund. The method would have to be changed in order to detect new Covid-19 variants, which would take up to four weeks to implement, according to the assessment.

Løhde has informed the parliamentary parties about the assessment and has asked the Epidemic Commission for an advisory assessment, she said in a press release. Once this is done, the recommendations will be discussed.