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COVID-19

How Denmark abolished Covid passport with country’s epidemic ‘not over’

Denmark, the first country to introduce a Covid-19 pass six months ago, abolished the requirement in most public places on Wednesday, just days before it lifts all restrictions.

How Denmark abolished Covid passport with country’s epidemic 'not over'
Denmark's corona passport will be largely abolished from September 1st. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The move comes despite fears of a fourth wave in Europe. While the epidemic is deemed under control in Denmark where vaccination levels are high, officials have warned it is far from over.

“It’s a bit of a special day,” said Eric Poezevara, who owns a restaurant in Copenhagen.

“We won’t miss it but I do think it was a really good idea to introduce it, because it was the starting point for hope,” he told AFP before the busy lunch crowd arrived.

Covid passes, certifying the holder is either fully vaccinated or has had a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours, were launched in March when the country’s zoos reopened to the public, the first restriction to ease.

Available on an app or in paper form, the pass was always planned as a temporary requirement, and was initially due to expire on October 1st.

On Wednesday, though, the pass was no longer required in cafes, bars, restaurants, gyms and hair salons in Denmark, a country of 5.8 million people where 71.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

It will still be needed at major indoor public events and in nightclubs, which reopened in the early hours of Wednesday.

Then on September 10th, all restrictions will be lifted.

The country, which has registered 2,500 Covid deaths, already dropped its requirement for facemasks in public transport mid-August.

And on August 1st, it lifted the Covid pass requirement at museums and indoor events with fewer than 500 people. 
“The epidemic is under control, we have record vaccination levels,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said last month.

He warned however that with around 1,000 daily cases still being registered, “the epidemic is not over”, and vowed the government would reimpose restrictions swiftly if necessary.

According to the Europe branch of the World Health Organization, Denmark is a “champion in vaccine coverage.”

It is able to ease restrictions due to its thorough virus tracking and sequencing programme which enables officials to know which variant they are dealing with, and how contagious it is.

Denmark’s “health system is capable of implementing a large-scale testing strategy and it includes genomic sequencing,” WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said on Monday.

Scientists have however warned that lifting restrictions completely could lead to a surge in Covid cases among unvaccinated people.

“It’s very realistic to think that about half of the unvaccinated population will be infected in the next three or four months,” leading to a rise in hospitalisations, University of Roskilde epidemiologist Viggo Andreasen told news agency Ritzau.

Travellers entering Denmark must still present either a vaccine passport or a negative PCR test.

EXPLAINED: What changes about life in Denmark in September 2021

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COVID-19

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.” 

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