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COVID-19 RULES

‘Return of the old days’: Denmark hosts stadium concert for 50,000 without Covid curbs

There was certainly euphoria and at times something close to ecstacy as the 50,000 faces in Copenhagen's Parken stadium, swayed, bobbed and bellowed out the choruses in the biggest stadium concert held anywhere in Europe since the first lockdown.

'Return of the old days': Denmark hosts stadium concert for 50,000 without Covid curbs
Niels Brandt, the intense frontman of the Danish post-punk band The Minds of 99, more than rose to the occasion. Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

Niels Brandt, the intense frontman of the Danish post-punk band The Mindsof 99 was more than able to rise to the moment.

Time and time again, he seized total control of the crowd, whether tapping out the chords to the hit Som Fluer on an upright piano, or coming out to a small stage in the centre of the seething crowd to play intimate solo guitar.

Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

He would then drive them into a frenzy of soaring emotions as the full force of the band kicked in, with hammering drums, jangling guitar and rave-like synthesisers pushing them on to crescendo after crescendo.

Many in the audience felt the concert marked a new start for the country.

“There’s so much joy, and I’m very happy, we were just talking about how maybe we’re gonna cry, because it’s like the return of the old days,” said Kathrine Krone as she queued with her friend Andrea Bang.

“This concert is kind of a mark of everything, all the restrictions going away, so it’s a celebration, but it’s also very new, it’s something that we’re really not very used to, so there are mixed feelings,” Bang said.

For Dorte Olsen, the concert was a birthday treat for herself and for her 13-year-old son Emil, although her daughter Louise had come along too.

“I’m a nurse, so I think he [Emil] was one of the first 12-year-olds to be vaccinated in Denmark,” she said. “We’re nearly all vaccinated, so if we were to contract Covid-19, the Delta or whatever, we would be okay.”

“It’s really, really great,” Louise added, “and also a little bit scary because, you know, we haven’t been around this many people for a long time.” 

Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The concert was sold out a year and a half ago and then postponed by the pandemic, so the organisers, Live Nation, said that it was pure chance that The Minds of 99 had ended up holding Denmark’s big reopening concert just a day after the country lifted its last Coronavirus restrictions.

But the band, currently one of the biggest in Denmark even if unknown outside it, was the perfect choice for the task, and Brandt milked the situation to the full.

“Last year, this concert should have marked a peak for us, but that’s not how it turned out,” he told the crowd in a rare quiet moment.

“But as is often the case that when life deals you a shitty hand, it can be the best thing that has ever happened to you. Now we are here a year later, and this is the fucking reopening of Denmark. We have a new record on the way. It feels like we’re heading to new places. A new journey. Thank you very much for being here. It means everything to us and we have fucking missed you.”

The concert was far from Europe’s first big concert, coming as it did, just days after the Manchester post-punk band New Order played to 35,000 in the city’s Heaton Park, but it was the first stadium concert of quite such a scale, certainly without restrictions. 

Ulrik Orum-Petersen, who promoted the concert for the organisers, Live Nation, said that it was “a huge relief” to be back in business.

“This is our core business, what we do. We go to work to produce events like this, and finally, to be able to do that after so long, is just amazing.”

“It’s been very frustrating not to be able to do that for a long time, and especially the uncertainty about when we are going to open up.”

But he said that he believed now there was a huge amount of pent-up demand that he felt sure we were on the cusp of a boom in concert-going.

Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix
Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix
Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

“There’s a tonne of demand from two years’ almost, locked down. There’s a lot of demand from the fans, that they want to go out and see live shows.”

In between the band’s many encores, Brandt thanked the audience again and again.

“Dear Parken. Thank you so much that so many of you came. We will never forget this.”

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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