SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19 RULES

Why is ‘critical threat’ status of Covid-19 important in Denmark?

Covid-19 is set to again be classified as a “critical threat” to Danish society, a status it previously had until September this year.

A file photo of Covid-19 information signs at a Danish hospital entrance. The coronavirus is rated a
A file photo of Covid-19 information signs at a Danish hospital entrance. The coronavirus is rated a "critical threat" to society when it is considered to threaten the health system. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

A majority of political parties supports the government’s plan to reintroduce coronapas (Covid-19 health pass) requirements and to again designate the virus a “critical threat” to society, according to reports on Monday.

The government’s advisory Epidemic Commission earlier on Monday recommended the change of status of Covid-19 from “dangerous to public health” to a “critical threat” to society. That is a reversal of the move in September, when earlier restrictions were lifted. 

On September 10th, Covid-19 was no longer classed as a “critical threat to society”, or samfundskritisk sygdom, a disease which threaten the functions of society as a whole, by for instance, overwhelming the health system. Covid-19 was first rated a samfundskritisk sygdom on March 10th 2020.

Since then, Covid-19 has been rated an almen farlig sygdom, “dangerous to public health”.

The distinction is important because it impacts the ability of the government to introduce restrictions aimed at curbing spread of the virus.

When a disease is considered a “critical threat”, the government can impose restrictions such as bans on people gathering and school closures, mandate use of face masks, and demand Covid-19 passes, provided a majority in parliament’s epidemic committee does not oppose this.

This does not apply for diseases only rated “dangerous to public health”. In this case, the (minority) government needs a parliamentary majority to vote in favour of any restrictions.

In either case, however, the government and health authorities have powers to test people and collect and share health data, and require people to self-isolate. That is because the coronavirus is still categorised as a danger to public health even when it is not a critical threat to society.

Parliament’s epidemic committee (udvalg in Danish, not to be confused with the Commission, kommission) was scheduled to on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Parliament must support any decision for the status of Covid-19 to be changed to critical.

As such, the committee, which has representation from all of the parliamentary parties, has a decisive role in the process.

READ ALSO: Five key things Danish PM said about country’s coronavirus situation

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

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.

SHOW COMMENTS