Denmark reinstates coronapas at restaurants, bars and events

Rules requiring a valid Covid-19 health pass (coronapas) at bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs as well as large events took Denmark on Friday after parliamentary approval of the measure earlier this week.

A valid Covid-19 health pass or coronapas will be required in some parts of Danish society again from November 12th.
A valid Covid-19 health pass or coronapas will be required in some parts of Danish society again from November 12th. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

A majority in parliament’s epidemic committee including parties on both the left and right wing supported the government’s position, reintroducing the coronapas from Friday while also raising Covid-19 to the status of “critical threat” to society.

The heightened status enables the government to introduce restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, provided a majority on the committee does not oppose this.

The move to bring back the coronapas was backed by parliament as expected, following the government announcement on Monday that it wanted to intervene amid a surge in cases and hospitalisations with the virus.

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

Effective from Friday, a valid coronapas will be required at bars, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs and other indoors venues where food and drink are served.

The health pass will also be required at indoor events with over 200 spectators and outdoors events with over 2,000 spectators. This includes amusement parks, casinos and adventure and water parks as well as concerts, conferences and lectures.

The period for which earlier infection can form the basis for a valid coronapas is reduced from 12 months to 6 months.

Rules requiring the pass will apply to those over the age of 15, in a change from the earlier minimum age of 16.

The coronapas is used to document a recent negative Covid-19 test or immunity against the virus due to vaccination or recent recovery from infection. It was first used in Denmark in the spring and was dropped in September when coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

The status of critical threat to society will apply for an initial one month before being reevaluated.

That is a shorter period than the four months preferred by the government.

“This is a quite far-reaching intervention. I therefore think it’s sensible to test the decision once a month,” said Peder Hvelplund, health spokesperson with the left wing party Red Green Alliance.

The opposition Liberal party also backed the one-month expiry set by parliament.

“It was important for the Liberal party that the period was made markedly shorter so we can assess the situation on an ongoing basis and so we can remove unnecessary restrictions,” Liberal health spokesperson Martin Geertsen said in a written comment.

The decision to classify Covid-19 as a critical threat to society is taken by parliament’s epidemic committee (Epidemiudvalget), which includes 21 members of parliament with each party represented proportionally.


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Why Danish government is considering more scope for epidemic restrictions

The Danish government must currently receive the backing of parliament before implementing major interventions in response to a public health threat such as the Covid-19 pandemic. But an evaluation by two ministries suggests they favour more flexibility on the area.

Why Danish government is considering more scope for epidemic restrictions

Under current laws, parliament must vote to approve the categorisation of a disease as a ‘critical threat’ to society (samfundskritisk).

Only when a disease or an epidemic has been categorised in this way by parliament can all  of the interventions available to the government under the epidemic law be brought into play.

In other words, the government must face parliamentary checks and controls before implementing restrictions.

Those interventions range from the most invasive, such as lockdowns and assembly limits, to less invasive, but still significant, measures such as face mask mandates and health pass requirements like those seen with the coronapas (Covid-19 health pass) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ ALSO: Denmark decommissions country’s Covid-19 health pass

The Ministry of Health now wants to change the existing structure within the Epidemic Law, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Monday.

In an evaluation, the ministry proposes a change to the rules such that requirements for things like face masks and the coronapas can be introduced for diseases that are not only in the ‘critical threat’ category, but also for those rated an almen farlig sygdom, ‘dangerous to public health’.

This would put some of the restrictions in the lower category which is not subject to parliamentary control.

The evaluation was sent by the health and justice ministries to parliament in October but has escaped wider attention until now, Jyllands-Posten writes.

In its evaluation of the epidemic law, the Justice Ministry states that there is a “large jump” between the small pool of restrictions that can be introduced against ‘dangerous to public health diseases’ and the major societal interventions the government – with parliamentary backing – can use once a disease is classed as a ‘critical threat’.

“This jump does not quite seem to correspond with the actual demand for potential restrictions against diseases dangerous to public health, which can spread while not being critical to society,” the ministry writes.

The health ministry said in the evaluation the “consideration” should be made as to whether less invasive measures should continue to pass through parliament, as is the case under the current rules.

The national organisation for municipalities, KL, has told parliament that it backs the thinking of the ministries over the issue but that parliamentary control must be retained.

The Danish Council on Ethics (Det Etiske Råd) told Jyllands-Posten that it was “very sceptical” regarding the recommendation.

“The council therefore points out that a slippery slope could result if the restrictions, interventions and options that can be brought into use with diseases that present a critical threat to society, can also be used with dangerous diseases like normal influenza,” the council said.

The minority government’s allied political parties all stated scepticism towards the proposal, in comments reported by Jyllands-Posten.

In a written comment, the health ministry told the newspaper that Health Minister Magnus Heunicke would discuss committee stage responses with the other partied before deciding on “the need for initiatives”.