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CORONAPAS

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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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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