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COVID-19 RULES

Denmark reinstates Covid-19 sick leave compensation for parents and companies

Increased sick days taken by staff at Danish companies, related to the country’s current high rate of Covid-19 infections, are to be eligible for compensation after the government reached a deal with labour market representatives.

Denmark is to again help cover sick pay costs for parents and companies unable to work from home during Covid-19 sickness and isolation.
Denmark is to again help cover sick pay costs for parents and companies unable to work from home during Covid-19 sickness and isolation. Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Because an increased number of people are testing positive for and getting sick with Covid-19, sick days taken at Danish companies are increasing.

This means companies are losing money when obliged to pay staff while they are in isolation.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark

That problem could soon be addressed by temporary special provisions agreed between the government and labour market representatives on Tuesday.

The agreement would allow companies to apply for compensation for expenses incurred paying sick pay from the first day off taken by staff.

Parents who miss work to look after children sent home from school due to Covid-19 will be able to apply for care pay for up to ten days. Children must be aged 13 or under.

“If you can work from home, you should work from home. This is for all the people who have to attend work and cannot work from home,” Lizette Risgaard, head of the trade union umbrella organisation Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation (FH), told news wire Ritzau.

The sick pay scheme strongly resembles an earlier Covid-19 provision which expired on July 1st this year. It return is effective as of Tuesday and can be applied retroactively.

Companies have called for the scheme to return since July because of guidelines requiring isolation for people who have symptoms of Covid-19 or test positive for the coronavirus.

Under normal rules, companies must pay up to the first 30 days of sick pay for staff. The scheme announced on Tuesday allows companies to apply for reimbursement for this.

A criterion for the compensation is that the staff member in question is unable to work from home.

The organisation representing Danish employers, DA, said it backed the arrangement.

“Infections are increasing in society and we are seeing in many places that staff are forced to stay at home because of coronavirus. It’s very sensible that we are reimplementing the provisions where you can statutory sick pay from the first day,” DA chairperson Jacob Holraad said.

The agreement is set to expire on February 28th 2022. It will be reviewed close to this time to assess whether an extension is needed.

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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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