Danish parliament likely to back return of face masks

Face masks in use in Denmark earlier this year. Reports suggest parliament will approve the government's plan to reintroduce face mask rules on public transport and in stores.
Face masks in use in Denmark earlier this year. Reports suggest parliament will approve the government's plan to reintroduce face mask rules on public transport and in stores.Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix
A majority of parties in the Danish parliament have signalled they are ready to back the government’s planned to reintroduce face mask rules. A decision is expected by Thursday evening.

The parties appear set to approve the move to bring back face masks after Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said at a press briefing on Wednesday evening that the government plans to reintroduce them on public transport and in supermarkets and other consumer settings.

Because of the way Danish law relating to restrictions on society during epidemics now works, the relevant parliamentary committee must not oppose measures put forward by the government, in order for them to come into effect.

The committee, the Epidemic Committee (Epidemiudvalget), consists of 21 lawmakers who represent each party proportionally to their number of seats in parliament.

Broadcaster DR reports that each of the three smaller left wing parties – the Social Liberals, Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Red Green Alliance – are prepared to support the move, meaning it is likely to be rubber stamped. The Conservative party has also spoken in favour of the decision.

Should the committee approve the measure, it could come into effect from Monday November 29th, Heunicke said on Wednesday.

“Some of the newest studies show a quite significant effect with the use of face masks, and although the coronapas is not a 100 percent guarantee, it makes it possible to break some chains of infection,” Social Liberal health spokesperson Stinus Lingreen, who also chairs the committee, told DR.

Red Green Alliance spokesperson Peder Hvelplund said face masks are “what health authorities recommend, so we will of course back it”. Hvelplund’s comment makes reference to the government’s advisory independent Epidemic Commission.

SF said it was “ready to support (the decision), but we want to discuss whether it is necessary for staff working in the sectors affected by face mask rules to also wear them”.

“We are in a position where our health services are extremely strained and we need to do something about it. I think that coronapas and face masks are a balanced and effective way to do this,” Conservative health spokesperson Per Larsen meanwhile told DR.

Other right wing parties, including the Danish People’s Party (DF) and Liberal Alliance, expressed scepticism over the decision in comments to DR. Both parties suggested better support for the health system as a preferred response, while DF also called for home testing to be made available for vaccinated people.

The government will however have the necessary support for the measures in the parliamentary committee, should the left wing parties and Conservatives maintain their support for it.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 5pm today.

A total of 4,426 new cases of the virus were confirmed yesterday, the highest figure yet in 2021.

Rules relating to the coronapas Covid-19 health pass could also be broadened should the parties not stand in the way of the ramped-up measures.

READ ALSO: Denmark confirms plan to reintroduce face mask rules

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