Denmark does not rule out new travel restrictions after Omicron variant detected

Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke said on Sunday that the government has no current plans to add new social restrictions i in response the Omicron variant of Covid-19, but could widen travel bans.
Danish health minister Magnus Heunicke said on Sunday that the government has no current plans to add new social restrictions i in response the Omicron variant of Covid-19, but could widen travel bans. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said that Denmark was not planning new social Covid-19 restrictions at the current time after two cases of the new variant Omicron were confirmed in the country. But additional restrictions on travel to the country were not ruled out.

Heunicke said on Sunday evening the new social restrictions “are not something we are considering specifically at the current time”, in comments to news wire Ritzau.

Restrictions agreed in parliament last week and taking effect today, including face mask use and broadened coronapas (Covid-19 health pass) rules, are “sufficient” according to the government and health authorities, the minister said.

“(The new restrictions) are what our authorities and we believe are sufficient in the situation in which we find ourselves now. It’s an unpredictable time and this new variant also underlines that,” he said.

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“We have openly said that we are following this very closely and we will do what is needed when it is needed. Nobody has an interest in Denmark being locked down again. The entire strategy is for us to have an open society with infections under control,” the minister added.

Two cases of infection with the variant have been confirmed in persons who travelled from South Africa to Denmark, broadcaster DR and other Danish media reported on Sunday.

Health authorities are undertaking extensive contact tracing including the close contacts of close contacts – also referred to as “third link” to the confirmed cases.

Heunicke said Denmark’s strategy was to delay the spread of the variant as much as possible, with suggestions that it could be more transmissible than the currently-dominant Delta variant, albeit with data so far limited.

“The last variants that took over actually did so vary, very quickly,” Heunicke said.

“If this one is more transmissible it will in all probability eventually take over, so it is crucial that we delay its introduction” to give time for vaccination and booster levels to be increased, he continued.

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As such, additional restrictions on travel into Denmark could be considered.

Currently, Denmark advises against travel to 10 countries. South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini were placed under restrictions late last week.

An additional three African countries — Angola, Malawi and Zimbabwe — were added to that list on Monday morning, the Ministry of Health said in a statement, citing a “principle of caution” and the detection of the Omicron variant in Malawi.

Travel to Denmark from the 10 countries is only permissible if one of a narrow range of “worthy purpose” criteria is fulfilled. Requirements to test and isolate for 10 days would also then apply to the traveller. A negative test on day four allows the person to leave isolation under Danish rules.

Travel restrictions could be applied to additional countries, Heunicke said on Sunday, without specifying which countries may come into consideration for this and prior to the addition of the latter three African countries to the list.


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