Danish majority could back limit on public assembly as part of new restrictions

People queue for Covid-19 vaccination in Copenhagen on December16th. Several political parties have suggested they could back a limit on public assembly in response to spiralling cases.
People queue for Covid-19 vaccination in Copenhagen on December16th. Several political parties have suggested they could back a limit on public assembly in response to spiralling cases. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
Ahead of a briefing on Denmark’s Covid-19 situation on Friday afternoon, political parties have expressed a range of opinions on what new restrictions they want to see.

Health officials at a press briefing yesterday evening indicated new restrictions are possible and necessary, though the decision to implement them and what to implement must be taken by politicians.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wrote in a Facebook post yesterday that she expects new restrictions, after a record 9,999 new cases were recorded.

Health spokespersons from the various political parties were scheduled to meet on Friday morning. But news wire Ritzau reported that a number of lawmakers had confirmed the parliamentary Epidemic Committee was not scheduled to meet.

This raises questions in relation to the timing of new restrictions because the Committee must meet and a majority must agree not to oppose new restrictions in order for them to come into effect.

Regardless of when a final approval might come, several parties have already spoken to Danish media about their stance on new restrictions, giving some clues as to how these might look.

READ ALSO: What new Covid-19 restrictions could Denmark introduce?

The Conservative party is ready to back new restrictions, health spokesperson Per Larsen told broadcaster DR.

“It’s clear that when health authorities recommend it, we’ll also want to step on the brakes,” Larsen said.

An assembly limit in situations such as large concerts will “likely be part of the discussion,” he said.

“But we also have a number of restrictions (already). So it will be something over and above that which will be discussed. That’s obvious,” he added.

Denmark used assembly limits during Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions in earlier phases of the pandemic but has refrained from reintroducing them in the current wave, with the exception of a ban on standing concerts for over 50 people.

Assembly restrictions in 2020 and up to summer 2021 restricted gatherings in public to as little as five people before gradually being increased and lifted. Limits on private assembly were not enforced but recommendations and guidelines to limit gatherings in private homes were issued.

The Conservatives also support allowing restaurants and similar businesses to fully close down with full compensation provided by the government, instead of operating at a potential loss due to the effect of restrictions.

The health spokesperson with the Liberal Party, Martin Geertsen, said “I think the fairest thing is to let health authorities give a status and say what is needed.” The Liberals are the largest party in opposition.

Normally, the government only requires the backing of its left wing allied parties to implement restrictions, although the centre-right parties have regularly joined agreements in response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

The health spokesperson with the Socialist People’s Party, Kirsten Normann Andersen, told news wire Ritzau on Thursday – prior to the publication of the latest infection figures – that she supported new restrictions, including a temporary suspension of the so called behandlingsgaranti or treatment guarantee.

The guarantee, provided by the national health system, gives patients the right to be treated within 30 days, if necessary by moving their treatments to a different hospital (including some private hospitals).

Andersen also mooted the possibly of an assembly limit.

“I also think that it could be necessary to make some form of restriction in relation to how many can gather when it is with people we don’t know,” she said.

The Red Green Alliance said it wants new restrictions as soon as possible, including a suspension of the treatment guarantee and more restrictions on nightlife and assembly limit as low as 10 people.

Currently bars, restaurants and nightclubs are required to close at midnight and alcohol sales are banned between midnight and 5am.

“I’d like to implement before the weekend so we can put the brakes on the quite extreme increase in infections,” coronavirus spokesperson for the party Peder Hvelplund said.

“This could mean further restrictions on nightlife, and assembly limit possibly down to 10 people and a strategy for how we ensure capacity in the health system and in testing and tracing,” Hvelplund said.

The third of the three smaller left wing parties, the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), are also prepared to support restrictions.

“We are hearing that medical experts say more restrictions are important and are talking about an assembly limit amongst possible measures. We back up on that,” health spokesperson Christina Thorholm said.


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