Denmark to close cinemas and theatres under new Covid restrictions

Denmark on Friday announced it would close cinemas, theatres and concert halls over record numbers of daily Covid-19 cases, accelerated by the new Omicron variant, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

Denmark announced new Covid-19 restrictions on December 17th as cases hit new record levels.
Denmark announced new Covid-19 restrictions on December 17th as cases hit new record levels. Photo: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The Scandinavian country recorded a new all-time high of more than 11,000 cases in the past 24 hours, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a press conference.

“It’s necessary to have new restrictions that limit activity in the community and reduce transmissions,” Frederiksen told a press briefing on Friday after noon.

The prime minister stressed that more severe restrictions such as lockdowns including assembly limits, like those seen during previous Covid-19 waves, were not currently being introduced because of the effect of vaccines. Reports earlier on Friday suggested that a number of parties were in favour of assembly limits.

The new restrictions, recommended by the government’s advisory Epidemic Commission, are as follows:

  • Closure of concerts halls, theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries, community centres, zoos and community events.
  • Closure of amusement parks such as Copenhagen’s major tourist attraction Tivoli.
  • Extension of limits on bars and nightlife, with sales of alcohol banned after 10pm and establishments to close at 11pm. General sales of alcohol banned from 10pm-5am.
  • Face mask restrictions extended to all business and cultural locations with public access along with take-away businesses, driving schools and places of worship.
  • Capacity limits to be reintroduced in stores as well as at restaurants and places of worship. This includes capacity limits on stores with under 2,000 square metres of floor area, similar to rules under earlier waves.
  • Seat reservations mandatory on intercity and regional trains and buses.
  • Home working and limiting social contact during the Christmas period is recommended.

“Theatres, cinemas and concert halls, they will have to close,” Frederiksen said.

“We need to limit our activity. We all need to limit our social contacts,” she added.

All new restrictions were approved by the Epidemic Committee on Friday evening, meaning they will take effect on Sunday at 8am.

The restrictions are scheduled to expire on January 17th 2022.

At the request of the Liberal Party, an assessment will be made by January 5th as to whether it will be necessary to keep the measures in place beyond January 17th. This is to ensure clarity about whether the restriction will continue.

Dealing with new record numbers on a daily basis, the government has accelerated the rollout of booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines, authorised an anti-Covid pill treatment by US drugmaker Merck for serious cases and started gun vaccinations of children aged five to 11.

Cases have nevertheless continued to spiral with an all-time high of 11,194 new cases registered on Friday. The number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant increased by 2,550 and now stands at 11,559 since it first emerged in late November.

Unlike during earlier virus waves, Frederiksen said the government still planned to re-open schools after the holidays, even though the Christmas vacation was brought forward to counter the surge.

“Our aim is still to keep society as open as possible,” she said, adding that more restrictive measures introduced in the spring of 2020 could be avoided “because we have vaccines.”

Denmark has reported a total of 600,468 cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and 3,054 associated deaths.

Some 500 people are currently hospitalised, including a few dozen in intensive care.

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Denmark’s autumn Covid-19 strategy to be presented ‘before summer’

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Monday that the government will soon present a strategy for managing Covid-19 should the virus resurge in Denmark next autumn and winter.

Denmark’s autumn Covid-19 strategy to be presented 'before summer'

Although everyday life in Denmark is now free of any signs of Covid-19 restrictions, a plan will be put in place to manage a potential increase in cases of the virus once colder months return, Frederiksen said during remarks in parliament.

During a speech given as part of the parliament’s closing session before its summer break, Frederiksen noted that the coronavirus still persists in other countries and that Denmark must therefore have its own plan in place for future management of outbreaks.

“The government will therefore, before the summer (holiday), present a strategy for ongoing Covid management. We will discuss it with the other parties in parliament,” she said.

Frederiksen also said that Denmark was among the countries to have coped best with the pandemic.

“We are one of the countries that have had the lowest excess deaths. And one of the countries that has emerged best from the crisis economically. That is thanks to the efforts of each individual citizen in the country,” she said.

A new wave of Covid-19 cases later this year can be expected, according to a Danish medical expert.

“As things look now, we can reasonably hope that the thoroughly vaccinated population will be well protected against serious cases and that we will therefore see few hospitalisations,” Henrik Nielsen, senior medical consultant at Aalborg University’s infectious disease department, told news wire Ritzau.

“But the number of infections could very easily be high in the autumn and winter with a respiratory virus that gives a few days’ sickness. We expected serious cases to be limited in number,” he said.