The new Covid-19 restrictions now in effect in Denmark

A number of new Covid-19 restrictions, approved by the Danish parliament on Friday evening, came into effect on Sunday.

People travelling on trains this in Denmark Christmas will be required to wear a face mask and reserve a seat.
People travelling on trains this in Denmark Christmas will be required to wear a face mask and reserve a seat. File photo: Ólafur Steinar Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

In an effort to slow record infection rates and escalating hospitalisation numbers, the restrictions, which took effect on Sunday, will remain in place until January 17th.

Cultural attractions closed

Concert halls, theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries, community centres, zoos, casinos and amusement parks such as Copenhagen’s major tourist attraction Tivoli are all amongst cultural facilities and attractions now closed under the restrictions.

Other non-essential educational activities (non-degree or qualification programmes) such as folk high schools and lectures are also closed.

In short, cultural activities have been strongly curtailed to reduce the amount of mixing throughout society.

No alcohol service after 10pm

Existing restrictions on bars, pubs and nightlife have been extended. Sales of alcohol at bars, restaurants and other licensed establishments are now banned after 10pm. Bars must close by 11pm.

General sales of alcohol are now banned between 10pm and 5am.

Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants are also affected by new capacity limits. This means they must restrict the number of customers to two square metres of floor space per sitting guest, and four square metres of floor space per standing guest.

Private parties outside of homes must end by 11pm

Private events held at venues outside of homes – for example, wedding receptions and Christmas parties – must end by 11pm.

The venues hosting the events must also comply with restrictions affecting licensed businesses like restaurants and bars, meaning limits on when alcohol can be served also apply here.

Capacity limits at stores open for Christmas shopping

Echoing restrictions used in earlier phases of the pandemic, capacity limits are now reintroduced in stores as well as at restaurants and places of worship.

The capacity limits apply to stores with under 2,000 square metres of floor area.

In addition to limiting the number of shoppers who can enter, stores must provide signage so customers are aware of the rules.

Retail businesses have also been asked to take measures to crowding and queuing such as adapting special offers and extending the deadline for exchanging gifts.

Face mask rules extended

Already required in stores and on public transport under existing rules, face masks must now also be worn at all business and cultural locations with public access along with take-away businesses, driving schools and places of worship.

This means libraries, gyms, places of worship and citizens’ services at town halls are among additional locations where masks must now be worn.

Reservations required on regional and long distance trains and buses

Seat reservations are now mandatory on intercity and regional trains and buses.

Reservations for rail seats cost 30 kroner, meaning passengers travelling over the Christmas period will incur an extra cost as a result of the new restrictions.

National rail operator DSB said on Sunday it would make reservations free from December 27th, but would keep the charge in place until then to prevent seats being reserved but not used.

READ ALSO: Denmark to close cinemas and theatres under new Covid restrictions

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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.