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COVID-19

Denmark registers second day with over 20,000 new Covid-19 cases

The last day saw 21,403 new cases of Covid-19 recorded by Denmark’s national infectious disease agency.

High Covid-19 infection rates are casting a shadow over the end of 2021 in Denmark. People queue for testing in Copenhagen on December 16th.
High Covid-19 infection rates are casting a shadow over the end of 2021 in Denmark. People queue for testing in Copenhagen on December 16th. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

The agency, State Serum Institute (SSI) released the updated figures on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday’s figure is the second-highest recorded during the pandemic in Denmark behind the 23,228 recorded 24 hours earlier.

The 21,403 positive results came from 205,153 PCR tests, giving a positivity rate of 10.43 percent. The rate is considerably higher than earlier in the pandemic but roughly in line with and slightly lower than data from the first three days of this week, when it has been between 12 and 13 percent.

High demand means that authorities are currently giving priority for PCR tests to people with symptoms of the virus or who are close contacts to confirmed cases.

A total of 665 people are now in hospital with the coronavirus, 10 fewer than on Wednesday. 178 were admitted during the last day but admissions were outweighed by discharges.

The figure for hospital patients with Covid-19 can include patients in hospital for unrelated reasons who have tested positive for the virus during their stay. These patients still require additional resources due to isolation protocols. SSI said on Thursday that it would from January separate the total for patients in hospital for treatment due to Covid-19.

High discharge numbers are an encouraging sign that patients in hospital with Covid-19 are admitted for shorter periods than in earlier phases of the pandemic, an analyst suggested.

“In the same period last year we had around 4,500 infections per day, which resulted in 900 admitted patients [at the peak, ed.],” Eskild Petersen, professor of infectious diseases at Aarhus University, told news wire Ritzau.

“If you compare today’s admission numbers to the same period last year, it’s clear that we no longer get so ill from the corona virus. That is naturally also thanks to the vaccines,” Petersen said.

The professor also noted that some data suggest the Omicron variant, now dominant in Denmark, does not cause as severe disease as earlier variants.

Around 80 percent of positive tests in Denmark are currently caused by the variant.

READ ALSO: How will Danish New Year’s Eve be different – and the same – in 2021?

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COVID-19 ALERT

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.

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