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COVID-19 RULES

When are Covid-19 home tests used in Denmark?

Home tests for Covid-19 are to be offered to school children and staff across Denmark as part of the government’s strategy to keep schools open.

Home or
Home or "self" tests for Covid-19 are to be offered at schools in Denmark from January 5th 2022 as part of the strategy to control transmission of the coronavirus. File photo: Erik Johansen/NTB/Ritzau Scanpix

With twice weekly testing advised for children and staff at schools by health authorities, parents will be offered free home testing kits as of January 5th.

Regular testing, including with the home tests, is one of a number of key tools which can be used to help keep schools open amid high current national infection numbers, education minister Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil said on Tuesday.

All children from first grade up, along with staff, are encouraged to test twice weekly for Covid-19.

Parents are offered home testing kits for this purpose, should they wish to use them, although they can also continue to use the testing centres of they prefer.

While home tests will be offered for free at schools, they can also be purchased in Denmark at some pharmacies and online.

Home testing for Covid-19 has not been as widely used in Denmark so far during the pandemic in comparison to other countries – for example the United Kingdom, where it is common to hear references to “LFTs” (lateral flow tests or rapid antigen tests for Covid-19, which are taken at home) before gatherings or for screening purposes.

Instead, high capacity for both municipal PCR testing and rapid antigen testing by contracted private companies at test centres has sought to meet Denmark’s screening and testing demands.

In addition to PCR and rapid test centres, home testing kits can be used in Denmark provided they have the CE mark, according to the country’s official Covid-19 information page coronasmitte.dk.

The official site advises use of the home tests in situations including “prior to a larger party or if you cannot avoid being with a lot of people”.

They can also be used if you “are to be with a person at increased risk of serious illness with Covid-19” and for school testing, it states.

A negative home test does not provided a valid coronapas (Covid-19 health pass), which must currently be shown at bars, restaurants and cafes among other settings.

If a home or “self test” returns a positive result, a PCR test must be taken “as soon as possible” to confirm the result.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Denmark could return to ‘normal life in two months’

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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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