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COVID-19 RULES

Denmark ‘could lift all’ Covid-19 restrictions at end of January

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is expected to announce that Danish Covid-19 restrictions will end on January 31st, according to reports.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a previous press briefing. Frederiksen could announce an end to domestic Covid-19 restrictions on January 31st.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a previous press briefing. Frederiksen could announce an end to domestic Covid-19 restrictions on January 31st. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The end of restrictions could mean all domestic curbs end although travel rules may remain in place, according to reports from several media outlets. Restrictions are currently set to expire on January 31st.

Frederiksen will announce the decision at a government briefing on Wednesday evening, newspaper Jyllands-Posten writes, citing anonymous sources.

The Prime Minister’s office told news wire Ritzau that the scheduling for the briefing was yet to be confirmed.

In addition to lifting restrictions, Frederiksen is expected to announce that Covid-19 will no longer be categorised as a critical threat to society.

The classification, currently scheduled to expire on January 5th, is important because it impacts the ability of the government to introduce restrictions aimed at curbing spread of the virus.

READ ALSO: Why is ‘critical threat’ status of Covid-19 important in Denmark?

The independent Epidemic Commission has recommended the removal of restrictions, according to Jyllands-Posten.

Another Danish newspaper, Politiken, reports that the Commission cites a change in the nature of the Covid-19 epidemic in Denmark as justifying the end of restrictions while infection numbers are higher than at any previous time during the last two years.

“We have a new epidemic situation where high and increasing transmissions do not transfer to admissions to hospitals to the same extent as before,” the Commission said in its recommendations according to Politiken.

Travel restrictions including entry testing and quarantine rules should, however, be extended for a further four weeks, the Commission said according to broadcaster TV2.

READ ALSO: Danish travel rules: What’s the difference between ‘risk’ and ‘high risk’ countries?

While daily infection totals have continued to grow in recent weeks, the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 has not increased by a corresponding amount and the number of patients admitted to ICUs has begun to decline.

An additional 46,950 new cases of the virus were registered on Tuesday with hospital patients with Covid-19 up to 918. This includes 222 people admitted to psychiatric wards who have Covid-19 but it is not the cause of their admission.

44 patients at Danish hospitals are under intensive care treatment for Covid-19, with 28 of them receiving ventilator treatment.

The Danish Health Authority on Monday announced an easing of self-isolation rules following a positive Covid-19 test.

READ ALSO: What are Denmark’s new rules for isolation after testing positive for Covid-19?

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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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