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COVID-19 RULES

Denmark confirms plan to lift Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st

Denmark plans to lift its Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st despite record infections, as its high vaccination rate is deemed sufficient against the milder Omicron variant, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Denmark has confirmed it will end Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st.
Denmark has confirmed it will end Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st. File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

If a parliamentary commission approves the government’s proposal later Wednesday, Denmark would become the first European Union country to lift curbs despite the Omicron wave sweeping the continent, according to a survey of news wire AFP’s bureaus.

“I would like… Covid-19 to no longer be categorised as a disease dangerous to society as of February 1st”, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

That would lead to the de facto lifting of all domestic restrictions, including the use of a vaccine pass, mask-wearing and early closings for bars and restaurants.

READ ALSO: Government advisors say Denmark can end Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st

Denmark would however keep some border measures in place for another four weeks, including tests and/or quarantine depending on travellers’ country of origin.

The Scandinavian country previously lifted all restrictions on September 10th, before reintroducing the use of the coronapas Covid health pass at the beginning of November and later introducing new restrictions.

In neighbouring Sweden, authorities announced that current restrictions would remain in place for at least another two weeks. 

However, health minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference that the “majority of restrictions” could be removed on February 9th if “the situation has stabilised then.”

Faced with a lower level of hospitalisations than in previous waves, several European countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, have announced the lifting or a considerable reduction of their restrictions in recent days, despite record or very high cases. 

In England, the only legal restriction in place from Thursday will be for people who test positive to isolate.

In Denmark, health authorities ask people who test positive to isolate for four days.

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

The country of 5.8 million people registered 46,000 new cases on Tuesday, a very high level, “but our current assessment is that the epidemic will soon peak”, Heunicke wrote on Twitter.

“We have good control over hospitalisation rates, thanks to a combination of 3.5 million Danes revaccinated and the less severe nature of Omicron.”

More than 60 percent of Danes have received a third dose, one month ahead of the health authorities’ schedule.

While the number of people hospitalised with a Covid infection continues to rise and has now exceeded 900, health authorities said the situation was under control.

At the beginning of January, the number of hospitalisations was up by 16 percent even though cases were up by 35 percent.

In addition, the number of people in intensive care has gone down, from 74 in early January to 44 on Wednesday.

The Danish Health Authority said that 35 percent of those in hospital with Covid were actually in hospital for another diagnosis.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Who is eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine dose in Denmark and when?

Public health officials in Denmark say a low turnout for the second round of Covid booster shots — for most people, their fourth jab — has made them concerned that many don’t realise they’re eligible.

Who is eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine dose in Denmark and when?

 Danish authorities have hardly clear on whether to offer fourth Covid jabs and to whom, since the beginning of 2022.

In January, the government announced that fourth shots would be given to the very elderly and other high risk populations— but that decision was reversed just four weeks later and the fourth Covid dose program was ended.

At a June 22nd press conference, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced plans for a more general booster program in the autumn and added that the ‘particularly vulnerable’ would be eligible for new doses the following week. 

When the Covid vaccination program began in early 2021, Denmark estimated the number of ‘selected patients with particularly increased risk’ that should be prioritised for vaccination at 240,000. But in the month since Frederiksen’s announcement, only about 3,500 people have come in for a fourth jab. Experts say that’s in no small part over confusion as to who is ‘particularly vulnerable.’

Indeed, the Danish Health Authority website doesn’t appear to currently provide a list of conditions that qualify for a second booster and instead refers readers to their primary care provider. That’s unfortunate since even general practitioners are finding it hard to determine who the rules say can get a fourth shot, Danish broadcaster DR reports.

The failure to resolve the issue is putting many patients at risk, some public health experts worry. “With the spread we are seeing with Covid at the moment, I think the Health Authority needs to be very clear about who should get the fourth prick now and who should wait,” Torben Mogensen, chairman of the Lung Association, told DR. 

READ ALSO: Danish health minister says further Covid-19 vaccinations could ward off restriction

What we know for sure 

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women are already eligible for fourth doses
  • People with suppressed immune systems are already eligible 
  • Approximately September 15: fourth doses begin for people in care homes and among ‘particularly vulnerable’ elderly people 
  • October 1st: fourth doses begin for everyone 50 years of age and and over 

Your primary care provider (the one on your yellow card) can refer you for a vaccination appointment, as can doctors at hospitals. 

What factors will your doctor consider? 

Guidelines provided to doctors by the Danish Health Authority ask them to weigh the patient’s age, risk of serious course of illness if infected, their presumed immunity status based on recent infection, and their overall risk of infection based on their living conditions (strangely, crowded living conditions and living in a sparsely populated area both suggest you may need a booster shot). 

…and now for the riddles

In lieu of a list of conditions that might qualify a patient for an early fourth shot, doctors have been offered a series of ‘example patients’ that are eligible for a booster  under the new rules. 

  • 45-year-old woman with reduced immune system due to haematological cancer
  • 74-year-old man with severe obesity and heart failure, who has had recurring lower respiratory tract infections for the past six months and declining functional level
  • 65-year-old woman with severe obesity and diabetes with serious co-morbidities, e.g foot ulcers or chronic kidney failure
  • 82-year-old woman with rapid onset of functional loss (e.g. failing memory, reduced mobility and need for help with personal care) and beginning signs of malnutrition (eats too little, does not gain weight)
  • 23-year-old with cystic fibrosis with frequent pneumonia and hospitalisations
  • 50-year-old male with bowel cancer who has recently completed chemotherapy
  • 85-year-old man who lives with his children and grandchildren in a small home
  • 65-year-old woman who has been operated on for breast cancer and has diabetes, and who needs to travel to an area with high infection
  • 39-year-old resident of a social psychiatric residence, with heavy tobacco consumption, occasional alcohol overconsumption, overweight and in treatment with many different drugs

READ ALSO: Danish hospitals see rise in number of Covid patients 

It’s worth a call or message 

With a particularly nasty flu season on the horizon, public health experts say it’s worth a call, email, or message to your primary care provider if you have any reason to suspect you might be eligible for vaccination. 

“We know that infection rates have been rising both in Denmark and in Europe in recent weeks, and a new variant is on its way in,” Aarhus University professor emeritus of infectious diseases told DR.  “Then comes autumn, when we know that a respiratory virus spreads more than it does in summer. So there’s every reason to get that fourth jab if you’re in the vulnerable groups and it’s been more than six months since you had your third.” 

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