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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Denmark’s infectious disease agency does not recommend Covid tests for China arrivals

Travellers from China should not need a negative Covid-19 test when arriving in Denmark, the national infectious disease control agency State Serum Institute recommended on Saturday, in an assessment sent to the Ministry of Health.

Denmark's infectious disease agency does not recommend Covid tests for China arrivals

In the assessment by the State Serum Institute (SSI), it was noted that there aren’t expected to be a large number of arrivals coming directly from China and that any tests would have a marginal affect on Danish epidemic control.

However SSI wrote that it was still important to keep an eye on new variants of Covid-19 and suggested that a sample of voluntary-based PCR tests could be introduced for travellers from China.

The assessment was requested by Denmark’s health minister Sophie Løhde, following a recommendation on Wednesday by European Union experts to tighten travel rules.

Infection rates in China are high after it abolished its ‘zero Covid’ policy in late 2022, although no precise numbers are available.

Several European countries, including France, Spain, Italy and the UK, had already introduced testing requirements, while Sweden on Thursday announced a similar step, as did Germany, with an added announcement on Saturday to discourage non-essential travel from Germany to China.

The United States, Canada, India, South Korea and Taiwan have also put testing rules in place.

Health minister Sophie Løhde also asked SSI to assess testing waste water from aircraft landed from China. SSI responded that there is limited experience in this.

SSI currently analyses samples from shared toilet tanks at four airports twice a week – Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aalborg and Billund. The method would have to be changed in order to detect new Covid-19 variants, which would take up to four weeks to implement, according to the assessment.

Løhde has informed the parliamentary parties about the assessment and has asked the Epidemic Commission for an advisory assessment, she said in a press release. Once this is done, the recommendations will be discussed.