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 face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”