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COVID-19 RULES

Are any Covid-19 rules still in force in Denmark?

Denmark’s Covid-19 restrictions largely came to an end on Tuesday, but there are still a few rules and guidelines to be aware of.

Face masks are no longer required in Denmark with the exception of some social, health and elderly care settings.
Face masks are no longer required in Denmark with the exception of some social, health and elderly care settings. File photo: Bax Lindhardt/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark on Tuesday became the first EU country to lift all of its Covid restrictions amid the current Omicron wave of the virus.

That means the end of rules including requirements to wear face masks, present a valid coronapas (Covid-19 health pass) and limited opening hours for bars and restaurants.

A few rules have been kept in relation to face mask and coronapas use. These apply primarily in health and social care settings.

Elderly care homes and social facilities with vulnerable residents are asked to retain coronapas and face mask rules for visitors as far as possible.

Visitors to care and social facilities are asked to take a test prior to their visit and can be given a rapid antigen test which they can take in advance. Staff in the sector are asked to take a PCR test once a week (for vaccinated or previously infected persons) or twice a week (if not vaccinated or previously infected). They are also asked to take antigen tests prior to each shift at work.

The Danish Health Authority recommends face masks continue to be used in social and health care settings where there is close contact between staff and patients or persons at risk of serious illness with Covid-19, as well as to protect the sector in general by preventing outbreaks.

As such, masks should be used in both the public and private sphere if there is close contact with a person who could be at risk of serious illness if they are infected with Covid-19. This can be at hospitals and doctors’ surgeries and visits by health sector staff to patients’ own homes.

READ ALSO: Denmark returns to ‘life as we knew it’ as Covid-19 restrictions end despite Omicron

Travel restrictions were also eased on Tuesday, meaning people who can document vaccination with an EU approved vaccine, or who have been previously infected with Covid-19, will not have to test or quarantine on arrival in Denmark regardless of where in the world they are travelling from.

A few restrictions remain in place at the country’s borders, however.

People who are neither vaccinated nor previously infected must take a test for Covid-19 for entry to Denmark from EU or Schengen countries.

Unvaccinated people with no infection history travelling from outside the EU and Schengen area must also test and may be required to quarantine.

With restrictions now largely gone, people in Denmark are being urged to exercise personal responsibility.

“Without a Covid pass there will be a shift of responsibility”, epidemiologist Lone Simonsen of the University of Roskilde told news wire AFP.

Danes have increasingly used home tests to detect infection, but these are now being phased out and instead, anyone with symptoms is advised to stay home.

The Danish Health Authority currently recommends those who test positive to isolate for only four days provided they no longer have symptoms.

Meanwhile, contacts to confirmed cases no longer need to quarantine unless they have symptoms.

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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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