Danish disease agency hits back over country’s Covid deaths data

International attention on Denmark after the country lifted its Covid-19 restrictions has resulted in the country’s infectious disease agency taking to Twitter to correct what it says is misinterpretation of data.

Denmark's State Serum Institute
Denmark's State Serum Institute has chosen to tweet in English in response to international discussion of the country's Covid-19 data. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish infectious disease agency State Serum Institute has tweeted several times in English in recent days in response to criticism of the country’s decision to lift Covid-19 restrictions, including by an American epidemiologist with over 600,000 followers on Twitter.

The State Serum Institute (SSI), the equivalent of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has consistently tweeted in English since February 10th in more than 20 different Twitter threads about the Denmark’s Covid-19 data, according to Journalisten. That marks a change in policy for the public institution, which normally communicates in Danish.

Notable tweets by SSI include those made in response to Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard-educated epidemiologist based in the United States who, in one tweet, accused the Danish government of “losing its frigging mind” and “gaslighting” the country’s population over its decision at the beginning of February to largely end Covid-19 restrictions.

“Dear Eric, once again we would like to stress that the numbers you are sharing with your followers shows (sic.) deaths with (Covid)-19. Not deaths because of (Covid)-19. We would recommend that you read our weekly report for more information on the subject,” SSI tweeted in response to Feigl-Ding.

In its decision to lift restrictions, which was based on recommendations made by the Danish Epidemic Commission, the government cited high vaccination rates, the low severity of disease caused by the Omicron variant and high immunity in the community as justifying an end to restrictions.

The number of patients in hospital with a positive Covid-19 test has since increased, but the number of ICU patients who have the virus has remained stable and is lower than it was at the beginning of January.


Other staff from SSI have also tweeted threads in English to address claims made by Feigl-Ding and other commenters relating to the number of Covid-19 deaths registered in Denmark.

The US epidemiologist claimed that Covid-19 deaths in Denmark were “exponentially surging” as a result of restrictions being lifted.

An SSI chart was posted showing a distinction between deaths caused by Covid-19 and deaths “with” Covid-19 and not caused by it, based on death certificate information.

The SSI chart shows the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 to be stable.

The disease control agency’s head of media communications, Flemming Platz, told Journalisten that since restrictions had been lifted “there has been extreme international attention (on Denmark) and it is important that the population can access and understand the things we are doing”.

“We can see on Twitter that many don’t understand our situation [the reasoning for lifting restrictions, ed.] and they are reading our numbers incorrectly, and that is of course also because of language difficulties. So they can’t read the explanations we have,” he said.

“It’s a unique situation. We have unprecedented international attention at the moment. We think it’s our obligation to ensure that the knowledge comes out,” he said.

Member comments

  1. Good to see the Danish government respond so quickly! Misinformation can spread quite rapidly these days, and it is important to correct it as soon as it is spotted. Though I do wonder how many of these Twitter followers saw the corrections.

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Covid-19: Virus remains on downward trend in Denmark in latest report

The number of Covid-19 infections in Denmark is still declining, as has been the trend for some weeks.

Covid-19: Virus remains on downward trend in Denmark in latest report

In addition to confirmed cases, the number of PCR tests administered to check for the virus is also falling. Authorities recently announced that PCR testing capacity would be halved, before a strategy for testing next winter is announced later this year.

The continued falloff in cases was one of the trends noted in a new report from the infectious disease agency, State Serum Institute (SSI). The report is based on data from the most recent week.

During the period covered by the report, the number of new cases of Covid-19 fell by 18 percent, meaning 82 in 100,000 residents of Denmark tested positive for Covid-19.

The number of PCR tests fell by 14 percent during the same period, with around 7,000 tests administered each day.

“Transmission in the community is falling in general and across all age groups,” SSI medical head of department Rebecca Legarth told news wire Ritzau.

The decline in number of new recorded cases may be linked to the reduction in recorded number of hospital patients with a positive Covid test.

Last week saw the number of hospitalised people with Covid-19 fall by 23 percent. Not all people in hospital who have the virus are being treated for it, with their hospitalisation being for other reasons in many cases.

Denmark ended its Covid-19 restrictions in February and March, while health authorities also changed recommendations on when a PCR test should be taken.

In March, the Danish Health Authority changed its recommendations on when people with suspected Covid-19 should be tested for the coronavirus, with testing now only recommended if there is a “special medical reason” for doing so.