Danish PM expects coming winter without Covid-19 lockdowns

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday that the Danish government and health authorities do not expect severe social restrictions such as lockdowns to be necessary should Covid-19 cases surge during the coming winter.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Covid-19 lockdowns are not expected by authorities during the winter of 2022/23. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Frederiksen outlined expectations at a briefing during which Denmark’s strategy for responding to an expected resurgence of the coronavirus during the colder months was presented.

READ ALSO: Denmark to offer all over-50s autumn Covid-19 vaccine

“We both hope and are working towards us not having to go through lockdowns, and that applies to all parts of our society,” she said.

Restrictions and lockdowns were used in Denmark during waves of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. March and April 2020, as well as a period stretching from December 2020 to February 2021, saw the strictest rules in place, including widespread closures of non-essential stores, entertainment and culture and limits on public assembly.

The winter of 2021-2022 also saw some rules in place including face masks, Covid passes and limited opening hours for bars and restaurants, but these were fully lifted in early February this year.

Frederiksen said that she did not expect the strictest of those interventions – lockdowns – to be repeated this winter, but stressed nothing could be guaranteed.

Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing was the first of its kind by the Danish government for several months.

The Prime Minister said that lockdowns are not expected to be necessary because of the high rate of vaccination amongst Danish residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

She did not comment on whether a lesser measure such as face masks would be required again at some point.

“The most important tool is still the vaccines. They showed their value last winter,” she said.

“But we also know that the protection given by vaccines fall off over time and that health authorities expect a new (Covid-19) wave,” she said.

Senior government and health officials alike guaranteed at the briefing that no restrictions of any kind would return this summer.

Recent weeks have seen Covid-19 cases climbing in Denmark due to the emergence of a new subvariant of the Omicron variant.

This summer will be the first since 2019 with all major music festivals, including the Roskilde Festival, the largest in northern Europe. Denmark is also set to host the first stage of the Tour de France, an event expected to attract many spectators.

“As far as the risk to Denmark is concerned, there are no thoughts on our part of restrictions on the big events,” Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm said.

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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.