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What is Denmark’s Covid-19 testing strategy for the winter?

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
What is Denmark’s Covid-19 testing strategy for the winter?
A leaflet outlining Denmark's autumn/winter 2022 Covid-19 strategy, entitled "Speed, effectiveness and confidence". Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish health authorities on Wednesday presented the country’s plan for testing for Covid-19 during the next autumn and winter, when a new wave of the coronavirus is expected.

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The testing strategy for the latter months of 2022 will rely more on PCR testing than rapid antigen or “quick test” centres, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said at a briefing on Wednesday.

At the briefing, 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

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In 2020 and 2021, Denmark administered huge quantities of Covid-19 tests to its residents through a combination of municipal PCR test centres and rapid antigen testing at separate centres, which were run by private companies awarded contacts by the state.

The rapid test centres were eventually phased out in favour of home antigen tests.

Since March this year, health authorities have advised that Covid-19 testing is only recommended if there is a “special medical reason” for doing so.

This winter will see capacity at PCR test centres upscaled in response to rising case numbers, with rapid test centres not expected to be used, Heunicke said on Wednesday.

“We be able to quickly upscale to 200,000 daily PCR tests if this becomes necessary,” Heunicke said.

Testing will remain an important part of the national Covid-19 strategy because it will speed up treatment for vulnerable and elderly people who contract Covid-19, the minister said.

Denmark will also be able to genome sequence 4,000 Covid-19 tests weekly, which will enable new variants or subvariants of the coronavirus to be detected.

A new subvariant of the Omicron variant, BA. 5, is currently spreading in Denmark and recently became the dominant form. It currently comprises 59 percent of positive tests, according to Heunicke.

READ ALSO: Omicron subvariant now dominant in Denmark

Current infection numbers remain at a relatively low level, the health minister stressed at Wednesday’s briefing.

Health authorities envisage three possible scenarios for future waves of Covid-19, he said.

In the first of these, a new subvariant of the Omicron variant spreads but is not expected to have a greater effect on the health services than the variant did last winter.

The early months of 2022 saw Covid-related ICU admissions remain limited and social restrictions were lifted despite high case numbers with the transmissible Omicron variant.

In a second scenario, a new variant comparable to the Delta variant, which caused more severe illness, emerges. In that scenario, protection of elderly and vulnerable people would be more important, Heunicke said.

In the third scenario, a new variant that escapes community immunity breaks out.

Which of the three scenarios will become reality in Denmark in coming months is uncertain, Heunicke said.

The three situations are very different but all considered by the government strategy which aims to respond “quickly and effectively” with the objective of avoiding lockdowns and restrictions, he said.

READ ALSO: Danish PM expects coming winter without Covid-19 lockdowns

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