Covid-19 no longer given special status in Denmark

Denmark will from next month no longer class Covid-19 as being “dangerous to public health”, meaning the government will have fewer powers to place social restrictions related to the virus.

Covid-19 no longer given special status in Denmark
Covid-19 will be classed as a normal infectious disease in Denmark from April 1st. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

There is no longer cause to class Covid-19 as being “dangerous to public health” or an alment farlig sygdom, the Danish Health Authority said in a statement.

Under Denmark’s Epidemic Law, the government can introduce certain public restrictions in response to illnesses considered a danger to public health. These include asking individuals to isolate or sharing personal information between different authorities.

This will no longer be valid when the classification expires from April 1st.

Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm said the decision reflected that “the disease no longer presents a significant threat to society”.

That does not mean Covid-19 has gone away completely, he also said.

“There will still be a need to protect against serious illness with Covid-19. From now on, that will be alongside other infectious diseases like influenza,” he said.

The new rating comes as the extent of serious disease caused by Covid-19 has fallen significantly compared to earlier stages of the epidemic, according to the Danish Health Authority.

High vaccination rates are part of the reason serious illness with the disease has become limited, Brostrøm said.

The Epidemic Law sets out three categories for diseases: critical threat to society (samfundskritisk sygdom), dangerous to public health (alment farlig sygdom) and infectious diseases (smitsomme sygdomme).

Until January 31st 2022, Covid-19 was given the first and most severe of those three ratings (it was also briefly downgraded in autumn 2021).

A disease is considered a “critical threat” when it threatens the functions of society as a whole, by for instance, overwhelming the health system. In such instances, the government has the farthest-reaching options for intervention, including bans on people gathering, closure of schools, health passes, and mandating use of face masks, provided this is not opposed by a majority in parliament’s representative epidemic committee (epidemiudvalg).

The Health Authority can change the categorisation again at a later date, for example if a new variant emerges and worsens the situation with the virus.

However, the decision to rate a disease as a critical threat to society rest with the Ministry of Health.

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Danish hospital made 293 cancer patients wait too long for surgery

Some 293 bowel cancer patients at Aarhus University Hospital waited longer than they should have to undergo surgery.

Danish hospital made 293 cancer patients wait too long for surgery

The Central Jutland health authority, which administrates the hospital in Aarhus, gave the figure in a review it released on Thursday.

The admission from the regional health board comes after broadcaster DR had reported that 182 patients with serious bowel cancer had waited too long for an operation at Aarhus University Hospital (AUH).

The period covered by DR’s reporting is May to December 2022, while the figure from Region Central Jutland is for January 2022 until February 2023.

Danish law requires cancer patients to be operated on within two weeks of the decision to operate being made.

But the Region Central Jutland review shows that the surgery deadline for patients at the department for stomach and bowel surgery at AUH was exceeded by up to 56 days.

On average, the two-week waiting time was exceeded by an average of 12.7 days for the 293 patients, according to the review.

“AUH cannot rule out that the extra waiting time for operations has caused a deterioration of disease in some of the patients who waited longer than the maximum waiting times,” the review states.

The review was ordered by the Danish Health Authority after the waiting time issue was reported by DR last weekend.

AUH’s stomach and bowel surgery is highly specialised to a degree that some patients with advanced bowel cancer cannot be treated anywhere else in Denmark, according to news wire Ritzau.

Failure to operate within deadlines is primarily a result of a shortage of nurses at the department, according to the review.

“The shortage of nurses has meant that it was necessary to remove beds for the entirety of 2022 at Stomach and Bowel Surgery, AUH,” it states.

The executive director of Region Central Jutland, Helene Bilsted Probst, writes in the review that the authority “looks on this matter very seriously”.

A number of measures have been initiated to ensure the department complies with waiting times, the review also says.

Region Central Jutland is set to meet with Danish Health Authority officials over the matter on Friday. Possible national measures will reportedly be discussed at the meeting, including a potential plan to ensure highly specialised surgical procedures can be conducted at more than one hospital in Denmark.

READ ALSO: What exactly is wrong with the Danish health system?