The difference cannot be overlooked from the first Corona press conference on March 11, 2020 on Wednesday evening. At the time, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced a strict lockdown and border closure after Denmark’s first Covid 19 illnesses with a sad expression. This time, the Social Democrat made clear in a calm mood that all Corona restrictions would be lifted after January 31. And that is possible, despite the fact that up to 47,000 new infections with the virus have been recorded every day for weeks.
From February you can breathe deeply again. There is no need to wear masks or observe distance rules in public places. Nightlife, especially in nightclubs, can return again without restrictions, and bar and restaurant operators no longer have to urge their guests to take their last bite and last sip by 10pm – they can return during normal business hours.
The Coronapass, which has been an “open sesame” for seamless participation in social life since last year, will only be suitable for overseas trips. In addition, from February 5, Covid-19 will lose its status as a “serious social disease”, which means that new restrictions can only be re-imposed with the approval of Parliament. Denmark’s new entry regulations are still being prepared and will result in a 2G or 3G rule.
Frederiksen explained the seemingly contradictory step taken by her government in light of the number of infections with two facts. About 80 percent of the population has already been vaccinated twice against Covid and 60 percent have already received the booster vaccination. The high rate of vaccination and natural immunization caused by infection leads to a herd effect, which makes it possible to lift restrictions. Mass vaccinations also mean that the disease always has a mild course. The overload on the health care system, especially hospital intensive care units, that many feared at the onset of the omicron variant did not occur. On the day the restrictions were announced, 938 people diagnosed with Covid-19 were in Danish hospitals, 40 of whom were in intensive care units. The Danish health care system has sufficient capacity for this size and has not reached its limits before.
respect for proportion
According to Prime Minister Frederiksen, continued restrictions would not be commensurate with the public health risks. Her dramatic tone faded accordingly. While Frederiksen spoke of a fatal tragedy in April 2020 regarding Covid-19, the disease in the current stadium is being treated at the same level as influenza, which also causes fatalities.
The new assessment is based not only on the fact that the now dominant omicron variant is highly contagious, but the disease course is also relatively mild. Mass infection also makes it nearly impossible to trace the infection. In addition, according to the ancient rules, several hundred thousand people must be in seclusion in the small kingdom at all times. Even if you exclude children and retirees as well as many who continue to work at home despite illness, a significant portion of the working population should not be able to go to work. For this reason at least, the recommended isolation period after a positive test has already been reduced to four days.
At the same time, the current high number of infections also shows that the majority of the population no longer sees COVID-19 as an immeasurable threat. In contrast to the lockdown in the spring of 2020, when the streets were swept empty and people literally gave each other a wide sidewalk, the new restrictions since the beginning of December have only been followed loosely and reluctantly anyway. In the days and hours before the decision to lift the restrictions, only teachers’ unions and left-wing parties – which include many voters in this spectrum – warned against such a move. The fact that the omicron variant spreads particularly strongly among children ultimately outweighs the effects of the restrictions on other parts of society.
The summary is still pending
Corona also has winners and losers in Denmark. Many migrants have benefited from the measures taken to combat the epidemic. Unemployment among this group in all age groups is much higher than that of native Danes. Corona testing and vaccinations have given immigrants a number of jobs in particular. It remains to be seen if this will reduce prejudice and make it easier for them to gain access to the job market in the future.
In the coming months, Danish authorities will take a detailed look at the cost of restrictions on work life and society, and compensation for the economy and culture, for the general public. In general, Denmark has weathered the crisis well. The national debt has only risen slightly, exports are booming and the demand for workers is high.