Denmark ditched its COVID rules 2 months ago. Now cases are up—and restrictions are coming back

When Denmark removed the last of its coronavirus restrictions in September, the government noted it would “not hesitate to act quickly” if the situation took a turn for the worse. Turns out that was a sensible hedge.

Less than two months later, restrictions are indeed returning to Denmark. It’s not quite the two weeks that it took the Dutch government to change its mind earlier this year after making a “miscalculation” about the need for some lockdown measures, but it’s still a fairly speedy reconsideration. The exact measures are yet to be announced, but will likely include mask-wearing and restrictions on entering hospitality and leisure facilities.

Denmark’s infection count has been rising for weeks now, as is the case across much of Europe. While the continent’s latest wave is largely hitting the unvaccinated, Denmark has a fairly high vaccination rate of around three-quarters. Despite that fact, the country is seeing over 2,000 new infections daily, and it has a seven-day incidence rate of 253 infections per 100,000 people—that’s more than twice the rate it was experiencing when it decided to ditch restrictions.

In a Sunday Facebook post, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said her administration was following the situation with “increasing seriousness and concern.” She urged citizens to get the jab, noting that infections are spreading from the unvaccinated to elderly and other at-risk people who have been vaccinated, but who still need protection.

Frederiksen said health authorities would “soon” advise the government on new measures to hold back the virus’s spread.

Søren Brostrøm, director general of the Danish Health Authority, said Friday that the country’s parliament needed to back a new mandate for people to show their “coronapas” health pass when going to restaurants, concerts, and clubs. “It would be a good idea at this time,” he said.

The pass shows whether a person has been vaccinated, has had a recent negative test, or has recently recovered from COVID-19. The right-wing Conservative Party, Danish People’s Party, and Venstre oppose the reintroduction of a coronapas mandate, but the governing leftist coalition is in favor.

Eskild Petersen, a prominent infectious diseases professor at Aarhus University, has also called for a new mask mandate. “If we are to avoid closures of schools and the rest of society, we need to get ahead of things, and it is proven that both coronapas and face masks work against infection spread,” he said last week.

Although Denmark ended the last of its coronavirus restrictions a couple of months ago, there were few rules left by that point anyway. Thanks to strong early vaccine take-up, the country has for much of this year been more relaxed about the pandemic than many of its European peers. But now, it seems vaccine holdouts will help push the country back into restrictions.

Against union opposition, the shipping giant Maersk last week became the first major Danish company to introduce a vaccine mandate for in-office work—within Denmark and certain other countries, that is. Maersk said Friday that its wider encouragement of employee vaccination “will be a complex process across Maersk’s global footprint due to local variations in the legal and health policy landscape and in the pandemic’s status and vaccine availability.”

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