Covid: Denmark tries again to return “to life before” – Sciences et Avenir

Despite the omnipresence of Covid-19, Denmark this Tuesday becomes the first country in the European Union to lift all its restrictions, considering itself capable of doing so thanks to its high vaccination coverage and the lower severity of the Omicron variant.

After a first two-month attempt between September and November, masks, health passes and reduced openings of bars and restaurants will once again be ancient history in the Nordic kingdom.

“I’m very happy that it ends tomorrow. It’s good for the city life, the nightlife, being able to be outside longer,” Thea Skovgaard, a 17-year-old high school student, told AFP on Monday.

Nightclubs reopen on Tuesday, meters also disappear. Very few restrictions remain for entry into the country, only for unvaccinated travelers arriving from a country outside the Schengen area.

An almost total relaxation that comes as new cases in Denmark are around 40,000 to 50,000 every day. That is a record level of almost 1% of the 5.8 million inhabitants of the Scandinavian country.

“We have an extremely high number of adults vaccinated with three doses, that’s our secret,” says epidemiologist Lone Simonsen, a professor at Roskilde University near Copenhagen.

More than 60% of Danes received a booster dose, compared to just under 45% in the rest of the European Union. Including recent cases of Covid, health authorities estimate that 80% of the population is protected against severe forms.

“With Omicron, which is not a serious disease for those vaccinated, we think it is reasonable to lift the restrictions,” continues Ms Simonsen.

The circulation of the variant should also lead to longer-lasting immunity, which allows it to better withstand future waves, the academic estimates.

After two years of the pandemic, this strategy is supported by the majority of the country. 64% of Danes trust the government’s health policy, according to a survey published Monday by the daily Politiken.

– To empower –

It’s time for everyone to take responsibility, says Ms Simonsen.

“Without a health pass, there is a change of responsibility: the Danes are increasingly using self-tests at a time when the number of available antigens is decreasing. This way, symptomatic people will know if they are infected and can stay home. if necessary,” says the epidemiologist.

It is still “recommended” to isolate for four days in the event of a positive test, according to the National Health Agency, but contact cases are no longer forced to quarantine.

The use of a mask and the sanitary pass is also recommended for visits to the hospital.

Optimistic, the authorities do not count on new closures but advocate caution.

“We cannot give guarantees when it comes to biology,” admitted the head of government, Mette Frederiksen, who announced last week this return “to life before.”

“It’s very nice that it’s over, but will we continue to live without restrictions now? I doubt it,” admits Cille Hjort, a fast food restaurant saleswoman, impatient to hear her customers speak without a mask.

It is not the first time that the Scandinavian kingdom has opted for a return to normality. On September 10, Denmark lifted the restrictions before reintroducing the health pass in early November.

Closed just before Christmas, museums, cinemas and performance halls were able to reopen in early January.

Faced with a lower level of hospitalizations in intensive care than in previous waves, several European countries such as France or the United Kingdom have announced a considerable relaxation or the lifting of most of their restrictions, despite very high levels of cases.

“Two years into the pandemic, populations in most countries have reached high levels of immunity, either through the vaccine or naturally. That’s how it ends if judged by what ‘we’ve seen in pandemics in the past,'” concludes Ms Simonsen.

On a European scale, the WHO estimates that 73% of the population has contracted Covid since the beginning of 2020.

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