Denmark on brink of returning to pre-Covid normality

Denmark on brink of returning to pre-Covid normality


Denmark will reopen almost completely on Friday and will phase out use of its domestic coronavirus passport and even face masks over the summer as it aims to be one of the first European countries to return fully to normal from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Denmark’s political parties agreed on Tuesday that public-sector workplaces, universities, sports and music clubs, zoos, theme parks and saunas would open up again from Friday. Only nightclubs will remain closed, according to one opposition leader.

Countries across the EU have been gradually lifting coronavirus restrictions this week in the hope that accelerating vaccination programmes will allow a speedier return to normal life — although epidemiologists have warned that the shift may be coming too soon and progress could reverse.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke said Denmark was “in a very favourable place” in the pandemic despite a small rise in recent Covid-19 cases, and that its mass testing capabilities and the possibility of local lockdowns enabled it to push ahead with more reopening.

The Scandinavian country’s coronavirus passport, which has been crucial in the early stages of the reopening, will be phased out from June for everything apart from foreign travel, with visitors to libraries and sports clubs from Friday not needing to show the document.

Face masks will be gone by August at the latest, according to the cross-party agreement, with a full plan to be unveiled next month.

A shop worker in Aalborg. Denmark’s vaccination rate is slightly above the EU average © Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP

While many European countries have a gradual reopening plan in place, Greece and parts of Spain, such as the capital Madrid, are already almost completely open. In Switzerland, where the vaccination rate lags behind EU averages, most restrictions on what is allowed to open will be lifted at the end of the month.

Denmark’s vaccination rate is slightly above the EU average but well behind the likes of the UK, Malta, Hungary and Iceland. All adults are expected to be fully vaccinated by the end of August.

Soren Riis Paludan, a professor of biomedicine at Aarhus University, said health experts in Denmark were divided over the speed of the reopening. Yet he added that, with all those aged over 70 vaccinated and a low death rate, “this reopening makes sense . . . All in all, I think we will see a rise in the number of infected but not much increase in hospitalised or deaths”.

From Friday, 20 per cent of workers — predominantly in the public sector — will be able to return to the office; half can return from June 14, and everyone from August 1. All students in higher and further education will be able to return to physical teaching from Friday.

Denmark has made heavier use of its “coronapas” than any other European country to open up cafés, restaurants, and museums. But there has been increasing pushback from opposition centre-right politicians on the need to check passports for every visit.

Tuesday’s agreement extends the use of the passport to people who had their first jab more than two weeks ago, not just the fully vaccinated and those with a negative test result in the past 72 hours.

The Scandinavian country has tested more than 10 per cent of its population on some days as part of its reopening efforts.



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