Denmark to take 'calculated risk' by easing COVID curbs in March

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark plans to allow shops and some schools to reopen in March in a much awaited move that could however send hospital coronavirus admissions soaring in coming months.

FILE PHOTO: View of the shopping street in the small Danish city of Elsinore, about an hour north of the Nordic country’s capital of Copenhagen, during a lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, on February 10, 2021. REUTERS/Tim Barsoe

Denmark, which has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, has seen general infection numbers drop after it introduced lockdown measures in December in a bid to curb a more contagious coronavirus variant.

In what the prime minister has called a “calculated risk”, the government will allow stores under 5,000 square metres to reopen, while outdoor leisure activities can resume with an upper limit of 25 people.

Schools in parts of the country will also be allowed to reopen, but will require students to test themselves twice a week.

The measures, which are based on recommendations from an expert advisory group, could send hospital admissions skyrocketing, the goverment said.

“More activity will also mean more infected and thus also more hospitalisations,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told a press conference, adding COVID-19 admissions could briefly peak at some 880 in mid-April, more than triple the current 247.

Reopening shops is expected to contribute more than 2 billion crowns ($326.92 million) to the Danish economy each month, Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen said on Wednesday.

“We have seen other countries that have gone too fast and lost control of the infection. This is a scenario we must avoid,” Wammen said.

A new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus, which has wrought havoc across Europe, became the dominant one in Denmark in February, responsible for more than half of all infections.

The variant has a reproduction value of 1.2, which means it is spreading. Denmark has registered a total of 208,556 infections and 2,343 deaths related to COVID-19.

(This story refiles to edit third paragraph)

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