Denmark has become the first EU member state to lift all coronavirus curbs on Tuesday despite surging Omicron cases. The government believes its massive vaccination drive alone would allow it to cope with the more contagious, yet milder variant of the virus.
Starting from February 1, the Scandinavian country has stopped categorizing Covid-19 as a “socially critical disease,” ditching facemasks and Covid-19 passes.
Limitations on indoor gatherings have been removed, with restaurants and bars returning to their usual working hours. Nightclubs are also going to reopen across Denmark late on Tuesday.
“We can… find the smile again,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said as she announced the return “to life as we knew it before corona” last week.
She acknowledged that lifting restrictions could seem “strange and paradoxical” when the country of 5.8 million people has been seeing between 40,000 and 50,000 new Covid-19 infections per day. But the PM explained that the number of hospitalizations has been steadily decreasing due to Omicron’s milder nature and a high vaccination rate among the population.
More than 60% of Danes have already received the third booster vaccine shot, compared to an average of below 45% elsewhere in the EU. Together with those recently recovered, some 80% of the Danish public should be currently protected from the virus, according to the estimations by the health authorities.
“With Omicron not being a severe disease for the vaccinated, we believe it is reasonable to lift restrictions,” epidemiologist Lone Simonsen of the University of Roskilde told AFP. She also said that the wide spread of the mutant strain will likely lead to a “more robust and long-lasting immunity,” which would minimize the impact of future coronavirus waves on the country.
Denmark had already attempted to lift all Covid-19 restrictions last September, but was forced to reinstate some curbs two months later due to a spike in cases.