Farewell masks, health passes and other gauges: Denmark returned to “life before” on Tuesday despite a record level of Covid-19 cases and calls for caution from the World Health Organization.
After a first attempt of two months between September and November, the restrictions have again become – temporarily? – ancient history in the Nordic kingdom which considers itself protected by its high vaccination coverage and the lesser severity of the Omicron variant.
Despite an appeal on Tuesday from the boss of the WHO not to declare victory too quickly and not to be satisfied with vaccines to fight the Covid, in Copenhagen, the time has come to relax.
“We see people’s faces”
“It’s quite bizarre, compared to France, to take the metro without a mask,” rejoices Marie Touflet, a 23-year-old student. “It’s still very pleasant because you see people’s faces and you feel like you’re living a normal life again.”
Very few restrictions remain in force on entry into the country but only for unvaccinated travelers arriving from a country outside the Schengen area.
“For me, the best thing is not having to wear a mask anymore. At least now we have a choice, if we want to protect ourselves or if we want to be free,” remarks Natalia Chechetkina, a 31-year-old receptionist.
End of the measures… despite contamination records
An almost total relaxation which apparently comes at the wrong time, while 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.
Despite this, the lifting of restrictions is the subject of a broad political and scientific consensus, judging that the epidemic situation has changed. “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.
More than 60% of Danes received a booster dose – compared to just under 45% in the rest of the European Union.
According to an official from the Danish Infectious Diseases Control Authority (SSI), the lifting of restrictions comes at the same time as the peak of contamination in the Copenhagen region, the most affected in the country.
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 poll published Monday by the daily Politiken.
“A bit of an experience”
For Eskild Petersen, professor of infectiology, the Danish strategy is “a bit of an experiment”.
“I would have liked to have waited before ditching the mask and opening the nightlife for 10-14 days after the change in the quarantine rules”, which were shortened, he told TV2 .
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”.