It took 548 days and a massive vaccination campaign, but Denmark has now become the first developed country to have no coronavirus-related restrictions in place. The Danish government has been gradually lifting all restrictions, the last one being the need to show proof of vaccination through an app to enter nightclubs.
Danish Health Minister said the pandemic “is under control” and that the country is in “a good place right now.” Nevertheless, he warned Denmark isn’t “out of the pandemic” and that the government would quickly reimpose measure if needed. The country of almost 6 million registered around 500 new cases of Covid-19 each day for the past week.
Denmark’s vaccination campaign has moved very fast since vaccines became available, currently with 76% of the population with one dose and 73% with both. This shows a big gap with other developed countries such as the United States (with 53% of its population fully vaccinated), or the United Kingdom, with 64%, or Germany, with 61%.
“Like many countries, Denmark has, throughout the pandemic, implemented public health and social measures to reduce transmission. But at the same time it has greatly relied on individuals and communities to comply voluntarily,” Catherine Smallwood, World Health Organization (WHO) Europe’s emergency officer, told France Press.
Riis Paludan, a professor of virology with the Aarhus University, told The Associated Press that Denmark could start easing restrictions once most of the citizens with 50 years old or older had the two shots. He agreed with the government’s decision to now lift all restrictions and anticipated the “door can be closed again if needed.”
Using a face mask on public transportation isn’t mandatory in Denmark since August 14. Night clubs (the last bastion of pandemic restrictions) reopened later on September 1st, also lifting back then restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in public and the requirement to show vaccination proof to be seated inside restaurants and to go to sporting events.
The government introduced in May a passport app with a QR code and a green bar if the person had been fully vaccinated or recently tested negative. A paper version as also available. People had to show the code before taking a bus or a flight or even going to the hairdressers. Acceptance of the scheme was wide, Paludan explained.
Michael Bang Petersen, a professor of political science at Aarhus University, recently carried out a study to look at behaviors and attitudes regarding the pandemic in eight countries, such as Denmark and France. He found trust in governments was critical for the acceptance of the vaccine, which ranged from 83% in Denmark to 47% in France.
“The basis for an open society is vaccinations. 86 % of all invited (from 12 years and up) have received 1+ dose. 96 % of everyone above 50 are fully vaccinated.” he tweeted last week. “Throughout the pandemic [Denmark] has had higher acceptance than many comparable countries. No mandates needed.”
The pandemic is now described by the Danish government as an “ordinary dangerous illness” and a few recommendations remain in place, such as distancing and using a face mask at airports or when going to the doctor’s, test centers or hospitals. The country also has strict restrictions in place for non-Danish citizens that want to visit the country.
Other European countries are also starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On July 19, the UK lifted most restrictions for England, but could impose a vaccination passport for entry in crowded venues. Sweden, which initially stood out for its response to the pandemic, will remove most restrictions at the end of the month.