Danish health officials have taken to social media to debunk grim claims that Covid hospitalizations and deaths are skyrocketing after almost all of its virus restrictions were lifted.
Experts from the State Serum Institute (SSI), the government agency responsible for pandemic preparedness, have publicly denied misinformation about the state of the outbreak in the Scandinavian country.
Daily Covid cases and hospitalizations hit record highs in February, while deaths nearly matched previous peaks and are trending higher.
But the agency has responded to the backlash and insists the rise in casualties is due to “accidental” cases, reflecting a trend seen in the UK.
Denmark became the first country in Europe to lift all domestic Covid restrictions at the beginning of the month, lifting rules on face coverings, vaccine passports and homework guidance. Only the rules of self-isolation remain.
Critics of the move England is about to take next week say it is dangerous because it puts vulnerable people at greater risk and increases the risk of a more serious variant.
Official Covid data from the Danish Statens Serum Institut (SSI) shows that daily confirmed infections (shown in the graph) have reached an all-time high since all restrictions were lifted on February 1. Nearly 60,000 people tested positive on February 7 – the most recent peak.
The number of infected patients admitted to hospitals every day in Denmark (shown in the graph) rose to its highest level in February, with 451 hospitalizations recorded on 7 February. However, government scientists said accidental hospitalizations — people who test positive but are mostly in the hospital for a different reason but included in the statistics — are behind the rise.
The daily death toll from Covid in Denmark, including all those who died within 30 days of a positive PCR test result, shows that deaths from the virus have nearly risen to levels seen last winter. On February 13, about 38 deaths were recorded, compared to 39 deaths on January 19, 2021.
Despite official data showing daily Covid deaths near an all-time high, the Danish Serum Institute, the government agency in charge of pandemic preparedness, took to Twitter to clarify that the figures, including all deaths “since” Covid are inflated due to record levels of infection.
Dr. Erik Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), accused the Danish government of being “crazy” by lifting Covid restrictions.
And Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at US-based Scripts Research, warned that the country’s Covid outbreak “doesn’t look good,” stressing that the daily death rate is “67 percent” from its previous peak and is on a “steep rise.”
WHAT IS THE COVID SITUATION IN DENMARK?
On February 1, Denmark became the first country in Europe to lift all Covid restrictions, lifting rules on face coverings, vaccine passports and work-from-home advice.
Since the move, daily Covid cases and hospitalizations hit record highs in February, while deaths nearly matched previous peaks and are trending higher.
Nearly 60,000 infections, 451 hospitalizations and 38 deaths were recorded per day at peaks over the past two weeks.
This data has given rise to scientists to argue that the country’s approach is not working.
But government scientists have argued that the number of accidental hospitalizations and virus deaths is rising as societies open up.
The country, which considers deaths from the virus a death within 30 days of a positive PCR test result, recorded 5.21 deaths per million people yesterday.
This was the highest daily figure since its peak last winter, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data statistical platform.
But SSI scientists said the figure includes all deaths among people infected with the virus, not those caused by the virus.
They said: “Since Omicron has become the dominant variant in Denmark, many people have become infected.
“The increase in the number of infected also makes it easier for a person to die a few days after infection, having nothing to do with Omicron infection.”
SSI said this means “an increase in the number of infected people will also lead to an increase in the number of people” counted as Covid deaths.
For exactly the same reason, scientists have also dismissed claims that “many people are hospitalized” due to Covid.
Official figures show that 300,000 people tested positive last week, but only 2,400 were hospitalized.
According to the government, four out of 10 people hospitalized with coronavirus are now mostly being treated for another reason.
SSI said the proportion of Covid patients hospitalized because they feel unwell due to the virus has been declining since July.
The agency also dismissed claims that Denmark had decided Covid “no longer exists” as “incorrect”.
Officials in Denmark lifted all Covid restrictions in the country on Feb. 1, lifting rules on face coverings, vaccine passports, and work-from-home guidance. Pictured: Passengers at Copenhagen Central Station on February 1 after Covid restrictions were lifted.
Data from Oxford University’s Our World in Data platform shows that Denmark had 7,839 Covid cases per million people on February 14. For comparison: 1,019 cases in the UK and 457 cases in the US per million people.
Hospitalization data compiled by Our World in Data shows that there were 470 Covid hospitalizations per million people in Denmark, compared to 230 hospitalizations in the US and 134 in the UK per million people.
Figures from Our World in Data show that Denmark recorded 5.2 Covid deaths per million people yesterday, with the death toll continuing to rise. Meanwhile, there have been 2.2 deaths from the virus among Britons and 6.8 deaths in the US per million people.
World in Data statistics show that 81.5 percent of the entire Danish population suffers from a double whammy. By comparison, 71.5% of Britons and 64.3% of Americans received two doses.
Covid is still circulating, but is not considered a “critical societal infection”, according to SSI.
The dominant strain of Omicron is milder than previous variants, and 81.5% of the population received two doses of the vaccine, which is “greatly protective against severe disease,” the report said.
“Therefore, Covid does not have such an impact on society and the population as it did earlier in a pandemic,” the scientists said.
This allowed the virus restrictions to be lifted on February 1, but according to SSI, “the Danish authorities fully acknowledge the presence of Covid.”
Danes are still advised to wear face masks and present vaccine passports at hospitals and nursing homes, and students are encouraged to be tested regularly.