Denmark is to end virus restrictions next week and reclassify COVID-19 as a disease that no longer poses a threat to society, even as infections hit a record high.
The country will not extend the pandemic measures beyond Monday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday.
Denmark’s decision on reclassifying the virus dramatically pushes forward an idea that has emerged recently in Europe — that it is time to start thinking about COVID-19 as endemic rather than a pandemic. However, WHO experts have warned against complacency.
The easing of curbs also echoes recent moves elsewhere — including Ireland and England — to scale back restrictions amid signs that the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is less dangerous than earlier variants of the virus.
There is also a sense that restrictions just are not able to stop the highly transmissible Omicron strain. About 1 million Danes have been infected in the past two months, although hospitalizations are declining. The nation of 5.8 million people has 44 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, down from 73 two weeks ago.
“The pandemic is still here, but with what we know, we now dare to believe that we are through the critical phase,” Frederiksen said, calling the development “a milestone.”
The disease is spreading faster in Denmark after a sub-variant of Omicron, BA.2, became the dominant version of the virus in the second week of the year. It might be about 1.5 times more infectious than the BA.1 sub-variant, which accounts for 98 percent of Omicron cases globally, preliminary estimates by Danish health authorities showed.