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Normalcy returns to Denmark with face masks removal

Many are delighted just to be able to see people’s faces again

Copenhagen in September 2021 - M ABHINASH

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Denmark is a relatively small country but its size has not impeded the country from taking the lead in some areas.

The Danes took the lead in promoting renewable energy way back in 1973, following the oil crisis. In the food sector, they built a complete ecosystem along the value chain through their efficiency and ingenuity.

On 1 February, Denmark became the first EU nation to vinke farvel (wave goodbye) to face masks and health passes and to lift all domestic Covid curbs, despite record numbers of cases of the milder Omicron variant. Many countries may disagree with Denmark’s policy, but it is time for normalcy to return as they move to the endemic phase.

As Malaysia enters the endemic phase from 1 April, we have to learn to live with Covid or its variants.

Now, only a few restrictions remain in place at Denmark’s borders for unvaccinated travellers arriving from non-Schengen countries. (The Schengen Area covers 26 European countries that have officially abolished all passport and border controls within the area.)

Many Danes and foreigners welcomed this move and are delighted just to be able to see people’s faces again and to live normally. Many are grateful to be given the option whether or not to wear a mask in public. 

Ironically, this relaxation came at a time when the country was registering around 40,000-50,000 new Covid cases a day or almost 1% of the population of 5.8 million.

Despite this figure, health officials were optimistic that the numbers would decline. They were confident that infections had hit the highest point and a decline in cases would soon follow. It was against this backdrop that they felt it was the appropriate time to ease restrictions. They have now been proven correct as new daily infections have now plunged below 10,000.

An important consideration for this relaxation was because over 60% of Danes had received a third dose of the vaccine, one month ahead of the health authorities’ schedule. Once again, Denmark led the EU, whose average vaccination figures were then just under 45%.

If the figures of those who recently had Covid were included, health authorities estimated that 80% of the population were protected against severe forms of the disease.

Danish health authorities believe that Omicron is a manageable disease for the vaccinated and therefore repealing curbs was well-timed. This strategy has received the support of the Danish people too.

The Danish government has received the thumbs up from the people for its handling of Covid. In a recent poll, about 64% of Danes surveyed reportedly concurred with their government’s Covid policy, while the lifting of restrictions also received widespread support in parliament.

Still, Danes have been reminded to exercise caution and responsibility in their daily lives.

As part of a disciplined society known to be a stickler for regulations, Danes have increasingly used home tests to detect infection. Now even this has been phased out and instead, those with symptoms of an infection are advised to stay home.

Based on the recommendations of the Danish Health Authority, anyone who tests positive is advised to isolate for four days, while contact cases no longer need to quarantine. Still, face masks and the Covid pass are recommended for hospital visits.

Denmark has moved forward in dealing with Covid despite the World Health Organization (WHO) warning it was premature for countries to either declare success in fighting Covid or give up attempts to stop the transmission of this infection.

A few voices of dissent against the lifting of restrictions on face masks were heard, albeit they were a minority. One of them was the Danish Gout Association, which felt it was important to continue using masks as long as infections were rising significantly.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, when announcing the country’s return to life as usual, said, “We can’t provide any guarantees when it comes to biology.”

For the second time since the pandemic begun, Denmark is attempting to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. On 10 September 2021, the country lifted all its restrictions before reintroducing some in November.

Based on data from the WHO, over 70% of the European population had contracted Covid at least once since January 2020.

Faced with a lower level of hospitalisations than in previous waves, several European countries have announced a reduction of their restrictions, despite still recording a high rate of infections.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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