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HAS DENMARK REALLY HIT THE MARK?

ON September 10, 2021 Denmark announced that it was easing its Covid-19 restrictions, becoming the first country in Europe to publicly declare such, if not one of the first in the world.

The Danish authorities said they would no longer categorise the coronavirus as a “socially critical” disease.

Oh wow, what a bold statement and gigantic step to take. But why, what happened, are they tired of Covid-19 (obviously everyone else is), or have they thrown in the towel; giving up the fight before the last whistle or could they have found the cure?

Of course it is none of these, simply put “Denmark is lifting the restrictions because the vaccine rollout has been very successful,” said Jens Lundgren, Professor of viral diseases, at the Copenhagen University Hospital.

It is estimated that over 80 percent of those 12 years and above have been fully vaccinated.  “As a consequence, we have the pandemic under control in this country and can therefore handle whatever remaining of those who still get infected within the frameworks of our hospital system,” Prof Lundgren continued.

DENMARK HAD 548 DAYS OF RESTRICTIONS

The Scandinavian country of about 5.8 million people has also had its rough brush with Covid-19.  To date at least 350, 000 people have been infected and sadly about 2, 600 have died. To curb the infection rate, the authorities had put strict measures that have lasted for at least 548 days.

The measures included mandatory masking, restrictions on public gatherings, sport, etc.  Most recently, Denmark became the first EU country to request for a coronapass (proof of vaccination or recent negative Covid-19 test) for anyone wanting to go into a public place including night clubs and restaurants.

CHOICE OF VACCINES

In April 2021, Denmark made headlines by announcing that it would halt the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine owing to reported cases of blood clots allegedly linked to the vaccine. There were reports of a 60-year-old Danish woman who is said to have died from blood clot related complications after taking the AstraZeneca jab.

Some EU countries especially France argued the vaccine was safe and effective.  The main vaccines of choice in Denmark were those developed by Pfizer/bioNtech and Moderna. Later on the government recommended AstraZeneca and even Sputnik V to those who may prefer these.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is vaccinated against covid-19, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Friday, June 4, 2021.   

Fleming Konradsen, a public health expert at the University of Copenhagen, told EURONEWS “I think there’s been a great uptake on immunisation so the Danish population has accepted immunisation to a very large extent. We’ve had a very significant testing programme and we’ve also had early lockdowns and periodic lockdowns that in combination have kept the pandemic under somewhat control,” he explained.

STILL AIMING HIGHER

As if that is not enough, the Danish government is aiming for an even higher percentage. It aims for 90 percent of those over the age of 12 to have received at least one dose by October 1, 2021.  Currently the numbers stand around 86 percent. It is reported that the vulnerable people, mostly the elderly can also now get a booster shot.

Konradsen also stressed that the vaccination rate needs to be nudged up to 90 percent, warning “else we’ll be hit later in the winter.”

Indeed, winter will be the litmus test. Covid-19 is not really a seasonal  disease like the common cold, or flu, but has shown to be aggressive in winter months especially in Europe and North America.

THE ‘NEW OLD NORMAL

Denmark   started easing restrictions when the majority in the 50+ age group had been fully vaccinated. The country has since gone to its old normal. 

The ease include:

•             Mask-wearing on public transport no longer mandatory.

•             Nightclubs reopened,

•             Limits on public gatherings were removed

and

•             it was no longer mandatory to show the pass to sit inside restaurants, go to sports matches, gyms or the hairdresser.

However, the wearing of face coverings is still mandatory at airports and people are advised to wear one when at the doctor, test centres or hospitals.

Distancing is still recommended and strict entry restrictions still apply for non-Danes at the borders. The outbreak is still considered “an ordinary dangerous illness.”

The Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke, said in August that “the epidemic is under control,” but warned “we are not out of the epidemic” and the government would act as needed.

He stated the government will not hesitate to introduce new rules if Covid-19 begins to spread and pose a threat to society once again.

THE STRICT ENTRY TO FOREIGNERS

Clearly, this easing of restrictions is domestic while for foreigners trying to enter the country, the restrictions are still tight or even tighter. Citing SHENGENVISA INFO NEWS:  Just like the majority of Schengen area and European Union countries, Denmark has decided to allow travel to the country provided that the ones who enter its territory hold at least a vaccination certificate. It has been announced by the country’s authorities that only a few vaccines are recognised for travel.

According to the Danish national communications partnership, Denmark only recognises the vaccines that have been approved for use by the European Medicines Agency. Consequently, this means that just the four vaccines listed here are recognised as valid proof of vaccination in Denmark:

•             Comirnaty Pfizer-BioNTech by BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH

•             Spikevax, formerly Moderna by Moderna Biotech Spain, SL

•             Vaxzvria, formerly AstraZeneca by AstraZeneca Ab

•             Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) by Janssen – Cilag International NV

“In Denmark, you are considered to be fully vaccinated once you have been vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and at least two weeks and no more than twelve months have elapsed since you completed your course of vaccination,” Denmark’s official site on Coronavirus noted.

In addition, it has been noted that a vaccination certificate is only valid if it is part of the EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate.

Accordingly, for the vaccination certificate to be considered valid, it should include the following information on the holder:

•             Name

•             Date of birth

•             Name of the vaccine

•             Date(s) when the vaccine(s) has been administered

AFRICA VERY FAR FROM THE MARK

This has been said time and again, Africa’s vaccination rate is very far from the desired mark of at least 80 percent and above. There is need for continued sensitisation and education on vaccines.

It is becoming obvious that proof of full vaccination will be required for entry in most countries and also becoming obvious that certain countries especially in Europe, will not accept some other vaccines, unless those approved by the European Medicines Agency.

With such a low vaccination rate and limited type of vaccines donated to the continent, much of its citizenry might be cut off from international travel and consequently denied equal participation at the global stage.

Lately, some European countries have been advocating for booster shots for their elderly.  The USA’s FDA has already approved them for the 65 years and above. The gap can’t get even wider than this.

Since Zambia is not in the clear yet, whatever strides made so far can easily be reversed if we take things for granted. May we continue to mask up, sanitise, socialise wisely and get vaccinated.

ONE ZAMBIA, ONE NATION, UNTIL

THEN, ALUTA CONTINUA.

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