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New covid cases soar in Denmark

The latest covid-19 data out of Scandinavia has raised new questions about how best to fight a resurgence of the virus.

In Sweden, which still has the highest Covid death toll in the region, the number of new cases fell to about 200 a day, on average, this week. In Denmark, which was among the first in Europe to shutter its economy and close its borders, local authorities just reported a daily increase of 317 cases, the most since early April.

"We will do everything we can to avoid a lockdown like the one we did on March 11," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Thursday, in comments broadcast by TV2. "It was the right thing to do back then. It wouldn't be the right thing to do again."

Sweden's state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, has long argued that covid-19 can't be fought with sudden lockdowns. He says the virus could be around for years, which requires long-term adjustments in people's behavior to make basic distancing second nature.

Speaking to reporters in Stockholm on Thursday, Tegnell said, "We have a different situation as we're not moving from a complete lockdown to opening up. We remain at the same level of measures, and that may also be a factor behind a different development here than in many other countries."

Tegnell also suggested that more Swedes have developed immunity to the virus. That "makes it harder to start transmission than in some other countries, where fewer people have been ill."

But Sweden still stands out in the region as the country to have suffered the highest number of covid fatalities, by far. Per 100,000, Sweden's covid death rate is now about 57, compared to 11 in Denmark and 5 in Norway.

Denmark had appeared to bring the virus under control earlier this year, and was widely held up as an example of a how to run a successful covid strategy. But as restrictions were scaled back amid signs the virus was receding, Danes grew complacent. As a result, social distancing was hardly observed in some corners of society, especially among the young. This week, the government said it was reintroducing targeted restrictions to fight local outbreaks.

Norway, which imposed a lockdown in March, has also seen a recent increase in new cases and Prime Minister Erna Solberg warned that new measures may be needed.

"It's time to find that inner self-discipline again," Solberg told reporters in Oslo on Thursday.

Tegnell said Swedes shouldn't assume that the recent decline in cases will continue, and urged people to continue to take distancing guidelines seriously.

Published : September 10, 2020

By : Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Niclas Rolander, Morten Buttler