Danish U-turn: children with sick relatives should stay home

Children who live with someone ill with coronavirus-like symptoms should not attend kindergarten or school, Denmark's health minister has announced, responding to widespread concern surrounding the reopening of the country's schools.

Danish U-turn: children with sick relatives should stay home
Parents have been worried about the reopening. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
Magnus Heunicke announced the new policy in a press release sent out on Sunday, following widespread criticism of the guidance from the Danish Health Authority (Sundhetsstyrelsen) that having sick relatives at home should not prevent children returning when schools reopen this week. 

“Many have been unsure whether the right measures have been taken when schools and daycare services open up again on Wednesday,” Heunicke said in the press release. 
“In particular there have been questions over whether children should attend kindergarten or school if someone is infected with Covid-19 at home. This uncertainty is now being taken away by the government.” 
Municipal governments in Aalborg, Aarhus and Odense, among others, had already responded to public unease about children bringing the infection from home by saying they would defy the health authority and allow the families of children who have sick people at home to keep them home. 

The Danish government's decision to overrule its own health authority sees the country's policy diverge from that of neighbouring Sweden, where the advice to parents is that children should be sent to school even if someone at home is ill. 
Heunicke said that the decision had followed a reappraisal of how likely it is that children will be able to follow hygiene requirements. 
“There are a number of strict requirements for cleaning, hygiene and self-insulation when there is a coronavirus infection at home. This can be really difficult for families with smaller children, and we understand that there are many who are unsure about this situation,” he said.  
“Therefore, in the government, we have decided, on a precautionary principle, that children living in a household with a person who has coronavirus should not attend school or daycare.” 
This decision applies only to children, and not to adult staff who work in schools or kindergartens, as the ministry believes adult staff will be better able to follow sanitary guidelines.  
According to a survey by Local Government Denmark, which represents the country's municipalities, over half of Denmark's municipalities plan to reopen schools and kindergartens on Wednesday, with the rest following no later than Monday. 

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Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 


People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.