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CORONAPAS

Denmark considers reducing Covid-19 health pass vaccine validity

The Danish Health Ministry wants to shorten the period for which vaccination and previous infection provide a valid coronapas, Denmark’s Covid-19 health pass.

Denmark could reduce the validity of the coronapas to five months following vaccination or recovery from Covid-19.
Denmark could reduce the validity of the coronapas to five months following vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The proposed tightening of the rules was recommended by Danish Health Authority and the government has asked its independent advisory board for management of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Epidemic Commission, to address the question and make a recommendation, Danish media reported on Wednesday.

A valid coronapas is currently required at bars, restaurants, cafes and several other customer-facing businesses in the service sector. It must also be presented on intercity trains and regional buses, at universities, language schools and other further education, at state workplaces and at gyms and places of worship.

READ ALSO: The Covid-19 restrictions now in effect in Denmark

Under current rules, a coronapas is valid for seven months after a person is fully vaccinated or has received a booster jab.

Recovery from Covid-19, giving conferred immunity, gives a valid coronapas for six months.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke confirmed to broadcaster TV2 that the validity of the health pass would be reduced to five months in both cases.

Should the Epidemic Commission recommend the change in rules, the government would then need approval from parliament’s Epidemic Committee, on which members of all other parliamentary parties sit.

The Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, a centre-left ally of the government, said it was ready to support the move.

“It turns out that the vaccines offer protection for a shorter amount of time. It’s therefore important that the coronapas fits with the protection there is so that people will get revaccinated and reduce transmission (of Covid-19),” Social Liberal health spokesperson Christina Thorholm told news wire Ritzau.

The party said it would await medical advice from health authorities before deciding on the exact changes to any rules.

The Liberal party, the main group in opposition said it would discuss the matter internally before taking a stance.

READ ALSO: Denmark sets latest Covid-19 cases record amid high testing

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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