Covid-19 no longer given special status in Denmark

Denmark will from next month no longer class Covid-19 as being “dangerous to public health”, meaning the government will have fewer powers to place social restrictions related to the virus.

Covid-19 no longer given special status in Denmark
Covid-19 will be classed as a normal infectious disease in Denmark from April 1st. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

There is no longer cause to class Covid-19 as being “dangerous to public health” or an alment farlig sygdom, the Danish Health Authority said in a statement.

Under Denmark’s Epidemic Law, the government can introduce certain public restrictions in response to illnesses considered a danger to public health. These include asking individuals to isolate or sharing personal information between different authorities.

This will no longer be valid when the classification expires from April 1st.

Danish Health Authority director Søren Brostrøm said the decision reflected that “the disease no longer presents a significant threat to society”.

That does not mean Covid-19 has gone away completely, he also said.

“There will still be a need to protect against serious illness with Covid-19. From now on, that will be alongside other infectious diseases like influenza,” he said.

The new rating comes as the extent of serious disease caused by Covid-19 has fallen significantly compared to earlier stages of the epidemic, according to the Danish Health Authority.

High vaccination rates are part of the reason serious illness with the disease has become limited, Brostrøm said.

The Epidemic Law sets out three categories for diseases: critical threat to society (samfundskritisk sygdom), dangerous to public health (alment farlig sygdom) and infectious diseases (smitsomme sygdomme).

Until January 31st 2022, Covid-19 was given the first and most severe of those three ratings (it was also briefly downgraded in autumn 2021).

A disease is considered a “critical threat” when it threatens the functions of society as a whole, by for instance, overwhelming the health system. In such instances, the government has the farthest-reaching options for intervention, including bans on people gathering, closure of schools, health passes, and mandating use of face masks, provided this is not opposed by a majority in parliament’s representative epidemic committee (epidemiudvalg).

The Health Authority can change the categorisation again at a later date, for example if a new variant emerges and worsens the situation with the virus.

However, the decision to rate a disease as a critical threat to society rest with the Ministry of Health.

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Danish parliament to vote on citizens’ proposal on euthanasia

A citizens' proposal to allow euthanasia in Denmark has received 50,000 signatures, meaning the proposal is eligible to be debated and voted on in the Danish parliament for the first time.

Danish parliament to vote on citizens' proposal on euthanasia

The proposal, put forward by Lars Lior Ramsgaard, a nurse from Aarhus, currently has 50,832 signatures, making it the first time a borgerforslag, or citizen’s proposal on euthanasia has passed the 50,000 threshold to be submitted to parliament. 

Ramsgaard told TV2 Østjylland in February that his motion was partly motivated by his work, in which he often meets patients who would like to be allowed to die, and partly by the case of his own mother, who had wanted to end her life at a time of her choosing but been unable to do so due to the law. 

The calls tor the parliament to “legalise active euthanasia when special circumstances are present”. 

In 2013, Ramsgaard said, a poll funded by Palliativt Videncenter, or Palliative Knowledge Centre and Trygfonden, the fund connected to the Tryg insurance company, found that 71 percent of the Danish population backed active euthanasia, while 61 percent of MPs were opposed.

The Danish Medical Association, which represents doctors in the country, is calling on MPs to reject the proposal.

“There are many reasons for this: we do not think that suffering should be managed by killing people; we are afraid of the slippery slope we see in countries where euthanasia has been brought in; and we think one should invest in proper end-of-life palliative care,” said Klaus Klausen, chair of the association’s ethics committee.

In 2018, a similar proposal reached 8,386 signatures and in 2019, another reached 1,409, according to the Politiken newspaper.

Under Denmark’s borgerforslag system, the parliament can decide to reject a proposal without a vote or discussion.