Denmark Ends Most COVID Restrictions as ICUs Nearly Empty of Patients, Weighs 4th Shot

Denmark ended most of its COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, even as the country reported high levels of Omicron infections, but hospitalizations remained low. However, a fourth shot of the vaccine might be necessary down the road.

Danish officials said the change in restrictions is because of a high vaccination rate, and COVID-19 is no longer putting a strain on the health care system, even though the Omicron variant is still surging, the Associated Press reported.

The Scandinavian country was one of the first to react to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing mandates, closing schools and requiring people to work from home, AP said. It is now one of the first countries in the European Union to treat the pandemic as an endemic, even though cases are increasing from the Omicron variant.

The head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, said he's been focusing on the number of patients in the ICUs rather than the number of COVID-19 cases. AP reported that Brostrøm told Danish broadcaster TV2 the number of ICU patients had "fallen and fallen and is incredibly low."

Brostrøm said several weeks ago there were 80 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, and now there are only about 32, AP reported.

Denmark, with a population of 5.8 million, has reported an average of about 50,000 new COVID cases every day in recent weeks, France24 reported. However, the number of people admitted to intensive care units has drastically dropped.

The Danish government said the country could see an increase in COVID-19 infections in the near future, and a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot might be needed. AP said that at least 60 percent of people over age 12 have received the third dose of a vaccine, according to official figures.

"With Omicron not being a severe disease for the vaccinated, we believe it is reasonable to lift restrictions," Lone Simonsen of the University of Roskilde told AFP, according to France24.

Under the new guidelines, Denmark will no longer require face masks, COVID-19 passes or limited hours for bars and restaurants, France24 reported. Only a few restrictions will remain in place at the border for unvaccinated travelers arriving from out of the country.

The Danish Health Authority still "recommends" that people who test positive isolate for four days. They also suggested using face masks and COVID passes when visiting hospitals, according to France24.

Authorities said that while cases are still high, the virus no longer qualifies as a "critical threat," the BBC reported.

"No one can know what will happen next December. But we promised the citizens of Denmark that we will only have restrictions if they are truly necessary and we'll lift them as soon as we can," Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told CNN. "That's what's happening right now."

Denmark Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions
Denmark on Tuesday became the first EU country to lift COVID-19 restrictions despite a surge in cases from the Omicron variant. Denmark's high vaccination rate and fewer ICU patients led to the changes, officials said. Above, customers at the fish market in Torvehallerne in Copenhagen on February 1, 2022. Liselotte Sabroe / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP/Getty Images