In a surprise announcement, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark said the country is imposing a lockdown to contain its rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases. Frederiksen made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday.
According to Frederiksen, public sector employees who do not perform critical functions will be sent home on paid leave, while those who are employed in the private sector will be encouraged to work from home.
All schools and universities in the Scandinavian nation will also be shut down, Frederiksen said during her address.
In addition, Frederiksen also imposed restrictions on events, with local media reporting that events seen to attract more than 100 participants will be banned — a major decrease compared to the original limit of 1,000.
“We need to limit activity in society as much as possible, without letting our society grind to a halt,” Frederiksen said.
According to Frederiksen, their decision to enact strict impositions and tough measures will have a significant impact on their economy.
“We will not get through this as a country without a cost. Businesses will suffer losses and people will lose their jobs. The government will do what it can to help,” Frederiksen said, noting that their current situation necessitated the enactment of such measures.
“Under normal circumstances, a government would not present such far-reaching measures without having all the solutions ready for the many Danes concerned, but we are in an extraordinary situation,” Frederiksen stated.
“This will have huge consequences, but the alternative would be far worse,” she said, adding that those who are healthy have a shared responsibility to protect the more vulnerable members of their population.
“Everyone who is healthy, we have a great responsibility towards the vulnerable,” she added. (Related: Coronavirus isn’t the flu and it’s this response that makes the US unprepared, health expert warns)
Those seen to be at high risk for COVID-19 — the disease caused by the new coronavirus which originated from Wuhan in China before spreading across other parts of the world — are those who are aged 60 and above, as well as those with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses.
Søren Brostrøm, director of The Danish Health Authority, said that he expects the number of cases to increase rapidly in the coming days and weeks.
As of press time, 514 people, of which two are in critical condition, have been confirmed to be infected with the deadly virus as of Wednesday—a ten-fold increase in the figures they posted Monday. According to Health Minister Magnus Heunicke this is the “most dramatic increase seen in Europe”.
Sweden, which is separated from Denmark by the Oresund strait, has around 460 confirmed cases, with its first death reported Wednesday. The country has banned public gatherings of more than 500 people to stop the spread of the disease.
Italy, which has 12,462 confirmed coronavirus infections and 827 deaths—the highest in Europe as of press time—enforced a lockdown, Tuesday. However, following the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) announcement declaring the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced that the nation needed to “go another step” further.
Conte, through an announcement made on Facebook, said only pharmacies, groceries and other establishments selling “essential items” will remain open to the public for the entirety of the lockdown. This will be in addition to the existing measures, such as travel restrictions, enforced social distances and mandatory self-isolation for anyone who exhibits flu-like symptoms.
As of press time, the novel coronavirus has infected 126,136 and left 4,630 dead globally.
For more updates on the coronavirus, visit Pandemic.news.