With a successful rollout of the vaccine in their back pocket, the Danes essentially returned to pre-pandemic daily life. They visited nightclubs and restaurants without showing a ‘Covid passport’, used public transport without wearing a mask and met in large numbers without restrictions.
The optimism of mid-September is short-lived.
Large swathes of Europe are fighting to curb the rise of the Delta variant amid easing restrictions and rolling out stuttering vaccines in some countries, with WHO warning half a million Europeans could die from Covid-19 in a potentially devastating winter.
In the space of a few months, the fate of Europe has been drastically changed by Covid-19. By the end of the summer, many countries had lifted the severe restrictions after countries, particularly in the west of the bloc, charged with vaccination programs plummeted.
As other parts of the world reopen, Europe could face another winter of renewed measures.
On Monday, the Danish government proposed to reintroduce a digital “corona pass” – used as proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test – for entering bars and restaurants as the country faces a third wave of infections, Reuters reported.
The measure still needs to be approved by parliament. But it comes against the urgent new backdrop of steadily rising cases – from a low of just over 200 daily infections in mid-September to about 2,300 in recent days.
Denmark is not alone. Austria banned unvaccinated people from restaurants and hotels this week amid a spate of cases. And Iceland has reintroduced masks and social distancing rules after a surge.
Elsewhere, the German incidence rate breaks daily records. On Tuesday, the country registered its highest seven-day infection rate since the start of the pandemic, with 213.7 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases (RKI).
In some East German states, such as Saxony and Thuringia, the number of incidents was more than double, at over 400.
And on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron was set to address the nation amid a spate of cases — his first major TV speech since July, when he announced mandatory vaccinations for all health professionals.
The UK is also battling a persistent streak of new infections, months after “Freedom Day” celebrations marked the lifting of nearly all Covid-19 restrictions at the end of July.
Although the UK, unlike its European neighbours, has no plans to reintroduce restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of masks, any time soon.
Vaccine rolls on
Denmark’s rise in the case comes after a successful vaccine rollout, with 88.3% of the adult population fully vaccinated, according to the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC).
On Monday, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke tried to put Denmark’s fortunes in the broader context of Europe’s ongoing battle with Covid-19.
“Several European countries are now in the middle of their fourth wave of corona,” Heunicke said during a televised briefing, Reuters reported. “In Denmark we are facing our third corona wave.”
Now countries are increasingly turning their attention to booster shots in an effort to halt the spread of the virus during the winter months and the prospect of unpopular restrictions over the Christmas season.
With additional coverage from Reuters. Inke Kappeler of CNN contributed to this report.