COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark may have to extend its current lockdown measures beyond early February despite a fall in COVID-19 infections because a more contagious variant first identified in Britain is still spreading, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Tuesday.
Last week, Denmark extended its lockdown for three more weeks in a bid to curtail the spread of the new, more contagious variant from Britain, which authorities expect to be the dominant one by mid-February.
“The infection (rate) is decreasing, but the threat is clear. If we don’t contain the pressure, we may risk an exponential increase in infections,” Frederiksen told a debate in parliament.
Some restrictions may need to be extended, possibly as early as Tuesday, she added, without elaborating.
Under current lockdown measures, restaurants, bars and non-essential shops are closed and public gatherings are limited to five people. A two-metre distancing rule is in force in public areas, including shops.
Denmark’s reproduction rate, which indicates how many people one person infected with COVID-19 on average transmits the virus to, has fallen to 0.6 from about 1.0 a month ago, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Despite a decline in new daily cases and fewer hospitalisations, the new British variant is spreading, the State Serum Institute (SSI), which deals with infectious diseases, said in a report published on Tuesday.
The reproduction number specific to the new variant is estimated to be around 1.16, meaning those infections are rising, SSI said.
Denmark registered 330 cases with the new variant between mid-November and Jan. 12. In the second week of January, the percentage share of positive tests with the variant was 7%, up from 3.9% the week before.
(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Gareth Jones)