This week’s update for The Local, Europe is about the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis so far. You can read all the insights from across Europe here. Below is my take on how the coronavirus has been dealt with in Denmark.
Denmark’s quick and decisive lockdown on 12th March, before any deaths from the coronavirus had occurred, garnered huge support from both the public and political parties.
In fact Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said it was the first time in her political career that she had witnessed such unanimous agreement in parliament and it meant new laws were passed at lightning speed.
Before long, police were texting every mobile user in the country and they weren’t afraid to hand out fines to anyone not keeping to social distance guidelines.
Things went a bit too far when the Danish Patient Safety Authority set up a secure email for people to report anyone suspected of having the coronavirus. It was taken down after backlash that it was an infringement of human rights.
Then it went the other way when the Danish health chief said social distancing shouldn’t stop single people dating and having sex. #onlyindenmark started springing up on social media. But that Danish liberalism, along with a love of rules and value in trust, seemed to sum up lockdown.
The lockdown was such a success that just four weeks later, plans of a reopening were unexpectedly announced.
And that’s when things got tricky. Many thought it was too soon. There was a sharp intake of breath from parents and teachers across the country as they heard it would be primary schools, nurseries and kindergartens going back first.
A Facebook group was even set up, where over 40 thousand people expressed their fears over how to keep their families safe. But with just a week’s notice, schools and day care centres did a remarkable job of putting the health authority’s guidelines in place for children to return safely, some even installing extra sinks.
And so people breathed out. Then the government suddenly announced that hairdressers and other small businesses could follow in the first reopening phase. It was short notice, without many details and the opposition party wanted even more businesses included.
As I sit writing this, I’m getting my haircut for the first time since reopening. I ask my hairdresser what she thinks of the government’s leadership. “Since reopening, it’s definitely been divisive,” she told me. “People have questioned why we have been given priority over older children’s education”.
Three weeks into reopening, and eight weeks since lockdown, we have got used to Mette Frederiksen’s frequent live televised press conferences and we have been reassured that infection rates are still under control. Now phase two has been announced, there will no doubt be more intakes of breath, as the changes in both society and opinion, keep coming.