Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Denmark Tightens Entry Requirements As Omicron Detections Increase



Denmark, which is already under pressure from the Delta variant (see Denmark: Health Authority Warns On Potential Overwhelmed Hospitals This Winter Due To COVID/Flu), announced further travel restrictions today as the number of confirmed Omicron cases there reaches 6, with nearly a dozen additional suspected cases awaiting results. 
Status of the omikron variant (B.1.1.529) per 12/01/21
The corona variant omicron has now been found in six cases in total. Five cases related to travel activities in South Africa. And one case that concerns travel activity to Qatar.

The result of recent days' genome genome sequencing (WGS) of variant PCR tests suspected of omicron virus variant has now arrived.

The snapshot in Denmark is as follows:

  • 6 confirmed cases that are WGS-verified infected with the covid-19 variant omicron. 5 in connection with travel activity in South Africa. 1 in connection with travel activity in Qatar.
  • 11 cases are currently suspected after variant PCR and awaiting WGS.
  • 3 of yesterday's suspects have now been disproved as Delta variant

The following announcement was published today on their Ministry of Health website:

Entry rules are further tightened with requirements for testing on arrival from selected airports
01-12-2021 Press release COVID-19

Testing requirements are introduced at the airport for passengers on flights from selected airports - initially from Doha and Dubai. In addition, the restrictions are further tightened following a recommendation from the Statens Serum Institut and the National Board of Health.

On the basis of recommendations from the Statens Serum Institut and the National Board of Health and following a recommendation from the Epidemic Commission, Denmark is now introducing further tightening of entry restrictions. The purpose of the new measures is to limit and delay the spread of the Omikron virus variant in Denmark. Testing incoming passengers inside airports will provide important knowledge about the spread of infection and break chains of infection with the Omikron variant.

Firstly, a requirement is introduced that all passengers on planes from selected airports must be tested at the airport. Passengers who do not comply with the test requirement will be punishable by a fine. The requirement is introduced to detect and contain possible infection with the new worrying Omikron variant.

The selected airports are initially:
  • Hamad International Airport, Doha
  • Dubai International Airport
These two airports have the most transit from the affected countries of southern Africa. Additional airports may be added later.

Secondly, the requirement for isolation and testing after entry from the red countries is changed, so that you must be tested and isolated if you have resided in Denmark within 10 days prior to entry, as at the time of stay or entry. is categorized red.

The following countries went red on November 27:
  • South Africa
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini
  • Mozambique
  • Zimbabwe
  • Botswana
  • Namibia
The following countries went red on November 29:
  • Angola
  • Malawi
  • Zambia
Third, the timing of when a negative PCR test can remove isolation changes. With the change, after a negative PCR test, which has been performed at the earliest on day 6 after entry into Denmark, the isolation can be lifted.

The fourth change entails a reduction in the length of valid immunity passports after previous infection from twelve months to 180 days, corresponding to six months, upon entry into Denmark.
In addition, children aged 15 and up will also have to present coronapas upon entry to be exempt from restrictions. This reduces the age limit for when you are exempt from 16 to 15 years. In this way, the requirements for the corona passport, which was reintroduced on 12 November, are aligned.

The challenge over the next few weeks will be in crafting travel policies that can slow the spread of the Omicron variant without causing massive disruptions to travel, trade, and the global economy.  

Some nations - like Israel and Japan - have opted for more stringent border closings, while others (like Denmark) are introducing more targeted measures.  

The World Health Organization continues to lobby against burdensome travel restrictions (see WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529)), but does advise:

In addition, all travellers should be reminded to remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, to get vaccinated when it is their turn and to adhere to public health and social measures at all times and regardless of vaccination status, including by using masks appropriately, respecting physical distancing, following good respiratory etiquette and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces. 

Persons who are unwell, or who have not been fully vaccinated or do not have proof of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities that present increased risk of severe COVID-19 (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes) should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission.*

Even though travel restrictions - up to and including border closings - will not stop the spread of the Omicron variant, they could help delay its progress.  And that could buy time to get more people vaccinated, and for scientists to better understand its threat. 

If we knew with certainty that Omicron was mild - or at least no worse than Delta - then countries would find border closings and travel restrictions far less attractive. But we are still working with incomplete information, and no one wants to be caught underestimating this threat. 

So, until we know more about its impact, we can expect more countries to restrict travel due to the Omicron variant.