From the beginning of the pandemic, Denmark and Sweden took diametrically opposed approaches to dealing with COVID. Sweden told all of its citizens to basically do as they please and imposed very few mandates in terms of social distancing, vaccinations, and all the rest. They chose to build up herd immunity in their population and wait to see how it went. Denmark took the opposite approach, mandating everything that we’ve seen in the United States and other places. But now, with the rollout of their vaccination program reaching their target goals, those mandates are about to go away. And some of the restrictions will begin being lifted starting tomorrow. (The Local)
Denmark’s government has struck a deal with all but one of the parties in parliament to on Monday end the requirement to wear a face mask in all areas apart from on public transport.
Under the agreement, struck after 3am following marathon all-night negotiations, the requirement to wear a face mask will be scrapped completely from October 1st.
The coronavirus health pass or coronapas will also begin to be phased out from Monday, when those visiting public libraries and participating in activities run by clubs and voluntary organisations will no longer be required to show one.
Before any of the Danes become too excited, the mandates aren’t all going away at once. This return to something resembling normal will be happening in stages. Outdoor masking will no longer be required starting on Monday except for riders on public transportation. Mask mandates for other activities such as dining out, gymnasiums and barber shops will be lifted on July 1st, August 1st and September 1st, with all mask mandates being removed on October 1st.
The same process is also being implemented for the immunity passport that the Danes implemented earlier this year. Currently, you need to show your “coronapas” to gain access to most public activities. The pass indicates that you’ve either been vaccinated or you have a recent negative COVID test result. The need for the passport will be phased out over the summer for an increasing number of activities until it too is no longer required anywhere on October 1st.
When all is said and done, the citizens of Denmark will have lived under some of the more oppressive government mandates seen anywhere in Europe or North America for well over a year and a half. So how did they do compared to their Swedish counterparts who have basically been dining out mask-free for the entire time? Well, Denmark registered slightly more than 2,500 deaths from the plague since the beginning out of a population of 5.8 million. Sweden lost over 14,500 souls in a nation of 10.2 million. So looking at Denmark’s 0.43% death rate and Sweden’s mark of 1.4%, you could easily argue that Sweden paid a much higher cost.
One difficulty in sorting out these questions comes with the fact that we learned too much of what we now know relatively late in the process. How much of the suppression of viral transmission in Denmark was due to mask-wearing and how much was caused by frequent hand-washing, social distancing or simply staying home most of the time because the government shut everything down? These can’t be quantified, but the research that’s been done thus far suggests that masks weren’t one of the major contributors.
Either way, it’s worth asking what each nation purchased with the costs they paid and what they gave up. Perhaps Denmark gained a sense of security (if nothing else) from seeing the few people they encountered wearing masks. In exchange, they sacrificed some of their basic freedoms of movement and behavior, assuming such things bothered them. The Swedes, on the other hand, purchased the right to reject such mandates and travel freely as they wished. Unfortunately, the associated cost came in the form of far too many of those trips involving attending funerals.
The citizens of every country will have to judge for themselves how well their governments did. The same is true here in the United States. But if (God forbid) we ever have to go through this again, we’d better have learned something from all of this hot garbage so we don’t repeat our mistakes.