Feb 2 (CNN) – Denmark has lifted all Covid-19 restrictions within the country, with coronavirus no longer considered a “socially critical sickness,” according to the government.
This means that an indoor mask mandate, the use of a “Covid pass” for bars, restaurants and other indoor venues, and the legal obligation to self-isolate if you test positive are all ending.
“No one can know what will happen next December. But we promised the citizens of Denmark that we will only have restrictions if they are truly necessary and we’ll lift them as soon as we can,” Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told CNN on Monday. “That’s what’s happening right now.”
Denmark is the first country in the European Union to lift all restrictions. The move comes at a time when it has the second-highest infection rate, or seven-day average of new infections, of any nation in the world, according to Our World in Data.
Widespread vaccination and boosters have helped the country open up again, said Heunicke, adding that the number of hospitalizations and patients in intensive care is decreasing every day, “thanks to vaccination.”
According to Our World in Data, 81% of Denmark’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Asked about vaccine mandates, Heunicke said: “Luckily we don’t need that in Denmark … I’m really happy that we don’t need it because it’s a very troubling path to move that way.”
Søren Brostrøm, director-general of Denmark’s Health Authority, agreed that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country was very high, but told CNN that the link between infections and severe illness had been broken.
“At the same time as infections are skyrocketing, patients admitted to intensive care actually going down,” he said. “It’s around 30 people in ICU beds right now with a COVID-19 diagnosis, out of a population of 6 million.”
Brostrøm said he did not think vaccine mandates were necessary.
“I do not believe in imposed vaccine mandates,” he said. “It’s a pharmaceutical intervention with possible side effects. You need as an authority to recognize that. I think if you push too much, you will have a reaction — action generates reaction, especially with vaccines.”
Danish authorities continue to recommend taking an at-home test before coming into contact with groups of people, especially those who are vulnerable, according to the health minister.
And PCR tests will continue to be available to the public in order to confirm Covid-19 cases.
Some travelers — primarily those who have not been vaccinated or previously infected with Covid-19 — will still have to test on entry to Denmark, and quarantine measures remain in place for those arriving from high-risk countries, but these are the only pandemic restrictions that remain.
On January 26, the country’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she expected spring, summer, and early autumn to be “an open Denmark with hugs, parties and festivals.”
The government has warned that later in the autumn and into the winter, another season of increased infections — which may require additional vaccinations — is expected. Frederiksen said the government would not rule out the possibility that a fourth shot could be necessary for everyone.
Denmark first lifted all Covid-19 restrictions in September 2021, but later reinstated them in the face of a third wave of infections.