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Denmark rushes through emergency coronavirus law

Denmark's parliament on Thursday night unanimously passed an emergency coronavirus law which gives health authorities powers to force testing, treatment and quarantine with the backing of the police.

Denmark rushes through emergency coronavirus law
Only 95 out of 179 Danish MPs were present to vote on the emergency law. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson
The far-reaching new law will remain in force until March 2021, when it will expire under a sunset clause. 
 
“I was touched when I saw the whole Parliament standing up and voting for this,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told Danish state broadcaster DR after the law passed.
 
“It is time to put aside party politics and be together to do what it takes to bring Denmark safely through this situation.”
 
Jens Elo Rytter, law professor at Copenhagen University, said the measures were unlike anything passed in the last 75 years  “It is certainly the most extreme since the Second World War,” he told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There have been some powerful encroachments in various terror packages. But this goes further.” 
 
Trine Maria Ilsøe, DR's court correspondent, said that Danish citizens could face prosecution under the new law if they refused to comply with health authorities' demands. “It means that you could be sentenced to a punishment if you, for example, refuse to allow yourself to be tested for coronavirus,” she said.  
 
The Ministry of Health will now work with the Ministry of Justice on the details of how the police will work with health officials to enforce their demands. 
 
As well as enforcing quarantine measures, the law also allows the authorities to force people to be vaccinated, even though there is currently no vaccination for the virus. 
 
It also empowers them to prohibit access to public institutions, supermarkets and shops, public and private nursing homes and hospitals, and also to impose restrictions on access to public transport. 
 
Initially, the government wanted the law to give the police the right to enter private homes without a court order if there is a suspicion of coronavirus infection. But this was dropped after opposition from parties in the parliament. 
 
The parliamentary session was itself affected by the pandemic, with only 95 out of 179 MPs present for the vote, efforts made to ensure that MPs kept a safe distance from one another, and MPs voting by standing up. 
 

 

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COVID-19

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home. 

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