Danish U-turn: children with sick relatives should stay home

Children who live with someone ill with coronavirus-like symptoms should not attend kindergarten or school, Denmark's health minister has announced, responding to widespread concern surrounding the reopening of the country's schools.

Danish U-turn: children with sick relatives should stay home
Parents have been worried about the reopening. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
Magnus Heunicke announced the new policy in a press release sent out on Sunday, following widespread criticism of the guidance from the Danish Health Authority (Sundhetsstyrelsen) that having sick relatives at home should not prevent children returning when schools reopen this week. 

“Many have been unsure whether the right measures have been taken when schools and daycare services open up again on Wednesday,” Heunicke said in the press release. 
“In particular there have been questions over whether children should attend kindergarten or school if someone is infected with Covid-19 at home. This uncertainty is now being taken away by the government.” 
Municipal governments in Aalborg, Aarhus and Odense, among others, had already responded to public unease about children bringing the infection from home by saying they would defy the health authority and allow the families of children who have sick people at home to keep them home. 

The Danish government's decision to overrule its own health authority sees the country's policy diverge from that of neighbouring Sweden, where the advice to parents is that children should be sent to school even if someone at home is ill. 
Heunicke said that the decision had followed a reappraisal of how likely it is that children will be able to follow hygiene requirements. 
“There are a number of strict requirements for cleaning, hygiene and self-insulation when there is a coronavirus infection at home. This can be really difficult for families with smaller children, and we understand that there are many who are unsure about this situation,” he said.  
“Therefore, in the government, we have decided, on a precautionary principle, that children living in a household with a person who has coronavirus should not attend school or daycare.” 
This decision applies only to children, and not to adult staff who work in schools or kindergartens, as the ministry believes adult staff will be better able to follow sanitary guidelines.  
According to a survey by Local Government Denmark, which represents the country's municipalities, over half of Denmark's municipalities plan to reopen schools and kindergartens on Wednesday, with the rest following no later than Monday. 

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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.