Denmark could force residents in outbreak area to take Covid-19 tests 

The Danish government could force people in the Vollsmose neighbourhood in third city Odense to take a test for Covid-19, according to newspaper reports.

Denmark could force residents in outbreak area to take Covid-19 tests 
Vollsmose in Odense. Photo: Tim Kildeborg Jensen/Ritzau Scanpix

The government could enforce mass testing in the area in order to control a recent local outbreak of the coronavirus, according to newspapers BT and Politiken.

If a person tests positive for the virus, they would required to self-isolate. Non-compliance can be legally penalised by issuing a fine.

Reports of the possible decision emerged on Monday after Politiken reported it had seen a note from the government to the parliamentary epidemic committee. The committee is required to see the government proposal under the recently-passed epidemic law.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s new epidemic law comes into effect

Additionally, BT writes that the public assembly limit in the area could be reduced from the current national restriction of five people down to two people; and that face mask rules could also be tightened.

According to the epidemic law, a health minister can decide to force people to take medical tests and isolate during an epidemic if they have been in a specified area – for example one with “spread of infection with a health-threatening or societally critical” disease.

A number of parties in parliament were reported to have been critical of this clause in the law at the time it was passed. A parliamentary majority would be able to block the proposal and the minority government’s 7 seats on the 21-person epidemic committee is not enough to secure it a majority.

It is unclear how other parties view the proposal with regard to Vollsmose, but the opposition Liberal party leader, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, has expressed opposition to it in a general context.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen last week suggested she could back forced testing during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

“For example, if there is an area where not everyone will take a test, to then ensure that the ones who won’t take a test get tested anyway. I’d gladly support that,” she said last week without explicitly stating she would use forced testing.

Vollsmose, located in Denmark’s third-largest city Odense, is one of the most underprivileged areas in the country. It is classed as a “hard ghetto” by the government, which annually defines areas as such based on criteria including the ethnic background, employment status and income of residents.

Broadcaster DR reported earlier on Monday that the number of Covid-19 tests taken in the neighbourhood trebled last week, from 500 in one day on March 1st to 1,519 on Sunday.

The infection rate in the area is now 951.5 per 100,000 residents, according to DR. That puts it some distance ahead of the highest infection rate for any single municipality in the country. The highest municipal infection rate is currently that of Ishøj near Copenhagen, which has 201.2 infections per 100,000 residents for the last week, according to official data.

Vollsmose is part of Odense Municipality, which has an overall incidence rate of 103.3 cases per 100,000 residents for the last 7 days.

Ritzau contributed to this report

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Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.